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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

No Right to Be Healthy in America

By Harry T. Cook

Try to understand the strategy and tactics of the newly energized Republican Congress as first it wishes to seize from paying customers the health care insurance they were able to obtain through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The GOP majority may get away with it, thinking that anything connected in any way with a former two-term African-American president can be canceled out without too much blow-back. And they may be right in that respect.
Next up for demolition: Medicaid. As a volunteer at a not-for-profit social agency in the inner city of Detroit, I have seen the results of Michigan's expanded Medicaid in the lives of many of our clients who live at -- and many well below -- the poverty line. Now they can actually obtain prescriptions written for them by physicians whose ministrations they can actually receive. Ours is therefore a healthier city.
Moreover, I haven't had to write a voucher to our local, God-blessed neighborhood pharmacist in nearly a year. Thus our agency can do more in other areas of need with our limited non-government funds.
Our clients are far off of the radar screen of the Republican Party, which, among other atrocities, continues to make it more and more difficult for minorities to vote. People on Medicaid are less likely to vote for GOP candidates anyway, and the party strategists know it.
Let's assume that they are successful in ruining people's lives by repealing the Affordable Care Act with nothing comparable to replace it. (I suppose they could just change its nickname to "Trumpist Care," thus to blot out memory of Barack Obama, which they'd like to do in any event.)
Surely the geniuses of the GOP realize that millions of voters who cast their ballots for Trump in November are insured through the ACA, but they must be betting that those voters will believe that their Man will fix everything in the same way that fundamentalists believe Jesus will come again.
If in 2018 the Republicans keep their majorities in the House and Senate and President Trump has not yet quit or been impeached, the march against Medicare will begin. Indeed, it may have stepped off already.
It will come when it comes under the old political cliché of "reform," which means in practice demolition. One of the plans being talked about would entail federal subsidies in as yet an undetermined but fixed amount to be given to those of us now on Medicare.
Gone would be Medicare as we have known it and paid into it from our first paycheck on after its inception 50 years ago, and by deduction from our Social Security benefits in retirement.
With the subsidies we would be free to buy policies from for-profit insurance companies who rank right up there with J.R.R. Tolkien's dragon Smaug for kindness and mercy. Such policies would resemble those of old with a thousand exceptions to coverage. In the end, we pensioners would find ourselves billed for the balance between what hospitals and surgeons charged and what the insurance companies deigned to pay.
I'm not much of a mathematician, but I can add and subtract. It will come to this: that people like me would be shelling out thousands of dollars a year for the treatments we've already paid for more than half our lives. Savings will melt away in a neverending flow. After all, hospitals and physicians have to be paid for the care and treatment that keep us alive. No argument there.
I've been a patient at Detroit's Karmanos Cancer Center for almost three years, and I cannot say enough about how expertly my care is rendered there from parking valets to clerks to technicians, nurses and physicians. I know the cost of the various scans I undergo every three months and the monthly injections ($14,000 each) and infusions ($36,000 each) I receive to treat my particular cancer. Without Medicare, even with my supplemental insurance, I would by now have put my family into bankruptcy. That I will not do.
I am declaring now for the record that if and when Medicare is destroyed by the mindless zealots who are running the U.S. government into the ground, I will refuse any treatment that would eat away at my wife's financial future -- most of which her hard work, careful saving and planning has secured.
If necessary, when the time comes I will decline anything but the cheapest pain reliever and go out biting down on a stick -- my left hand holding the hand of the woman with whom even in that extremity I shall still be falling in love. The middle finger of my right hand will be held high as I can in the direction of Washington, D.C.
I will hear in my head the words of Charles Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge: "If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.* I will see in what's left of my mind's eye the leering faces of the executioners in Congress looking down upon me and saying, "There goes another liberal. Good riddance."
As for those Americans who gave us the Congress we now have: someone forgive them, please, for they know not what they did. I am sorry to say that they will find out soon enough.
*A Christmas Carol. New York, NY. Columbia University Press,1956. 14  

Donald Trump made bold to quote "the Bible" in his inauguration speech. Said he "The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity." Well, almost, Mr. President. You were quoting Psalm 133:1 that actually reads: "Behold, how good and joyful thing it is for brethren to live together in unity."  Not just "God's people," sir, but surely including Muslims when they appeared in history, not to mention Hindus and Buddhists who pre-dated both Judaism and Christianity. Maybe the better quotation might have been that of Psalm 24:1: "The earth is the Lord's, and all that therein is; the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein." That rules out "America first."

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