Long before there was COBRA, long before family coverage included adult children, long before graduate school tuition included basic health care, and long before auto insurance provided adequate medical coverage, I had a small fender bender auto accident in Boston, where I was working days and getting my MBA at night. I was between jobs because of a layoff/termination for cause; there was most often cause in those days to avoid unemployment payouts, but I also had the bad habit (for those times ?) of questioning the user rather than just automating in place. When I was refused medical treatment — yes, refused! — I had no choice but to ask my parents for financial help, the first and last time after finishing college, for which I paid most of the bill by running a typing service (another quaint custom of that era was that very few students knew how to type or had a typewriter). My parents lent me the $700 I needed to prepay/as a deposit on some needed tests.
From the comfort of now having the best possible health care coverage via Ron’s NASA career and being able to afford without sacrifice the out-of-pockets, I’m on the healing side of rotator cuff surgery this Christmas weekend. But as the Senate’s health care bill (far from perfect but an important step toward universal coverage) was being denounced as the end of civilization as we know it by legislators and pundits who have NEVER worried about their own health care costs or access or quality, I viewed the debate through the prism of that long ago but never very far away experience of health care rationing (if you can afford it, you get it) and financial ruin. It took me two years to repay my parent’s loan, two years during which I couldn’t have afforded my graduate school tuition without the great good fortune to land a job at Polaroid with its tuition assistance program and working nights/weekends when school was out at the corner gas station.
Do I hate some of the likely final plan’s provisions? Of course I do. Do I recoil at the bribery, yes bribery needed to get Nelson and Lieberman and others on board? Absolutely. But the birth agonies of COBRA, which has saved the health care coverage of so many during this recession, are now long forgotten as are those of every progressive step our country has taken since ending slavery. If I’m fortunate enough to have a Cadillac health care plan, I can certainly give up a little of my peace of mind and pocketbook in order to cover those who have nothing. And if 2010 is a banner earnings year — once I’ve made a full recovery from my recent shoulder surgery — then I can certainly pay a little more in taxes to help those for whom 2010 is just another in a long string of tough years.
I know that we don’t have enough primary care physicians, let alone nurses, to handle millions of newly covered Americans. I know that we’re drowning the next generation in deficits. I know that there are honest insurance and pharmaceutical execs who are being subjected to unpleasant scrutiny. But I also know that it’s long past time for our health care problems to have been solved solely by market forces, and I say bravo to the Democrats for taking the political risk of action rather than giving way to the very loud voices of the status quo.