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So. Barack Obama. Some speech last night.

As I mentioned in my previous entry, my time with AARP has opened my eyes to the ignorance of the American people, and the urgent need for reform. My daily work is a microcosm of this whole debate. Exhibit A: sixty year old woman calls. She has a list of medical conditions, from MS to arthritis to skin disorders. She doesn't have insurance, can't afford insurance, and is sobbing to me about how her brother is stealing her inheritance and she can't afford any of her medications to stop her from being in pain. Multiple times during the call, she says things like "I'd be better off dead" or "I should just kill myself." This is a real call, a real person, that I have actually talked to. She lived in Mesa, AZ and I talked to her for nearly an hour trying to find resources to help her and convincing her not to kill herself. Exhibit B: 75 year old man calls, screaming at me about how AARP is socialist and that the health care crisis is made up. He explains that if they subtracted the 20 million illegal aliens (who CLEARLY do not deserve even the most basic level of care) and the 20 million people who have chosen not to have insurance, there are really only 5 million people who can't get insurance so what's the big deal? He rails for 30 minutes against government involvement in healthcare, all the time claiming that his precious Medicare benefits will be cut.

I know plenty of people, and plenty of politicians, who take for granted that everyone agrees that the system needs to be changed. But there is a pervasive group of right wing loons who are literally living in a seperate reality. In the right-wing dystopia, Obama has a funny moustache and the invisible hand of the market wears silky-soft kid gloves. They say there are no sick people, only illegal aliens stealing healthcare from our country. The problem is Mexicans! Or, if we would only put caps on medical liability lawsuits, all healthcare would be affordable! Nevermind that they have put caps on awards, very strict caps, in Missouri and Texas - and costs did not decrease, as Senator McCaskill observed in her controversial town hall meeting. It's the lawyers, the liberals, the patients-rights advocates! The problem is government! Everyone with government healthcare is sick and dying in squalor, receiving sub-par care and and praying that they had a for-profit medical industry to treat them. Heaven knows that people from England, France, Spain, Japan, Switzerland... have markedly poor public health statistics and life expetancies. No doubt shortened further by their being taxed to death. Only the real Americans, the Tea Party Patriots, can see the truth. The rest of the world, the media, everyone has been brainwashed by Adolf Hussein Obama.

Come on! Give me a break! Even if you are a conservative Republican, there is no excuse to reinvent the world in your own head. There are good reasons to object to parts of Democrats' policy proposals. There are not good reasons to say that there's nothing wrong with the status quo. That 47 million uninsured number, from the US census? It's real. Are you blind? Do you not have friends or family? Have you not seen the economy? The economy is losing 200-700k jobs A MONTH and you don't think that there's an insurance crisis, when 200 million Americans get their coverage FROM THEIR EMPLOYER? You think that those without insurance, those familes choose to go without insurance because it's such great fun? Because instead of treating their illness, they would rather buy some nice Air Jordans and a flat screen TV. Wait, did that sound like a racist stereotype? IT SHOULD, BECAUSE IT IS. The idea that people LIKE to be poor, that they stay that way ON PURPOSE, that they could get better treatment but don't because they just don't TRY - is not only a tragic lie, but it is an unethical and unforgiveable generalization. No, I don't care that you knew someone once who went on welfare and watched TV all day. That's not everyone. It is offensive to suggest that it is. So yeah, there's 47 million people out there who are just bad at managing money so they can't get insurance. So what? Here's another statistic the "Tea Party Patriots" don't like to hear: 18,000 Americans die EVERY YEAR from conditions that would have been cured earlier had they had access to preventative care. They do that on purpose too?

But nevermind about the uninsured, most people at least have enough sense to realize that uninsured people should have access to affordable insurance. No, no. The problem with the way this debate is going is that big, bad Obama just wants to demonize insurance companies. And insurance companies are so great? No one wants them to go out of business, you fools. No shit there's jobs there. And some insurance providers do provide a really quality product to consumers. But to act like there aren't repugnant industry practices which cause pain, suffering, and extra expense? That is ignorant. I won't talk about the crock of bullshit that was the "death panels" scare tactic, but if you want to see a death panel you walk into Humana corporate offices. Or Aetna. Or Wellspring. Or even Blue Cross. True, right now it isn't the awful, ill-intentioned, antiAmerican bureaucrats making the health care decisions for you. It is executives who crunch numbers and look at the bottom line. Patient is diagnosed with cancer. A common fate, seeing as the lifetime cancer risk for an American is about 46%. That insurance company doesn't want to pay for the treatments for an expensive cancer. Doubly so if it's a rare cancer with fewer treatment options. So they go back in the patient's history. They dig. They look for reasons, any reason, to deny coverage. If they can't find one they will shut up and pay out, until it comes time to renew your policy at year's end. Then they will find a thousand different ways that you are too high risk, and they will quadruple your premiums, and then you will have zero insurance and lots of cancer because you just can't afford it. There is a reason that the American Cancer Society is one of the loudest supporters of reform - it's because insurance companies, being profit-driven, stop people from receiving the treatments that save their lives. In fact, a quick look at the ACS website shows that they believe that US cancer deaths could be reduced by 60% if access to preventative care and early detection were universal. GET REAL. Yes, it sounds like everyone's picking on insurance companies. They deserve it. (PS, they will also recoup their losses thanks to the government MANDATING that everyone has to have health insurance - 47 million new customers. Think about it.)

You think the economy can't take the spending? What world do you live in, and where were your objections to the unpaid for tax breaks for the wealthy and poorly justified wars, both passed during a RECESSION, in total costing more than health care reform could ever aspire to cost. Did you even take a history class? Or are you Tea Party Patriots so ass-backwards that you don't believe in FDR either? The only way to pull a country out of a depression is to spend money on projects to create jobs. The only way to prevent an economic crisis from getting worse is to establish a safety net for those least fortunate, to stop things from spinning out of control. Just leave it alone and the problem will solve itself is not a political ideology. It is a recipe for disaster.

I was glad to see in the speech last night that Obama put tort reform on the table - it will stop the Republicans from pointing to their "alternative" bill and saying it's so much better, when all it is is half of what the democrats want + tort reform and some giveaways to corporations (IE vouchers). And of course, high malpractice costs make healthcare more expensive. I'm not sure to what degree, but they probably do. However, I will say that if the government tries to put a monetary value on pain and suffering, I for one will not be pleased. I would rather see a shift to arbitration over litigation than an outright cap, because you can't tell me that if a doctor amputates the wrong leg, that patient should only get 100K for the doctor's bullshit mistake.

In short, health reform has made me hate republicans with a violent passion and I am going to lose it on people at work starting iminently. Class is over.

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