The Universal Notebook: Our sick society

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Over the past week I have spent a lot of time in the bowels of the local health-care system, including a weekend visit to an urgent-care facility, a few days in the hospital, a visit to my primary-care physician for my annual physical, and a very minor surgical procedure, ending up with a referral to a specialist.

Being sick is a break from reality. Oh, it’s real enough all right, but two sleepless nights in the hospital was enough to make me start thinking that my comfortable old life might be a thing of the past. When you’re sick, nothing else matters but getting well. Illness becomes the new normal.

Flat on my back, except when visiting the porcelain throne, I felt my world reduced to pain and nausea. I didn’t care about the news or sports, didn’t watch television at all, didn’t even read the newspaper. I was one man in one bed in one room. The only information that mattered to me was delivered via IV, CAT scan, thermometer, blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, blood test and urine culture.

And all this information was delivered to me by very kind and professional doctors, nurses, aides, technicians and caregivers, most of whom I had never met before. They kept me as comfortable as possible while looking for the cause of and cure for my symptoms. They worked quickly and efficiently on my behalf and, in the end, I got a partial answer to what was ailing me. Nothing particularly interesting or uncommon, but it sure knocked me for a loop.

I’m not telling you this because I am looking for sympathy. I am telling you this because, as I started to respond to their ministrations, I kept thinking “I sure hope everyone who is sick gets this kind of care.” I’m sure they do – if they have health insurance.

I am blessed with private health insurance, such that I don’t have to worry about how I am going to pay the medical bills. I can’t imagine being in a situation where I’d have to think twice before seeking medical treatment. And I hate to think that there are people who do. Health care should not be based on ability to pay.

As I lay there wretched and retching I was remotely aware that the U.S. Congress was in the midst of a heated debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with the American Health Care Act. The ACA helped tens of millions of Americans secure health-care coverage. The AHCA will hurt tens of millions of people who need health insurance, covering fewer and costing more. Certainly the ACA (a.k.a. Obamacare) is in need of revision and reform, but the AHCA (a.k.a. Ryancare or Trumpcare) is a cynical measure that will make millions of Americans suffer so Republicans can claim an ideological victory.

The progressive ideology is that health care is a human right and that every effort should be made to provide universal coverage. Personally, I don’t think the ACA went far enough. The United States is the only major country that does not provide health coverage for all its citizens. What we need is universal single-payer health care.

The conservative ideology is that health care is a privilege you have to earn on your own, not ask the government to provide. It’s survival of the fittest.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, pointed out on CNN that the AHCA “is going to hammer Maine,” raising health-care premiums, for example, for a 64-year-old making $26,000 a year from $1,800 under the ACA to $14,000.

“But,” the AHCA’s supporters cheer, “Americans will be free to choose. No more mandate.” The requirement that all American have health insurance was viewed by conservatives as a huge assault on freedom.

Well, you only have freedom of choice if you can afford to pay for your choice.

Nothing surprises me anymore about Republicans in Congress, so I won’t be surprised if, despite howls of execration from within and without the GOP, the AHCA ultimately passes in some form. I will be surprised, however, if American voters reward Republicans for such meanness and mendacity.

Oh, and to finish my personal health report, as I type this in my pajamas and bathrobe, I still have a lingering low-grade fever, occasional chills and a touch of nausea, but I’m not sure that’s all just the virus.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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  • Queenie42

    Mr. Beem,
    I do hope you are recovering speedily. And while you may be still lounging around in robe and slippers, may I suggest, as a way for you to keep up with the news, reading The Guardian newspaper’s special series on Russian money laundering. The name of the series is “Global Laundromat”. One of the banks that laundered money was in Cyprus. Wilbur Ross, our Secretary of Commerce, was vice chairman of that bank. He is also a long time pal of Trump.
    As John Dean said in an interview with Chris Hayes, “I don’t think Richard Nixon even comes close to the level of corruption we already know about Trump.”
    As “Deep Throat” once said, “Follow the money”.

    • EdBeem

      I agree. Trump makes Nixon look like a choirboy. He will be lucky to avoid prison.

  • Chew H Bird

    Get better soon!

  • EdBeem

    Praise God the ACHA does not pass today, jacking up costs for everyone and throwing millions off of insurance. What in heaven’s name is the GOP thinking? I know some just want to make it even more onerous, but any way it gets defeated is okay by me.

    • Queenie42

      It looks like the Freedom Caucus will defeat it.
      What gets me is the mindset and the apparent glee some in congress have to make life as miserable as they can, any way they can. They want us poor, uneducated and sick.
      And the folks back home keep voting them back in. Go figure.

      • Queenie42

        Vote delayed for today. I don’t think this
        Frankenstein monster will pass the Senate.

        • EdBeem

          House Republicans call off the whole thing. So much for Mr. Big Deal.

          • Queenie42

            It’s pretty obvious that when you have a majority and can’t get a consensus after seven years of planning to take down the ACA, that Republicans are incompetent at governing.
            Not that I’m complaining in this instance.
            But watch them band together and blame the Democrats. Sad.

  • Jon Emerson

    So, I’m sure you’ve heard the good news. Trump and company couldn’t pull quite the fast one they had hoped; the ACA is the law of the land, still. Hope you are feeling better. I know I am.

    • EdBeem

      Except that a vindictive Trump & Co. will now do everything in their power to destroy Obamacare. These are not good people who sincerely care about the American people. These are self-centered power-mad crazies who, like LePage, always put politics ahead of people. Let’s hope the American people will not be so badly fooled again.

      • Jon Emerson

        I agree, and as I’ve commented elsewhere: “The
        Republicans will now go into ‘revenge’ mode as opposed to being the
        party of ‘no’. They will now not lift a finger to improve the ACA and
        hope against hope that it ‘fails’. And then blame it on the Democrats.” Just the same, yesterday was a plus. And yes, let’s hope we are all wiser, and on guard.

        • Queenie42

          ACA is the law of the land. Trump took an oath to defend the laws of our land. Already he has pulled the ads for ACA in an attempt to destroy it. Therefore he has broken his oath of office.

  • peterplus

    Mr. Beem, there are far better countries than America who provide health care for their citizens. America prefers to squander her wealth on feckless wars instead. The sign of a doomed nation to be sure. Republicans, led by the evangelical so-called Christians, have no problem spending tax payers money on these wars, but they have always opposed all social programs that help people survive. Medicare. Social Security. Now these republicans created a piece of human garbage to lead them, and then installed this piece of human garbage as president. Brace yourself, things will get a lot worse before they all disappear in shame.

    • EdBeem

      Obamacare was an honest, good faith effort by good people to provide health care for the majority of Americans. Trumpcare was a dishonest, bad faith effort by mean people to strip tens of millions of Americans of health care. If the American people can’t tell the difference, God help us all.

  • Moishe the Beadle