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Universal Healthcare

POSTED January 13, 2010 12:07 a.m.

I’m going to offer an unpopular opinion for a town as conservative as Oakdale.

I’m all for universal healthcare and here’s why.

There is much talk in the news about the possibility of universal healthcare with a myriad of different politicians and their constituents arguing for and against the programs currently being proposed.

I’ve been following this issue for some time now, way before it became the buzz topic of the day and while a perfect program is impossible to achieve, I believe the current healthcare system is irretrievably diseased and the only way to rout out the rot is to tear it down to the foundation and start fresh.

It is unconscionable to me that healthcare is an unattainable luxury to some people and lost to those who cannot afford the premium for their health insurance.

It is reprehensible to me that someone who has worked their whole life, paid their taxes, volunteered in their community, and otherwise been a good citizen, can lose their home because they had the misfortune to get sick with cancer or heart disease.

Sickness, accidents, tragedy — these are not circumstances we invite into our lives. They happen to us. Yet, if we are so unlucky as to get run over by an unfortunate situation we could lose everything we ever built to pay for an exorbitant medical bill.

There are those who balk at the idea of socialized medicine and cringe at the thought of a government-run healthcare system. I’ve heard every argument.

“People die waiting for care!”

“You can’t see the doctor you want!”

“It’s bad! Bad! Bad!”

Yeah? Says who?

Newsflash: People die NOW waiting for care. People refuse to see the doctor because they can’t afford it. They watch their children sicken until they have to be taken to the emergency room because they can’t afford a doctor visit. The elderly forego food to pay for their medication.

My publishing editor lives in Canada. I’ve asked her about their healthcare system. Guess what? She loves it. She doesn’t worry about losing her home in the event that she becomes sick. Wow. Amazing. If she’s ill, she goes to the doctor. No worries. What’s that like?

But you’re right. That’s a terrible thing to suffer through.

Let’s continue.

My youngest sister, a bright, vibrant young student, became very ill. She’s never sick. But after days of suffering through intense pain, she had to be taken to the hospital. She could barely walk. We didn’t call an ambulance because she didn’t have insurance and was afraid of the bill. So I bundled her up and took her to Oak Valley Hospital. They took very good care of her. Turns out she had a kidney infection and it had progressed to blood poisoning. She nearly died. My beautiful, amazing sister was nearly snuffed out because she didn’t have the money to see a doctor when it could’ve been caught in the early stages.

And then she got the bill. $15,000.

I guess you could say, what’s a life worth?

She doesn’t have $100 much less $15,000.

She’ll never be able to pay that bill. So her credit is being ruined before she’s even begun to live her life. And why? Because she had the misfortune to get sick.

My cousin has a heart condition. She went to Kaiser for a possible stroke. She waited in the lobby for five hours before a doctor decided it might be prudent to put her on a heart monitor. FIVE HOURS. This girl has had open heart surgery, is currently on heart medication, and yet, no one could find the time to see her. So tell me…why are we defending this archaic system? Oh wait…that’s right…we like it this way.

MediCal is collapsing because it doesn’t have a vein aside from the government’s feeding it. Insurance companies are bloating on the life-blood of the American people and anyone who has gone toe-toe with their insurance company in an appeal process can attest that big business doesn’t care about you or your health so why should we care if their profits might be affected by the introduction of a government-run system? It’s time to put a stop to the greed and get back to the purpose of helping and healing.

I’m ready to pay higher taxes if it means I don’t have to worry about my loved ones dying because they can’t afford to see a doctor. I’m ready to let the government regulate the healthcare industry if it means being secure in the knowledge that I won’t lose my house if I have the misfortune to be struck by cancer.

Nothing is perfect because imperfect humans are involved. But for goodness sake, let’s stop trying to pump life into a dead horse.

There will be bumps and bruises as we adjust to the new way of doing things but thank heavens we have friendly neighbors (Europe and Canada) who can show us how it’s done.

Check out Michael Moore’s documentary, “Sicko.” You might hate him, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s enlightening. You may despise his politics. You may detest everything about the man but if you’re ready for a change, or this broken system has personally affected you…his documentary just might open your eyes to different possibilities.

— KIM VAN METER

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