It was probably inevitable that this would happen, but let me go on record that, as we approach a likely final vote on the health insurance bill, I continue to stand firm in my stance that the bill should not pass, and if it does pass, it should be repealed. By continuing to hold this view even as most of my erstwhile allies fell in line to support a bill that they had, quite justly, likened to a pile of manure a few months ago, I have found myself in company with only a very select few who are ideologically similar to me. Most of those who oppose this thing are on the Republican side of the aisle. However, I’ve never been a fan of the sports team method of conducting politics. No, if the people who agree with me on the ultimate goal (even if they disagree on the reason for their stance) are mostly Republicans, well, so be it. I’m not picky. The enemy of my enemy may not be my friend, but it can be my ally for now. A vote is a vote.
And the fact that most of those same erstwhile allies consider this such an atrocious thing says a great deal about their true priorities. In my not-so-humble opinion, these people are liars to pretend they care about some 30 million without insurance, or people with existing medical conditions (of whom I am one), or a hypothetical 45,000 people who may die a few years earlier than they otherwise would have (yes, it sounds inhuman, but life can be cruel. Many of that figure will die because of cancer. Insured or not, the 10-year survival rates for internal cancers generally are not good). For starters, the bill is an insurance coverage bill and outside of some provisions for community clinic funding, it has nothing to do with health care administered by medical professionals. The typical deductible and co-pays of affordable individual coverage policies—to paraphrase Scarlett O’Hara—might as well be a million dollars if you don’t have that kind of money saved up, and most Americans, unfortunately, do not have that kind of money saved up. The bill doesn’t bring the individual market up to the standards of the group policy market in deductibles and co-pays, not even close.
Some of those lives could indeed be saved, but precious few of these activists are truly interested in saving lives. I can’t entirely fault them; it’s a known quirk of human nature that it is easier not to let death bother one if the numbers are high enough and the incident is remote or distributed enough. I see that 45,000 figure and I don’t even blink. Still, that’s not what I mean here. There are, undoubtedly, some long-term health care activists who see the world from an optimistic viewpoint and want to believe that this bill will help. I will not disdain them, though I think they are tragically mistaken, and nothing I say refers to them. However, most of the people yapping sanctimoniously about this on blogs, Facebook, and political mass e-mails are Johnny-come-latelys to the health care issue, and they are only on it right now because that is what their party and the president are on right now. These activists’ real agenda is only to maintain their partisan majority in Congress this year. They may use the 45,000 or 30 million as a loaded gun against their opponents, but if they get what they want, the devil take those human statistics. I have seen this disgusting little game played before; in 2006 many Democratic candidates invoked the Katrina response and the body count following it, but as I have complained about many a time and documented on this blog, most of them didn’t lift a finger to help those people after assuming office. I see no reason to believe it’ll be any different for the politicians or partisan activists when the true effects, or lack thereof, of their health insurance bill start to come out. Once this thing is over, they’ll move on to something else.
Incidentally, these partisan activists have revealed with their very own words just what they really think of the right of people with chronic medical conditions (like me) to have affordable health care, and it is not encouraging. Some proposals have been floated to initiate the pre-existing condition exclusions immediately but wait to implement any mandate. Such proposals would actually benefit the chronically ill (if they had all the loopholes plugged—keep reading!), you know. But whenever such an idea has been brought up, the partisan activist goons are on it like a pack of hyenas: “We can’t do that! We can’t have the pre-existing condition exclusions without an individual mandate! People might wait till they got sick to buy a policy and it would raise my premiums! Besides, there’s a high risk pool proposed for the interim!” (There are high risk pools already in place in many states. This does not make them affordable or useful for obtaining treatment for costly illnesses. If it did, we wouldn’t be discussing this.)
The proposals I refer to would affect a period of not quite four years, and even if people actually did drop their insurance en masse just because they could (which I do not believe would happen), the sky will not fall in four years, and health insurers could easily take the comparatively small losses out of their own profits rather than hiking everyone’s rates, if they were ordered to do so. Besides, even after the mandate would take place, people could still go naked as long as they paid the fine, which is much less costly than a policy, and these same people could still wait to get a policy… when they got sick. So much for that bogeyman. So no, this is not about fairness to the public at all. In the minds of partisan progressive activists, it’s more important to be “fair” to a parasitic industry that has killed its own customers by proxy than it is to provide health insurance to people who are sick. To them, I have no right to affordable health care; it is a privilege that depends on the behavior of other people. Concern for the chronically ill, my rear. I have so much contempt for the deceitful sanctimony of these people that I can barely express it, and though I do have chronic medical conditions and therefore would be among the people they pretend to care about, I will not be a pom-pom for their partisan cheerleading.
I have had the opinion for quite some time that the worst thing anyone could do, in the view of Democratic Party brass, is to display disloyalty to the party brand. There is no such thing to these people as ideological disloyalty. As I’ve lamented before, they discussed stripping Joe Lieberman of his chairmanship not because he thwarted an investigation into FEMA’s role in the Hurricane Katrina disaster, but because he campaigned for John McCain. Now, we have numerous reports that the White House threatened to make sure that any Democrat who voted against the health insurance package would not receive any party money for re-election. There were no repercussions or threats made when the stimulus act passed last year, nor have there been any such threats for any other piece of legislation that the president wanted. Absolutely none. But it was never implied that the failure of these bills might result in a party changeover in the fall. Now that some people in the pundit and political classes have formed this opinion about this particular bill, opposing it is tantamount to switching party allegiance in their minds.
But to return to topic, my opposition to the bill. It is not just unmitigated contempt for many of the proponents (and pity for the rest, who I think are in for a big disappointment) that is why my opinion is what it is. I also have good reason to believe that the bill can make things much harder for people like me. Right now, if I were to receive a denial letter that said “pre-existing conditions,” I can produce paperwork demonstrating in an open-and-shut case that I am entitled to the insurance claim. I’ve done it before. I can handle my own appeals at minimal cost and time as long as the insurers can still say “pre-existing conditions.” If the bill passed and the regulations took effect in 2014, they wouldn’t be able to say that any longer. But don’t worry; they have a backup plan: They still can send out letters to customers rescinding coverage altogether if they claim it is on the basis of fraud, and to fight a fraud claim, you’ll have to engage legal services. For many, you’ll have to hire a lawyer and fight these vermin in court while you are sick and getting medical treatment. The insurers do this already to customers whom they cannot get on pre-existing conditions but who develop a costly illness that they don’t want to pay for, and insurance company executives have even told members of Congress point-blank that they would continue to do this to customers if the bill passed. Great, just great. Though I’m sure the trial lawyers’ lobby is quite happy.
Incidentally, when this detail is pointed out to these progressive activists that I have been impugning, they get quite upset and insist that such things won’t really happen because it will depend on how regulations are written up and interpreted. (The memories of the Bush Administration deliberately ignoring and defying all manner of business regulations, let alone “legitimately” interpreting them in the most corporate-friendly way possible, seem to have slipped their minds.) The naivete would be truly amazing if I believed it really were naivete; as I have said, though, I think the simple answer is that they do not really care about the chronically ill. They are liars.
I will not be the pawn of a group of people who are interested in my life only as a tool to achieve partisan triumphs. I’ve watched it happen once before, and all I got in return was disappointment and betrayal. Say what you will about the Republican activists; at least they make it plain that they don’t care three straws about people like me. If they decide that they would use us left-wing opponents for their own goals and then discard us, it’s no different from what the progressive activists and politicians would do—except that we can also use them.