So, I'm still pregnant. My due date is Wednesday. I've been having "pre-labor" symptoms for almost two weeks now, including four nights during which I actually started timing the contractions. So, a lot of lost sleep (why do the contractions always come at night?) but no baby. At my last doctor's appointment (last Friday), I had made progress and was told birth could come any day now. Saturday night, I had almost three hours of moderate contractions at roughly 10-15 minutes apart. I got all excited, and ruined Hubby's sleep, too. Then they just stopped, and I went to sleep for a few hours. Then they started again, and then they stopped again.
Anyway, I don't really want to talk about it. I'm tired of starting all my phone calls/emails with "I'm still pregnant!" or "No, I'm not in labor." I want to talk about health care instead. (Here is my earlier rant on the subject).
One of the things I've been doing to help pass the time while I wait for this baby to be born is read magazines. Somehow, concentrating on a magazine article is easier than concentrating on a book. My parents brought over some old magazines for me to read. One of them was a Newsweek with an article called "No Country for Sick Men", by T.R. Reid. It makes an interesting point- a nation's health care system says something about its character. The American mythology includes the rugged individualist and the self-made rags-to-riches man, so perhaps it is not surprising that we emphasis personal choice and responsibility so much in our health care system.
It also gave me a little more understanding into one of the aspects of the debate that has been most difficult for me to grasp. To me, and many other left-leaning types, health care is a universal right. I consider the large number of un- and underinsured people a symptom of a moral failing in our country.
As I read and try to understand the point of view of people opposed to the proposed reforms, I have been puzzled by the belief of many more conservative people that health care is not a right, but a privilege. (One good, and non-combative place, to get a feel for this point of view is this guest post from Loralee's husband on her blog.) I could not figure this out. Isn't the right to life one of the most fundamental rights? Doesn't lack of access to adequate health care impinge upon this right? I've posted these questions on a couple of the more thoughtful conservative posts opposing health care reform, and never really gotten an answer. I also have never received a satisfactory answer to the question of what to do about emergency care- currently, emergency rooms have to provide care to anyone who needs it, whether they can pay or not. We all pay for the care for those who are unable to pay for it themselves. This is an expensive way to pay for care, some of which could be handled in a doctor's office if the patient had access to one, and some of which could be avoided altogether with good treatment of chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes.
But perhaps the Newsweek article explains it, at least partially. To me, providing health care to everyone is a moral imperative. To opponents of universal health care, it is a moral hazard, creating a system in which people can shirk their responsibility for their own health- and if you won't take care of your own health, what does that say about your approach to other responsibilities? I guess that forcing someone to go to emergency rooms, with their long waits and stressful conditions, for all his care does send a message that he has somehow failed in his responsibilities.
I don't agree at all with this viewpoint, and I am hoping that my country decides that providing health care to all is a moral imperative, not a moral hazard. But perhaps I can understand one of the opposing viewpoints a bit better now. I still can't really reconcile the moral hazard idea with the rabid opposition from the same people to a mandate requiring people to take responsibility for their health care and purchase insurance. This is usually painted as an attack on personal freedom- but why should someone be free to force me to pay for his/her emergency room treatment? As far as I know, no one has argued that we should turn people away from emergency rooms if they cannot pay.
So I guess I still cannot understand the viewpoint of the opponents of health care reform. I suspect they are just as baffled by my viewpoint. What a shame that we have not taken this opportunity to have a thoughtful debate on real issues, and instead are shouting at each other. Maybe if we all tried a little harder to understand the concerns of the other side, we could find a solution that really would reflect our nation's character.