A government shutdown, long predicted by some Washington insiders, now seems imminent. To make a very long story very short, the Republican-led House won’t vote to approve a temporary national budget unless it defunds or delays the Affordable Care Act, whereas the Democrat-led Senate won’t approve a budget that does either of those things. Unless the House and Senate are able to negotiate a compromise (which isn’t likely), no budget will be passed, and the many, many people who work for the federal government will face indefinite job insecurity and financial uncertainty.
Even setting aside my distaste for the Machiavellian way House Republicans are using fear to try and force the defunding of the Affordable Care Act (which, by the way, has already been passed into law and deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court) I can hardly believe so much time and energy is being devoted to barring the 48 million uninsured Americans from access to affordable, adequate healthcare.
I believe deeply that we are all entitled to our own opinions about the best way to govern this nation, however I do not believe we are entitled to our own facts. Republican leaders may disagree strongly with the method being used to provide access to healthcare and drive down premium costs, and I affirm their right to that opinion. However, I just need to say out loud that I cannot abide the argument that people ought not be required to pay for something they “don’t need.”
While individuals may feel they “don’t need” insurance, either because they are young and/or they don’t often get sick, the fact is that our emergency rooms charge insurance companies the outrageous fees that they do because of the many uninsured Americans who experience accidents or catastrophic illnesses and then aren’t able to afford to pay their bills.
The notion that the current healthcare system is clear-cut and that individuals are charged only for the services they receive is a myth. In fact, insured Americans are already subsidizing the system; they are already paying for coverage they “don’t need” because it’s actually money going to cover other people who thought they “didn’t need” it (or more likely couldn’t afford it – see below) either. This inflation of fees and insurance premiums then makes it all the more difficult for the nation’s poor and working classes to afford insurance.
We all need access to healthcare when we get sick or are in an accident. And since the nation’s leaders voted to continue with a privatized healthcare system, in order to have access to that healthcare the reality is that we all need medical insurance, maybe not always for ourselves, but always for one another.
As the sand continues to stream out of the hourglass and tonight’s midnight budget deadline looms, I will be praying. I will pray not only for all of my friends and family whose livelihood may be in jeopardy tomorrow, and not only for the 48 million uninsured Americans whose access to affordable healthcare may be delayed yet again. I will also be praying for the nation as a whole, that together we can come to perceive the truth of our profound interdependence, the truth that we all need help sometimes, the truth that we are all indeed in this together.