Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Compassion and public policy

A bunch of stuff has come together recently for me, regarding how we do healthcare in this country.

Some friends on an email list I belong to (composed mostly of people who do historic reenactments in my area) are celebrating the successful removal of a tumor from one of our members. At the same time, the online bluegrass station I listen to is advertizing a fundraising concert - a well-known bluegrass artist needs surgery, and has no insurance, so other musicians are holding a fund-raising concert for him.

And last night, a friend of mine sat at her parents' dining room table, with health benefit plans spread out before her, trying to determine what plan she could afford to have, given other financial obligations (like rent, car, food...) on her entry level pay. And I thought about the fact that if she gets ill enough to really need the upper limits of even the modest plan she chose in the end, she'll lose that coverage, because she won't be able to work. I find myself worrying about whether she can afford the copays that the plan she went with asks for.

Where is the compassion? My friend is a young writer, working a service job to pay the bills and writing on her off time. I've gotten a chance to read some of her stories, and they are imaginative, with creative ideas constantly bubbling away. The world would be a poorer place without her, yet basic needs like access to health care will remain a struggle for a while.

Another friend struggles to find employment at all, even as she wrestles with a call to service. And without employment, she must worry about her health because health is linked to employment in our country, even as the wealth disparity grows, and more and more people fall out of our health care system.

On the radio, I hear big corporations complaining that American business has to carry the cost of healthcare, a situation that exists in none of the other industrialized nations. And I wonder if it's even compassion that's needed, so much as common sense. I wonder if people think about the fact that diseases which start out among the poor have historically reached out even to homes of wealth and privilege.

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