Friday, April 23, 2010

In Which Confusion Reigns

Two things have me confused this week.


Thing the first is an article in the Wall Street Journal about President Obama ordering a change in regulations governing hospitals that participate in Medicaid/Medicare programs, requiring such hospitals to respect advanced directives and other legal documents designating people outside the immediate family for visitation rights. As well, the new regulations will require hospitals to respect legal documents that designate people other than family, including same-sex partners as decision-makers for healthcare if the person can no longer make decisions for themselves. This will finally grant gays and lesbians the right to designate their partners as not only decision-makers, but also the basic right of being allowed to visit.


A man named Peter Sprigg who works for the Family Research Council (socially conservative, as many organizations with a name that includes the capitalized version of the word family) is quoted as no objection to gay and lesbian people visiting or making decisions for their ill partner (really? How refreshingly forward of him), but states that this order "undermines the definition of marriage". Huh?? Does that even make sense or has it just become the go-to soundbite of organizations such as the Family Research Council? Of course, opponents of this policy change forget that this kind of role benefits people who had been widowed, people who live in Hawaii and whose family live in Maine, people who are estranged from their families and need I go on?


Thing the second is an article on CNNMoney sent to me by David. In this article, CNN talked to six people who are choosing to pay the penalty rather than buy into the new health insurance in the US. David did warn me that I might end up screaming at the monitor, but I read it anyway and… well. Forced Lucy to sit on my lap because I've heard that petting an animal can lower your blood pressure. A few quotes from the people interviewed include a company by my comment:


"if I get sick I can just purchase a policy when I need it because pre-existing conditions won't matter" (and I guess if you get hit by a bus, you have the time to wait with CPR and re-attaching limbs until the policy takes effect?)

"I haven't had insurance since 1997, and I don't miss it. I went to the doctor only once a year - so not worth it." (And obviously you plan to continue to be healthy, just as the rest of us do? So glad to hear that you have somehow managed to learn to control that)

" Instead of turning to medical care, we live healthfully. There is so much evidence that we create our reality with our thoughts, feelings and beliefs." (This one could be a post in itself, but suffice it to say that I think she's read The Secret a few too many times)


What strikes me about the people interviewed for the second piece is that they're all white, able-bodied, middle-class or higher and the very people of whom I was thinking when I wrote about the arrogance of the healthy. If I may be forgiven for being self-referential "[t]he healthy never quite believe that illness or disability can happen to them. It is a tragedy that happens to other people, but they eat right, don't smoke, exercise and somehow, this lends a shield against illness behind which they can smugly assert that there is such a thing as paying too much for getting your life back." I would like to believe that the pipes in my apartment won't burst, either or that my neighbor won't fall asleep smoking, but I still protect myself with tenant insurance.


And more than, I find it increasingly astonishing that I have never met a Canadian or Dane person who thinks universal healthcare is a bad idea - in fact, when the CBC held a contest to determine who is the greatest Canadian, Tommy Douglas handily beat rest of the field. Who's Tommy Douglas, you ask? The man behind universal healthcare in Canada. And yet the other part of that astonishment: the fact that people who don't have universal healthcare can get to that point. How does that happen? What fundamental differences is there in the US psyche that can persuade seemingly sane individuals that getting sick is for losers and if and when they do, they'll be OK with dying quietly because they can’t afford to be treated or somehow magically will have enough money to pay for treatment? And why is it that they never consider car accidents?


But I digress. Although I could probably rant about this for a good long while, the point of this post was to take one step up and look at both of these issues, the opposition to the ability to designate someone other than family to visit you or make decisions for you and the decision to opt out of health insurance. Because they both confused me with their entrenched position, an almost reflex trotting out of statements that have no basis in fact or, for that matter, thoughtful consideration. We all hope to have family and for it to be the kind of family that’ll drop everything and come to your hospital bed within 30 minutes, but it doesn't always happen. People die, people move and then where will you be? We all hope to stay healthy our entire lives, but aside from the built-in obsolescence of our bits that happens to all of us as we age, shit happens. People get cancer or trip down the stairs, kids get rheumatoid arthritis, other people drive badly and ram into your car in an intersection.


Is it obstinacy or lack of imagination?



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