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Healthcare’s Integral Role In Functioning Democracy March 23, 2010

Posted by Lynn Christiansen Esquer in Politics.
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So much rhetoric and misinformation has come out of the healthcare debate that we are today a country deeply divided. But, though conservatives have used the passage of healthcare reform to argue that freedom in America is on the decline, I believe we have made incremental steps closer to true democracy and freedom today.

Conservatives say that the new law is a form of government socialism; but I fail to see how putting limits on insurance companies so that doctors and their patients have more control over care can be considered socialism.

The law that President Obama signed today is not a government takeover of healthcare. If this law could be considered socialized medicine, every single American would have free and equal access to healthcare, through a government agency that administered all facets of public health. This simply isn’t the case. The new law does not take responsibility of administering health away from the precious insurance companies; it simply sets limits on how irresponsibly those companies can treat consumers. Have no fear, conservatives: The United States is still the only industrialized nation in the world without universal healthcare for all. The patchwork system still lives.

People who argue against the right for healthcare also argue that those who lose their health insurance, or have never had it in the first place, are always responsible for their plight. They believe that people don’t get sick unless they bring it upon themselves… and that no one loses his or her job (and therefore, his or her employer-sponsored insurance) who doesn’t deserve to be unemployed. Coming from a state with nearly 13 percent unemployment, I believe this argument for “personal abdication of responsibility” is becoming more difficult for them to use.

Most interesting to me, however, is the assertion that the law is somehow undemocratic.

I would argue that the right to healthcare is a necessary component to functional democracy. How can individuals exercise their freedoms if they are denied access to care necessary to maintain and protect their health — the most basic and fundamental of resources?

How can individuals without access to needed care be active participants in democracy?

How are we truly a democracy when our citizens are denied equality?

How can we claim to the rest of the world that we hold life precious and are some kind of example of humanitarianism, when we scrutinize spending money on our citizens’ health so much more than we do our oversized military budget?

How did democracy come to mean that the rights of individual consumerism supercede wise collective decisions?

Lack of healthcare is the greatest of injustices. Our current system of arbitrary, profit-driven care denies the individual the full expression of self, and the ability to make use of any other granted right or privilege. What use is personal liberty if the foundation for it — life and health — is unattainable for so many?

In fact, if I may quote founding father Thomas Jefferson, author of our Declaration of Independence and a member of the body that wrote our Constitution: “If we’re going to have a successful democratic society, we have to have a well educated and healthy citizenry.”

Which dovetails nicely into my final point. As a society, there’s no doubt that we value access to quality education for all. But, like healthcare, the right to public education is glaringly absent from our Constitution. In fact, the United States’ law guaranteeing education for its citizenry wasn’t passed until two centuries after our Constitution went into effect. And, while this right is one we take for granted in 2010, it was heavily debated with as much rancor as the current healthcare debate has exhibited.

As a society, we need to place equal emphasis on nourishing our bodies as we do on nourishing our minds. And let us not forget, that as societies advance toward greater democracy, the rights of their citizens expand. Let that be our happy fate.

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


House Calls February 5, 2010

Posted by Lynn Christiansen Esquer in Politics.
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Healthcare reform is on life support. And the Democrats have no one to blame but themselves.

Today, Obama conceded that healthcare reform might die on the Hill. While some others said he appeared resigned to failure, it’s not what I saw — at all. I saw a man essentially saying to his fellow Dems in Congress, “You don’t want to unite and push this through because you think it’s too hard and too politically risky? Fine. Let down your constituents and your country, and take the gamble on whether they’ll forgive you.”

While it wasn’t exactly forceful, it’s a step in the right direction. Ever since the Massachusetts senate election two weeks ago, the only thing dejected Congress Dems have done is throw their hands up, cry over their lost filibuster-proof majority and whine that maybe they should abandon their efforts for now in favor of… what, I don’t know.

OK, yes, they have made it more difficult for themselves. They had a year to put together and pass a healthcare reform bill and failed to come to a consensus. Now they face Republican filibusters, but last time I checked, they still enjoy healthy majorities in the House and Senate and can make this work if they get on the same page and show some muscle. Already, some progressives have started to take up the rallying cry — notably not led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Leadership is needed and someone else, perhaps, needs to take up the mantle if Pelosi and Reid are unwilling or unable.

It’s time for the Democrats to resurrect reform, reconcile their issues, work together, and believe enough in their own ability to do the right thing. To parlay a favorite phrase these days: Healthcare reform is just too big to fail.

And regarding the Republicans: If 41 Republicans believe they can stop the Democrats from passing any bill — a ridiculous claim but one the Dems have apparently swallowed — then they have now made themselves part of the solution. With great power comes great responsibility, Republicans. What’s your healthcare reform plan? Or has working on behalf of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies become too lucrative? I think I know the answer, but they deserve to have the chance to prove us all wrong.

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