Health Care Reform: Pt. 3 Who is an American?

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It’s that time of year again. Dreaded by children of all ages across the country. The slow gradual progression from long summer days to even shorter hours of daylight is upon us.  The time of year when school bus yellow makes a come back, family members dash out the door, carpools are arranged and Friday nights are spent cheering for high school football heroes blessed with amazing coordination.  Kids and families are back in the swing of things, getting used to all that homework again and making last minute peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Pretty soon every stoop on the block will have a pumpkin and climbing rose bushes will be replaced with hardy mums.  Say goodbye to summer.  But as we reflect upon another season passing, there is also excitement, a feeling of opportunity as a pall of doubt slowly dissipates and the economy recovers from a year ago.

This country remains poised on the cusp of change.  The new administration has set a tone that it is not afraid to tackle the tough issues like health care reform.

Last November, citizens made history electing the first African American president, Barack Obama and not in my lifetime have I ever seen so many people interacting in the process of politics.  Obama made his campaign and now his administration about people and the needs of American people.  It is this grassroots strategy that continues to resonate a new level of participation.  No longer is the president just the most powerful man in the world, leader of the free world but he is also just a man.  This defines Obama’s appeal to so many who still believe “Yes we can!”

While some worry he will falter under bipartisan pressure, others back Obama’s position on health care reform and look to a future where every American is treated equal, fairly and this continues the movement started on the campaign trail.  Much of the future starts with access to affordable health insurance and quality health care for all Americans.

While the issue of health care reform has created an impassioned debate with the potential to overwhelm dinner conversation and possibly divide families, there remains a weak link in the reform that many conservatives believe will lead to a failed bill.

What we know: Many cannot see eye to eye on the status of the current system. Broken or unbroken, ineffective moneymaking machine or providing quality care, it is anyone’s guess.  One thing for sure, until it is your child, your parent, your own life in the balance, or your lack of money, this issue remains impersonal.  Many people still do not know exactly what the public option is but also on the other hand many believe; could it get any worse? The issue with reform’s ideology: It is very difficult to envision a one thousand page document, a multitude of theories, definitions and complicated legal ease being put into practice on such a grand scale.  This is reform could take years to implement as we transition from the old to the new system.  This reform has the potential to protect our infrastructure.  I am not talking about roads, bridges, canals, airports railroads, or even the Internet but I am talking about people.  The infrastructure is made of people; the working class that make so many lives comfortable.  I am talking about the bus drivers, the trash collectors, waitresses, short order cooks, cleaners, and mechanics, even the cashiers at Wal-Mart.  These are the people that make our country possible.  So then why are they short changed quality health care?

Two things have gone wrong with the reform so far. First it has been rushed and therefore hastily written to a point few can understand it without a law degree.  How is that fair to the infrastructure? For something so monumental, what is the rush?  Campaign promise or not, such a broken system took years, if not decades to build, a solution cannot happen overnight.  The sad truth for over 47 million Americans who remain uninsured and possibly ill, this is the one time as a society we desperately need instant gratification or a magic wand in solving this problem.

Second, many have been quick to judge and look to negative attributes of why reform will not work.  The main concern is how the reform is worded. The language is evasive and generalized.  As with most legal ease and even statues, tried and true laws of this land, this language is open for interpretation by those who practice it, lawmakers.  Such open definitions can lead any law to chaos.  While the language of the reform bill starts by saying “To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes” (H.R. 3200, 111th Congress, 1st session) one cannot help but wonder what the bill means by “all Americans”?  Shouldn’t “all Americans” be replaced with all legal citizens or better yet, all tax paying citizens? If you pay taxes, you qualify for the public option because this seems most fair, right?

Still this issue has been a major point of contention many conservatives consider to be the weak link that opens the door to socialism, even Marxism.  Conservatives enjoy their politics in black and white; the gray areas of uncertainty bother them. This bill bothers them because they believe it opens the door for non-resident aliens to be entitled to our health care system, a system they describe as the best in the world. The reform language uses the word beneficiary but does not state the criteria for establishing who a beneficiary will be.  All Americans could include legal resident aliens, right?  On page 170, it does state non-resident aliens will not be allowed to partake of the benefit. What do we do about the non-resident aliens already taking advantage of the best health care system in the world?  What about people with green cards?  Never in the bill does it state the type of identification process a beneficiary will have to complete in order to get approved for the public option.  Besides many forms of identification can be forged, bought and sold for the right amount money.  Conservatives worry this reform will encourage further identity theft to include not just bank or credit cards but also health insurance coverage.

While the above are legitimate concerns every American should consider as we wait holding our breath on such a crucial issue, I cannot help but think about weighing out the options.  Yes there are many negatives to the reform but on the flipside, there are also positive impacts for so many individuals and families that I cannot deny the potential seen in Obama’s vision.

Part of what bothers me most is that the current system is killing people, making children and families suffer unnecessarily. So many have shared devastating stories of having to make life changing decisions based on either lack of coverage and affordability this directly contributes to weakening the infrastructure.  We need to take care of the core before thinking of anything else.  No longer should families have to be faced with losing their child because of being on a waiting list or being refused insurance due to a preexisting condition.  There must be a way to unveil the true American experience to those unable or unwilling to see exactly what is taking place around them.  It is my belief that health care reform is just the first piece in the puzzle of creating a new America one voice, one story at a time.

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