As I begin this entry, I am perplexed and overwhelmed. How did things get so very out of hand and, yet, at times, seem so very uncorrectable? How did our leaders go so very, very far astray, as if they had the government on some kind of autopilot button? We are left with this country in shambles, and yet the culprits get to run away, albeit legally and, sometimes, with our blessings, holding all of our loot.
More than ten percent of the population admits to not having health insurance. An even greater percentage of it is clearly under-insured, meaning their health insurance will not provide them with enough coverage to get through most of life's problems. I am one of those people. This current economic downturn means only one thing for me - less of a chance to provide the care I need to keep my health in shape to move forward with my life.
The end of this year is rapidly approaching and I have yet to meet my deductible, and it's not for lack of trying. My insurance company spends more money employing people to think of ways to reduce my access to my coverage rather than actually paying for my health car services. I have a dental appointment I am scared to make - not for the usual reasons - but because I know its going to cost me $150 (at least) and I don't have the money to pay for it right now. Another doctor, my GI specialist had to be cancelled last minute because I had a last minute work crisis - thank God they said they would cover the cancellation fee - but I still have to deal with that appointment. That's the part that scares me. Not only is this doctor strictly out of pocket, but also she is watching a looming co-infection with HIV that could potentially kill me. Honestly, I just don't have the cash to handle it right now and know that could be a big mistake.
More good news - the Screen Actors Guild is about to authorize a strike, which would cripple Los Angeles potentially in March of 2009. Simply put, Schenectady here I come. If the strike were to happen I would have no other choice but to move back with my parents, at age 45, because the combination of health issues and the havoc the strike will create on my bank account, is one I cannot even begin to tackle.
Yet, why is there no one fighting for me, and others like me? There is no union of uninsured or the under-insured, or for just your average American who knows that, in spite of their current health insurance, that a trip to the doctor still isn't an affordable thing to do, or that the medication they should be on they cant even begin to pay for, so they do without. I know that one first hand - next year I will be stopping one of my side effect medications. Because of one of my past drug regiments, I have a side effect called Neuropathy, which is a pain, burning, stabbing sensation in my hands and feet. Extreme hot and cold temperatures usually bring it on, but honestly it usually takes me by surprise. The drug that helps reduce that pain, Lyrica, is a $95 co-payment each month, and next month I will have to stop taking it. I will have to learn how to deal with the pain, which some days can be quite debilitating, and frankly will have to hope for the best.
We have bailed out the financial institutes, not because it did anything to improve the daily life of the American consumer, but rather, to save their friends on Wall Street and the other half's way of life. The average American is still facing foreclosures, a non-stop credit crunch, and ever-decreasing wages. We were about to bail out the non-deserving auto industry, an industry that is about as pertinent as analog televisions, but apparently Congress and many others thinks it's worth saving. Maybe the right place for the Auto Industry is not Detroit, but rather a hall in the Smithsonian.
Today I received five phone calls from friends that are either losing their jobs, lost their jobs and have no prospects for new ones, and others whose small businesses are on the verge of collapse. Thomas Paine stated this situation so very eloquently, "These are the times that try men's souls." Little did he know it would continue to apply many, many years later. I have been around 45 years, have seen most of my friends die during the AIDS crisis, been through this recession thing before, but I have never seen it as systemic as this. People that I know and love very dearly are having trouble getting to the next breath, much less making it to the end of the month. How was this supposed to happen in, what apparently was, the richest nation ever to exist ever on the face of this planet? Was it just the hubris that did us in, or was it something more?
I know inside, that these calls from friends will only increase as the days go on. I wish I could hold them all, and take care of them, and make their pain go away. However, I know that is not humanly possible. It makes it even harder for me because these are the very same people that rallied around my hospital bed, in my greatest time of need, cheering me on, helping me keep both feet firmly on this planet. How I wish I could return the favor, but somehow the words keep falling short.
What we all need is need is something to fall back on - something that would give us jobs, pension plans and, yes, a health care system that actually works. We need to give ourselves a chance at a present so we can move into their future with nothing short of grace and dignity.
Surviving a disease gives you many coping skills, most of which you do not realize at the time. It gives you an inner strength and courage to face what seems to be completely insurmountable, and it gives you the drive to go on, even on those days the disease is trying to win. Most of you reading this don't understand that concept - and I wish with all of my heart that you never do. However, as with any war, it is the ones that need to win it most that fight the hardest.
During the recent House Financial Services Committee hearings, Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) asked General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner if he would state that GM supported a national health care program in order to stay viable. Given the fact that other countries do not have this financial burden on their auto industry, and that GM has identified the problem, why do they fall short of supporting an overhaul of the health care system. Wagoner declared that since their arrival in Washington, which was just hours before his testimony on his infamous private jet, they have been very active in the health care debate. What could they have possibly said in a few hours? Here, take our tired, our sick, our poor, for we don't want them any more?
I believe that it comes down to two basic things - fear and compassion. People are afraid that if they give up something, say some money, or their freedom, that they are not going to get anything in return. In giving, and in giving of yourself, you show true compassion, and isn't that what a Christian Nation is supposed to be based on?
Health care could easily be the glue that brings us all together, but instead it is the stuff that is keeping us apart. I hope that President Elect Obama and HHS Secretary Thomas Daschle keep their promise to make health care a priority, in spite of these overwhelming times.