By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
We all have friends or family who are ill, some seriously. There are some in nursing homes, some in hospitals, and others being treated at home.
My good friend Bob has been courageously battling cancer for several years. He had surgery and follow up treatment, which to a large extent was paid for by his private insurance. He was doing well for a while, but now the cancer is back with a vengeance and has spread to his liver. He is in the fight of his life, literally. His future is uncertain, maybe no future at all. But at least he does not need the added worry about whether he can access treatment or afford medicines that might save or at least extend his life.
Giving this peace of mind to all Americans was the whole point of the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” which President Trump and his cohorts in Congress are so intent on dismantling.
After vowing to “quickly” do away with Obamacare during his campaign, Trump subsequently declared “who knew health care was so complicated”?
Actually, universal health insurance is not all that complicated… but evidently repealing Obamacare and replacing it with something “better and cheaper” is very complicated, and so far near impossible.
You see, the leadership in Congress wants to cut back on guaranteed benefits and drastically slash the Medicaid portion of Obamacare by nearly $800 billion and give that money in tax cuts to the richest 5 percent in the country. The ones who, like my friend Bob, already have comprehensive health insurance coverage.
If you ask what do tax cuts have to do with health insurance, and why does Congress need to devastate health care monies dedicated to low income persons, you would be asking a very good question. But there is no very good answer other than tax cuts need to be funded from some place. But taking it from medical resources and assistance designed for the less fortunate? Really?
The entire premise of Obamacare is that for all Americans to be covered when they get sick, all Americans need to chip in even when they are healthy, young and strong. In the current law, that is called the “individual mandate.” Either you buy health insurance to increase the overall pool of money, or you pay a monetary penalty for not purchasing health insurance. Those dollars are used to underwrite the cost of insurance for all. If only high risk people buy health insurance their premiums will be unaffordable. So the burdens insurance for all. If only high risk people buy health insurance their premiums will be unaffordable. So the burdens as well as the benefits need to be spread out. Most every person will need expensive health care, sooner or later. That is a virtual certainty.
Look at it another way. Every child must go to school and as a society, we maintain a free education system at least through 12th grade. But that wasn’t always the case. Two hundred years ago, education was mostly for the wealthy and the privileged and young males. Over the years, that policy evolved. Today, every taxpayer must help fund the education system even if they have no children or even if their children attend private or parochial schools. It is our collective responsibility to and for each other. It is our civic duty. If only people with school age children paid school taxes, universal public education would be financially impossible. But America considers education to be an entitlement.
The question is, in the richest nation on earth, shouldn’t health care be, too?
I don’t know what the fates have planned for Bob. But at least he knows that he will have a shot at life because he will not be denied needed services or expensive medicines. Universal health care is not complicated. What is in doubt is whether we have the will and generosity of spirit to insure that all persons young and old, rich or poor have the help that they need when they need it. But to do so will mean forgoing greater tax cuts to the very rich and maybe even asking more from them.
I say we must. That is what my free public education taught me is the right thing to do.