Sick Is Not Something to Despise
Sick is Not Something to Despise
Two opposing things can be true at once and judging by the reaction to disparate sides on the health care debate, we see what we want to see. Those of us worried about the vulnerable in our society tend to believe the CBO score released yesterday for the BRCA (The Better Care Reconciliation Act) and those in sync with the administration dismisses it as unreliable information. What happens if those 22 million Americans will be without health care coverage in the next decade? What is the cost to our economy in lost wages, lost talent and dismembering of the working class and working poor American family?
One issue is worrisome and that is the myth that only those who are irresponsible or engage in a lifestyle that is unhealthy become seriously ill. This is only partially true. There are folks who are morbidly obese because they eat all the wrong foods and as a result suffer from diabetes and heart disease and we do have chronic smokers who are dying of emphysema because of the choices they made. Yet the popularity of drinking in affluent circles is accepted as delightful recreation; sophisticated wine and beer connoisseurs are admired for their exquisite awareness instead of being called what they are: Alcoholics. In lower classes alcoholism and opioid addiction is considered a vice acquired by the weak and one more reason to despise a less powerful group.
In fact many of us became ill because of fate and in no way is a disease connected with anything we did or didn't do. Call it genetic inferiority if you like, but some are born with physical frailties beyond our control. A business acquaintance now lives on social security disability after years of being a successful antique store proprietor in a swanky neighborhood. No one was more ambitious and determined to make a comfortable living. But her body had other plans; she had unsuccessful back surgery in 2006 that led to chronic spinal pain, fibromyalgia, and then suffered a serious concussion from a car accident just when things were returning to normal. Life can turn to mush in an instant. Illness comes attached to isolation, financial loss and depression. This woman did nothing wrong and yet is significantly dependent upon a government program. I have had two different types of cancer, neither of which had anything to do with lifestyle choices.
Why is it that fellow citizens dependent on government aid are being fundamentally disrespected? Anyone can have a debilitating stroke that can remove your ability to work and support a family or an accident that renders you brain damaged. In a nano-second anyone's life can shift regardless of physical superiority - remember the devastating accident that ruined Christopher Reeve's charmed life - so I am hoping my conservative friends can explain: How is it that the leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell can so easily forget that he too was born with a physical inferiority that led to his childhood polio? Senator Mitch McConnell had a disease that was essentially wiped out by charity and good science and his family relied on those resources. "My mother was, of course, like many mothers of young polio victims, perplexed about what to do, anxious about whether I would be disabled for the rest of my life” he admitted in a 2005 interview. Luckily for Mitch, about 50 miles from his home, the March of Dimes funded a polio treatment center.
Sen. McConnell is alive today because of the support and treatment offered by the March of Dimes, started by one of the most famous polio victims, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Recently the organization wanted to meet with Sen. McConnell to discuss their grave concerns over the Senate bill and he turned them away. He is bent on passing a bill that will deliver striking cuts for kids and adults on Medicare and somehow his heart and mind have hardened to the point that he has rebuffed the very organization that saved his own life? What is this if not an arrogant disregard when the President himself promised that he would never cut Medicare or Social Security?
Interestingly, The March of Dimes focuses their work on research that seeks to lower the rate of premature birth, infant mortality and birth defects. The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BRCA) will reinstate something called the "lifetime cap," which has the potential to financially ruin families with ill children. These are innocent kids born with conditions that have nothing to do with any irresponsible action on the part of the parents. Expectant parents in particular should be aware of how the lifetime cap affects premature babies, because their medical care might become prohibitive.
Aristotle said that we cannot learn without pain. My question is: Haven't we already seen and experienced enough pain?