Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Health Reform on My Island

I live in a little island of reformers surrounded by the much more conservative sea of Utah. I work in public health and my husband works in health care. For myself, most of my colleagues, and my spouse, the need for health care reform is quite obvious. Right-wing terms like "socialized medicine" are always spoken very sarcastically, with the quotation marks audible. To me, there are quite a few very obvious symptoms of the need for reform in the American health care system:
  • If you become too sick or injured to work, you lose your health insurance coverage and can't get health care, so you become even sicker or die.
  • If you are born with a genetic illness and therefore depend on health care to help you lead a healthy, normal life, you are uninsurable and can't get health care.
  • If you can't afford preventive health care to keep you well, you get really sick and go to the emergency room, where you get much more expensive care that is passed on to everyone else in the form of skyrocketing health care costs.
Most of the people I work with also see these things as bad and would like reform. But, living in Utah, every now and then I am still exposed to the more mainstream local views.

For example, a loud guy on a cell phone was expressing his fears about health reform on the bus the other day. He can't afford health insurance. I would say that is evidence of the need for reform, but he saw that as no big deal because he just pays cash for his care. Lucky for him, his whole family is healthy and has not yet been run over by an SUV, so paying cash has not been a big deal. But he is scared to death that this health care reform thing will go through and something will change his blissful status quo. Even with all his noisy whining, I couldn't figure out what that dreaded something could be. I think he should be more worried about that SUV and hope that reform goes through before he actually needs to try to use the broken health care system.

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