Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Of Fire Departments and Health Care
Last Friday we called the local fire department for the first time in our marriage. Joyce had smelled natural gas in the basement; we called; an officer was here in mere minutes. He checked our entire system, found two small leaks (nothing too immediately worrisome), marked them. We called our HVAC company, who sent someone here in less than an hour. Repairs. VISA. And all is well--for the nonce.
Perhaps some of you have forgotten that American fire departments used to be private enterprises? Until about the Civil War? Individual customers paid for the service of a company, and if you had a fire and lived right next door to a rival company, you were out of luck. You'd paid only for yours. So it's really not been all that long that we've had public, tax-supported fire departments. A good idea, I hope you agree.
As I've written here before, there are other services that I just do not believe should be privatized entirely--like schools, like police protection, like health care.
And now--as we face a looming crisis in health care--we find ourselves once again debating whether we, the taxpayers, should supply funds for everyone--the way we do with Medicare.
I am deeply committed to the answer "Yes." As I've written here before, without medical insurance, Joyce and I long ago would have been bankrupt, living in a box under the freeway. Both she and I have chronic illnesses, and even though we still spend a lot of our own money on medications and doctors' visits and other therapies, we can handle it. But we could not handle it without Medicare and without our supplementary policies.
So ... why do Joyce and I "deserve" this and other people don't? Because she and I have been fortunate in our lives? Solid families, good educations, steady employment opportunities?
We didn't have to go to bad schools, live in impoverished and/or dangerous neighborhoods, have to settle for minimum-wage jobs. We were lucky. Fortunate. Oh, and did I mention that we're white? Neither of us had anything to do with that, did we? But that has given us an enormous advantage in this far-from-colorblind culture of ours.
I believe in covering everyone. Everyone. It is the only humane thing to do. Debates about who "deserves" it and who doesn't are disgusting. Are unworthy of us. We all "deserve" help.
But the only way such a plan will work is if everyone pays in--just as we must do if we want to own a car or buy a house. Insurance for both is mandatory. Few people bitch about it. When you're healthy, you help pay for those who are not; when you're unhealthy, the rest of us pay to help you.
Sure, we don't need to own a car. Or a house. Be we will be using the health-care system. Sooner. Later.
I repeat: I believe we must help those whose circumstances just don't permit them to pay a lot. And that is one of the reasons we're here for, isn't it? To help one another? To promote the general welfare (as the Preamble to the Constitution says)? I am happy to pay taxes to help those who need it. Happy to pay for public schools, for public roads and bridges, for water and sewer services, for streetlights and stoplights and sidewalks, for police protection.
For fire departments.
For health care for everyone.