I read a lot of liberal blogs. I also read some conservative blogs. Historically, I've leaned libertarian, but between moving to L.A. and realizing that the Republicans are WAY more concerned with the religious right than my rights, I changed my affiliation from non-party affiliated to Democrat in 2007. During the primary I often thought of myself as a "reluctant Democrat," particularly due to many, many douchy, douchy, douchy Obama supporters, but a Democrat I've stayed.
As a reluctant Democrat, I struggle with posts like this from Jesse Taylor on Pandagon: The Secret To Health: Stop Being Sick. In it, Jesse pulls from this post by Sonny Bunch on DoubleThink Online: A health care follow up:
But certain things about the health care debate drive me absolutely nuts, like the self-entitlement you encounter day in and day out when you pay attention to the issue. Take this guy, for example. Allow me to summarize: He’s attending a top tier law school, so he doesn’t have a job and can’t afford to pick any health insurance up. He also has asthma. Which leads to this relatively stunning paragraph:
I cannot get my proper medication and have to rely on a friend who’s mother is a pharmacist to steal sample sized daily inhalers for me. Not only is this embarrassing and unreliable, it costs all of you who do have insurance money. I have no choice.
“I have no choice.” Wow. There is a stunning lack of self-awareness in that thought. So what you’re telling me is that you decided to attend a law school that you knew you couldn’t afford while simultaneously paying for health insurance even though you had a relatively serious health impairment that you need to get medication for? I’m sorry, dude: You made your choice. Maybe you made it poorly, but you made a choice. I have no pity whatsoever for this guy.
Here’s the problem with virtually any effort made to better yourself - it involves risk. Law school in particular usually involves very tight mandated budgets, lots of loans and very little room for financial error unless you or your family is independently wealthy. (Incidentally, the student in this case has two retired parents on fixed incomes.) I’m in law school myself, and the recommended school health insurance is expensive and awful; a better plan is simply unaffordable.
So here's my struggle. I do believe that we need some sort of universal health care in America. Without making this post about universal health care, I will try to simply state that health care tied to employment and schools decreases mobility of the population between jobs, thereby breaking the job market, and decreases the ability of the population to pursue higher learning they might otherwise be able to afford, which in turn, hurts America. I for one would SERIOUSLY like to obtain realistic health care outside of my employer. So I agree with Jesse on much of what he's said.
But I also totally agree with Sonny. The guy he quotes wrote an anonymous piece for the Atlantic: The Uninsured. And while I applaud the sharing of this story to illuminate problems with our healthcare system in America, on a personal level that person is indeed totally responsible for the choices they are making in 2009, under this health care system. He is taking a serious risk; he is choosing to attend a law school he cannot afford while also covering his health care for his medical conditions, and he is choosing to commit fraud and steal to obtain medication. These are his choices, and whatever the outcomes and costs, those are his responsibility.
I believe that both Jesse and Sonny are right, and both points are valid. If you've been reading me for a very long time, you may recall that I believe that truth often lies in the dichotomy of two opposites holding simultaneously. While rolling these posts over and over in my mind I realized that perhaps it is simpler than that. It is something I've been thinking about for a while: Macro v. Micro.
On a macro level, I believe that our health care system is broken, needs to be forever separated from our work, and very well may need to be run by the government. On a micro level, I believe that individually we need to take responsibility for our choices, in this time, under these conditions.
Let's talk about me, briefly. This is a blog after all.
I emptied my 401K and used my credit cards to go to graduate film school, 2 years, year-round. Similar situation, albeit with more risk of my degree never actually paying off, I had to go to school full full-time with no opportunity to work for the first time in my life since I was 16. Every time I see my social security statement with that year of $0 income, and the two crap years bracketing it, I remind myself that's part of the reason I'm still struggling to turn the tide on my debt load. I took a huge risk. Thankfully, I hope to drop dead on set between action and cut, because "retirement" simply isn't a word I entertain, and probably won't be able to afford until I'm near death.
I *was* able to afford basic health insurance from my grad school, although I never evaluated it at all. And on the rare occasion I've let my health insurance lapse, I recognized I was taking a serious risk. Certainly I've only ever found Cobra a source of painful amusement due to the cost of it. I've never been in a position to afford Cobra, and to be honest, I don't really understand how anyone can afford it, much less things like unpaid maternity leave. It's a mystery to me.
Speaking briefly to macro v. micro in my life, I often think about sexism in the entertainment industry. On a macro level, yes, it exists. And we can discuss it and maybe even take steps to fight it. But on a micro level, I've simply got work to do, and if there's sexism in my face on a set, you can bet I'm gonna laugh it off like so much water off a duck's back if at all possible. If it's blocking my way, I'm going to look for another way. And another and another if that's what it takes. All with a positive can-do attitude and a smile.
Back to healthcare and the discussion in question; I've read the health care horror stories. They are horrible, and yes, our system sucks. We need change, and it can't come soon enough. People do make all the "right" choices and end up screwed.
But dude's still choosing to go to law school he can't afford. What comes of that - good or bad - *is* his responsibility and his choice. Unlike Sonny, I've got some sympathy for the guy, but that's as far as this reluctant Democrat can go.