A Political Amputation

This is a guest post authored by Jack Rodolico, a graduate student with College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME, focusing in environmental journalism. Though most of his stories for the Mount Desert Islander newspaper involve local marine issues, he also writes short stories and non-fiction essays. This is non-fiction.

My wife has a chronic health condition for which she needs constant, expensive care. The disease squirmed out of some dark hole and bit her and now she will sting for the rest of her life. She needs it all – pills, X-rays, doctors, specialists (insert “expensive doctors”), therapies, acupuncture, special foods, and maybe surgery someday. Big time surgery. Removing a major organ surgery. She is frequently in pain. On a scale of 1 to 10, I once saw it hit a 12. And then there’s the blood.

She is 27 years old.

Life is unpredictable and not necessarily fair. We can both accept this, even with a smile. What we cannot accept is a system of governance that has the power to help us, but is impotent because of its disorganization and discord.

I am not one to blame government for all my problems, or to say that government can or should fix all problems. But I am cognizant of the fact that health care cannot be fixed without major government intervention. Consider my wife, Christina.

Christina cannot get health insurance. We are too “rich” for Medicaid, we are too poor for private insurance. We are so deep in the middle we cannot get to either shore. If we get poorer, she could get Medicaid; but who would accept that as an option? If we get richer, we could afford health insurance; but this, too, is unlikely because at the current rate her medical debt is increasing we will most likely continue to break even. Besides, she has a preexisting condition, which means the health insurance companies won’t even let her in the door. Both of us are trying to finish a graduate degree to improve our job prospects, but this puts us deeper into debt (good debt, right?) and further away from health care we can afford. Plus, nowadays she cannot hold onto a job because of her erratic health status. This makes the option of employer provided insurance out of the question until her health stabilizes, if it stabilizes. If it were not for some very good luck and the financial support of family, we would be totally screwed – I imagine there are a lot of Americans who are.

And there we were – all of us – on the verge of a major health care overhaul. Something that would benefit those of us who are being torn in half by the system, who are being hustled like a kid in a pool hall. And what happened? Well, one Senator was elected – 1 out of 100.

At first I was disappointed, but after marinating I am angry. Not with the Senate race, that is. I honestly don’t care much either way; politics is, after all, a pendulum. I am utterly fed up with a system that can so easily cast aside what is necessary for so many people. I am fed up with everyone, from the top to the bottom.

I am frustrated by the Democrats, who supposedly had 90% of the bill figured out months ago. They squandered their time in disagreement, completely unable to compromise in a timely manner.

I am disgusted by the Republicans, who made a tactical decision to oppose health care reform as a means of grubbing for power.

I am disappointed with the President, who should still be out there selling and campaigning for health care. In fact, he never should have stopped after he made his address to Congress back in September.

I am appalled by the media, who by and large try to report simple facts before the competition does, or to report with more bells and whistles. Right now the media should be flooding the airwaves with stories about people who will get left out in the cold by anything other than aggressive reform. Instead they just report on what this Senator said, or what the President hinted at. They keep a scorecard.

I am fed up by a political system that is so dysfunctional that it can neither operate with a super-majority or with a balance of powers. Both political parties – Democrat and Republican – are endlessly posturing and jockeying for the next election. Everything they do seems to be either a desperate grasp for more power, or a pathetic attempt to hold onto it. The notion of compromise in order to come to a common solution is an abstraction to them, a lofty goal they talk about but never seriously work towards. And what is the result? One Senate seat – a single seat! – switches hands, and an entire year’s worth of deliberation, hard work, and the energy of a thousand suns is all extinguished by a tiny splash. I know that one seat represents more than one vote in many ways, and so it is not just one seat that changed hands. But that we allow it as a culture to represent so much is precisely what I am so fed up with.

And finally, I am really fed up with us – the American people. Are we really that short-sighted, that a few extra months of debate led to rampant uncertainty about the viability of a health care overhaul? Are we going to allow health care reform to sparkle and fade, leaving plenty of people far worse off than Christina to sit back and watch the market “fix” the problem?  Is there a pill to cure our cultural ADD?

I don’t know – I’m still bewildered by the whole thing. Maybe something good will still come of this, whether in the near or distant future. But what it seems like now is that if Christina and I try to find her health insurance tomorrow or in a year, we will be in the same position we are in now. As I see it, there is very little I can do to change this.

With one exception, that is. Next time around, I am voting for a third party candidate. I hope we all come to our senses and use a scalpel to amputate our diseased political organ before my wife decides to excise her colon.

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