We’re dyin’ here

Zach Wiita

A woman is crying.

She seems hysterical and indignant. She will not calm down. She is angry and hurt that the current administration disagrees with her about health care. So she shouts at the world: “I want my America back!”

It’s obvious the U.S. health care system needs reform. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. spent 16.2 percent of its GDP on health care in 2007 – more than Canada (10.1 percent), France (11 percent) and the U.K. (8.4 percent), all of which provide universal health care. The Census Bureau reports 15.3 percent of Americans were uninsured in 2007 – a reduction of only 0.5 percent from 2006. Yet the U.S. has a lower average life expectancy and higher infant mortality than all of these countries. We are paying more money for inferior results.

Meanwhile, those lucky enough to have health insurance often find themselves doing battle with insurance companies looking for any excuse to avoid covering expensive treatments. Take Robin Beaton, who, according to CNN, needed an immediate double mastectomy for breast cancer but was denied coverage because she had been treated for acne, had listed her weight incorrectly and had not disclosed medication she had previously taken but was no longer taking. A quick Google search reveals that variations on Beaton’s story are all too common.

On top of this, the poor and working class in America often find themselves totally out of luck. They may be unable to afford regular check-ups and preventative treatment and are often forced to seek treatment in emergency rooms, once a problem grows too large to be ignored. A good friend of mine found herself facing emergency surgery or risk dying of an infection, after having been unable to afford a doctor when she had been experiencing minor pain.

Health care reform is a hard, complex issue. We all get sick, and we all need doctors, so how health care is organized and funded is an issue in which we all have a stake. It follows, then, that in the course of deciding what to do about our health care system, we should be seeking a civil discourse in which everyone may participate on an equal basis.

This is not happening in America today. Across the country, members of Congress find themselves confronted by angry mobs, many organized by large insurance companies. These protesters have sometimes been lied to, and are sometimes lying, about the content of the reform bill currently on the Hill (Sarah Palin’s so-called “death panels”), and many attempt to use intimidation and hysterics to drown out anyone who disagrees with their support of the current system. Violence has even broken out at town halls in Florida. And in Arizona, police were called when one protester dropped a gun.

Health care reform is one of the most important issues today, and it’s important that the debate be sober, rational and honest. Our current system is unsustainable, and no one who believes in democracy can use intimidation with a good conscience.

And as Congress and the President work for a compromise on this issue, it’s important that we remember that all are equal when lying on the operating table.

Zach Wiita is a senior political science and theatre studies major and a columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].