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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This I Believe: History in the Making

Preface: This is long.  This is rambling. I'm so tired but I really wanted to post this on the day this law was signed by President Obama.  I watched him sign it and it gave me goosebumps, almost as much as the day he was sworn into office. It is an honor to watch history in the making.  

Let’s take a look at what brought us to the current health care situation.  This can be summed up in 4 easy steps/events. 

Step 1.) Hospitals went froShitholes to Money Makers 

In the early 1900 hospitals were a far cry from the state of the art facilities that we know today.  Hospitals were where 1.) people went to die and 2.) where doctors prescribed leeches and magic potions to “cure” ailments.  Welcome 1909.  Syphilis was rampant and the disease of the time.  Then some fancy doctor developed the first medication to actually treat a disease.  Thus the public started to view the hospital and doctors and resources and curers and expectations changed, for doctors and for hospitals.  Hospitals caught on to the change and began to change their messaging, their marketing, quickly seeing an increase in revenue.

Step 2.) Welcome the Great Depression  

Shortly thereafter, demand for health care plummeted thanks to the Great Depression.   One fateful day a hospital administrator in Baylor, Texas made the observation that most of the the beds in his hospital were empty and they were on the verge of going under like so many other businesses of the time. This administrator then approached a group of teachers, offering them use the hospital for any treatment necessary for $6 per year. As more teachers signed up, they laid the foundation of this program to become Blue Cross. Thus began to the insurance industry.

Step 3.) WWII Happens

With WWII in full force, the US government started rationing the nation's resources. A pay cap was put on salaries and as men were sent of to war, there was an increase demand for labor.  Women joined the work force and as the factories were competing for workers, (but whose hands were tied with capped pay), companies got creative. They put together "benefit packages" that were designed to attract the most talented and competitive workers.  Thus began the beginning of EMPLOYER paid health insurance.  

Step 4.) The IRS Goes Handing out Tax Breaks -1943. 

A ruling is made stating that health care premiums are tax deductible for businesses.  This now gave a huge incentive for big business to provide insurance to employees and thus perpetuating Employer paid health insurance and eventually creating the benefit based employer paid standard. 

Fast forward to today and you have the present day cluster that is our health care system. This is confluence of events brought us to a FOR PROFIT health care system. Emphasis on FOR PROFIT.  My point in illustrating these events is to provide an understanding that where were are today is a consequence of the political, economic, social, global climate of the times.  My purpose is to demonstrate that where the health care system is today is a product of many years in the making, not just a singular moment in time that put us in this situation.  To that end, it will take many years, with the right political, economic, social and global environments to create a health care option that truly is universal and will serve the needs of everyone.  As much as the system wasn't created overnight, it will not be fixed overnight.

So here's the invitation: Give it a chance to work.  Give it the opportunity to become something that we look back on and are proud to say that we, as American citizens, took care of each other. Wouldn't that be something? Wouldn't that be something if we could look back on this snapshot in history and this part of this history doesn't involve the Department of Defense and a war that equates human life with barrels of oil? I would feel pretty good about that.   

Now, I still consider myself relatively uneducated on this matter and am hesitant to make grandiose statements. Really more of a casual spectator. I consider myself pretty left leaning democrat optimist with hope for human kind.  Naive maybe, but true. But, I wholeheartedly believe that this will define not only the Obama administration but a time in American history that marks a turning point.  The same type of turning point of when the 14th Amendment was passed granting citizenship to all.  The same type of turning point that gave women the right to vote in 1920 (only 90 years ago).  Turning points like the Civil Right Act of 1964, hopefully soon a gay rights act, and other such once unpopular ideas at their time, that ultimately work out for the better. I believe that this will be one of those turning point that at the very least points in the direction toward granting the very basic human right of health care. I think about the controversy that's surrounded every major shift in in the political and culture paradigm and I like to believe that we will look back and realize that this legislation was absolutely essential to become leading humanitarians.   

On a more human and personal note, as someone whose family depends on Medicare the idea of universal health care is immensely comforting.  It may take a while to get here but to know that action is happening to prevent my family to be in the situation of deciding between a mortgage payment and the countless tests, drugs, and doctors visits my mom goes to is beyond comforting.  To know that my mom won't be denied coverage for her manpre-existing conditions and will be given access to medical treatments lifts quite a worry.  So I guess I say to those who say it cost to much or will bankrupt our country or it kills babies, I ask that you put yourself in the situation that some of us see this as a necessity not a option.  Some of us need absolutely need this law, and not by act of our own choice but by act of the cards that we were dealt. 

I'm honored to be a part of this history unfolding and look forward to the future of being fully insured.  I look forward to the day this topic is no longer a controversy, but merely a measurement of human rights we, as Americans, are privileged to have. 


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