Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Just imagine ...

How can you not be thinking about health care these days? I tremble for those whose protection is in jeopardy--generally the poor, the partially employed, the fully employed (many of whom receive no employer-sponsored insurance), the powerless.

And I think of a story about my wonderful mother-in-law, Annabelle Coyne, who, late in her life, began suffering from Alzheimer's--profoundly so.

Though the Coynes had both worked all their lives (he, for Firestone in Akron; she, for the Akron School Board)--and had been very frugal and prudent about saving for the future--they both encountered end-of-life illnesses that threatened to bankrupt them.

While her Alzheimer's was worsening, her husband was struggling mightily to care for her at home. He told Joyce and me often that he would not put her in a "home," even though she, as time went on, was not even all that sure who he was.

In the summer of 1990, not long after our son graduated from high school, lung cancer swept through him like a firestorm, and Thomas Coyne was dead in a matter of weeks after his diagnosis. August 13.

We tried to keep Joyce's mother with us, but it was impossible. She wasn't sure who we were; she no longer had any notions of night and day. She needed continuous care and attention; if we left the room for a moment, she might be gone when we returned, wandering the streets or sitting out in the car ready to go ... who knows where?

We found a terrific situation for her in a care facility in Aurora, and we moved to Aurora so that Joyce could see her every day. She died on February 5, 1995.

But there was a problem. After a few years in the Aurora facility she ran out of money--the savings of a lifetime--hers, her husband's.

And so we found a fine facility near Akron, a facility that took Medicaid (the Aurora one did not).

So Annabelle Coyne lived--with the help of Medicaid--for another couple of years.

But without that "government program"? Her expenses quickly would have bankrupted Joyce and me; our son would have had to drop out of college; and on and on.

Prior to 2004, I had had very few medical issues (the usual flu and/or infection now and then), but since then I've had skin cancer surgery, Bell's palsy, metastatic prostate cancer (it's moving relentlessly into my bones). Without health insurance--without the protections in ObamaCare about lifetime maximums and pre-existing conditions--we would be broke. My medical expenses are high. Scans and injections, medications and consultations. And I know, without help, we would be flat broke. Homeless.

Two qualities that, to me, seem absent in many who are working to eliminate/diminish ObamaCare: imagination and empathy. To qualify as a human being, you have to be able to imagine the lives of those less fortunate than you, to imagine what your life would be like if the bottom fell out; you also have to feel for other people, to feel what it would be like to be in their situation. You have to want to help.

And part of that "help" is contributing to health care--through premiums, through taxes. The more people who are "in" the system, the cheaper it is for everyone. We are required to have car insurance, homeowner's insurance. If it were not so--if you could opt in or out--the cost  for everyone else would be prohibitive. Insurance really works only when everyone is "in." That's why the mandate is crucial. It should be as automatic and required as car insurance. After all, you are going to use the health-care system at some point--even if you are now (to coin a phrase) as healthy as an ox.

A final thought: We must also quit judging people by the worst examples of whatever category we've put them in. Sure, some people cheat on food stamps, etc. But does that mean we deny relief to everyone else? We know perfectly well that people of every class and calling cheat--or are egregious in some other way. Teachers, preachers, lawyers, doctors, politicians, business people, athletes, cops, judges, etc.--if we judged all of  them by their most corrupt and criminal members, there would be no one in the world left to admire. And we would not feel compelled to help anyone.

If you can't do these things--if you can think only of costs and politics, if you can't realize that not all members of Group X are like the egregious few--then you need to surrender your I.D. card, the one that says "human being" on it.

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