Truth Is, History Will Trump Us All On The Rights Or Wrongs Of Obamacare

As the Affordable Care Act continues to roll out with its underwear exposed and seam lines in clear view, its hapless designers pilloried, ridiculed, insulted and compared – in gross false equivalency – to any number of true tragedies (Hurricane Katrina??) or lapses in moral character (Nixon??), one has to wonder how folks as old as any of us viewing, teeth-gnashing, or commenting on this moment in time are not more aware that our perceptions are flawed. Deeply flawed. Because we’re still in it. And time has proven, over and over again, that only History gets to decide.

I’ve mentioned once or twice that I am not covering politics with quite the verve or frequency of yore (you may have read my piece, A Pause From Politics…), but occasionally the high-water mark of inanity rises to such a level my alarm bell goes off and I have to speak for the sake of my own sanity.

You can’t open any media site, scroll the Facebook feed, trip through Twitter or glance at a newspaper or magazine without being bombarded with polls, analyses, dissection, judgment, hysteria; any manner of outrage at – as one right-leaning journalist put it  – “the catastrophic launch of the Affordable Care Act.”

“Catastrophic”?? Seriously? What blew up? Who died? Who had their limbs cut off?

You’d think the man had lined up a raft of toddlers and shot ’em at the wall.

The degree of anger and denunciation at “the debacle that is the Obamacare roll out” is so insanely out of proportion with reality – not only the history of how other major programs rolled out, but the facts of the ACA’s intent, long-term implications, desperately needed existence, and ultimate and likely very positive impact on Americans’ health and economy – that I truly wonder what it is about change and the implementation of it that seems to drive people to such hyperbole and madness. I get it: the website sucked, confusion reigns, the insurance companies pulled a bait & switch, better plans cost more, but COME ON!

I’ve seen perfectly nice, seemingly logical, and clearly intelligent men and women turn into self-righteous, bizarrely petulant foot-stompers “demanding” that Obama apologize (that he did is irrelevant; apparently this catastrophe demands a very specific form of apology); fire Katherine Sebelius, and draw and quarter the tech team who put the site together. There is a hissing meme going around that “HE LIED!”, layered on top of the demand that he accept blame for everything, but not admit “I don’t know” about anything because God-like omniscience is also demanded (but imagine the hell to pay if he actually implied thus!). It seems this crowd won’t stop demanding things until he’s flogged in the public square and, if possible, guts himself completely for the satisfaction of those OUTRAGED BY THIS CATASTROPHE!!!

Dear God. Grab some stones and get the Coliseum tickets!

I’m not going to bother listing reasons for why this is all so silly. I won’t enumerate the many examples of the GOP rabidly fighting the President every step of the way on healthcare reform, with racial politics driving much of the opposition. I won’t mention toxic fringe groups (i.e., the Tea Party) embracing theocracy and bigotry in lieu of logic. There’s no need to describe the current culture of trolls with their virulent hate speak poisoning and perverting the social experiment of democratized online communication, or discussing how extreme partisanship has tainted anything any administration would have to offer, much less one led by a black man. It’s all been well documented.

What I will say is that while it’s expected for Republicans and their toadies to glow with Schadenfreude over the clunky, clumsy roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, it’s another to watch typically less lemming-like others march in step. But as those various factions pontificate on social media, breathlessly announce falling poll numbers, hash and rehash the same stories over and over, trumpet their prognostications and predictions of doom in the very unAmerican act of negative, destructive and counterpoint thinking, History is quietly taking note.

And History – only History – will be the arbiter of just how great or not great this president is; just how momentous or minor the Affordable Care Act will prove, and just how right or wrong the many hoots and hollers of a caterwauling public turn out to be. History listens to no one, has no party; is not bound by dogma. And it has proven over and over again that what is viewed in the moment, particularly if that moment exists in the dark tunnel of partisanship, fear, selfishness, greed, prejudice, and mob hysteria, always pushes through time into the unencumbered, often redemptive, embrace of History. There is where we will see just how “catastrophic” a country’s, a President’s, an administration’s efforts to right a very wrong system turn out to be.

I’m holding a good thought.

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The Real Healthcare Reform is YOU

I was happily ensconced at a local dog park, frolicking with my Golden while chatting with a fellow dog owner about the joys of off-leash play, when somehow the conversation veered perilously into politics (some linkage between off-leash and government intervention perhaps?), and before I could scream “Switzerland!” and run, I was regaled with the horrors of “socialistic” healthcare reforms and how truly heinous it was for the government “to demand we pay for freeloaders who won’t take responsibility for their damn selves!”


Walking in the Wind…urban exercise.

Deep sigh.

I make it a policy to never ruin a perfectly good afternoon arguing very imperfect politics (I also avoid sex and religion…not the act – well, at least with sex – but the conversations…oh, you know what I mean!) so I made some benign comment about “yep, it’s a big topic” and hightailed it out of there, wondering why it’s not more obvious that we already are paying for the uninsured when they end up in county hospitals and ERs. And, frankly, I doubt if most uninsureds actually won’t take responsibility for themselves; likely it’s a matter of not being able to afford to. And while we’re at it, what’s with the “socialistic” slam? When Mutual Of Omaha Medicare, one of the biggest and most beloved government insurance programs, and Social Security – the other one – are entitlements as ingrained as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, let’s not pretend this other form of government insurance deserves that incendiary and misguided label.

Well now, look at me; I’m arguing with the guy anyway!

But as the Supreme Court ponders, politicians debate, pundits scream and yell as they are wont to do, let’s us little folk do some thinking about Healthcare Reform ourselves (oh, calm down, this won’t hurt). And I don’t mean the pros and cons of what should be covered, who should provide coverage, and how much the government should be involved. That would take far longer than I’ve got here and it’s not my point anyway. What I want to talk about is healthcare reform as it relates to how we take care of our own health.

As I’ve gotten older and, like everyone else on this earth, have had to adjust to a changing body, new issues that come with new decades, and the general reinvention of how I continue to be me while making those adjustments, I’ve noticed many in my circle, male and female alike, dropping ever so slowly out of vibrant life. Many are overweight, quite a few are plagued with chronic pain issues (arthritis, old injuries, etc.), some have developed drinking and/or drug problems (typically more pharmaceutical, at this point, than recreational), and most defer to these physical limitations to avoid the gym, a good hike, or even a walk if it involves more than a few blocks. Bad eating habits are rampant (and suggestions for better ones ignored or dismissed), the smokers have all but abandoned the idea of quitting (“I’ve lived this long as a smoker, what’s the point now?”), and the acceptance of age-related meds (blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, etc.) is unquestioned. I actually had a friend explain to me his recipe for aging: “I just tell myself: I’m getting older, nothin’ I can do about it, I am going to get sick and fall apart, so I just expect it and then it doesn’t bother me when it happens.” Now there’s an interesting twist on “positive thinking.”

Don’t get me wrong; there’s no health smugness here. I understand that some issues are unavoidable by virtue of DNA, random illness, and immune system quirks. We are human, after all, and no matter how stoic or proactive, we’re going to sick from time to time, have accidents, get older (which usually does involve more option for infirmity), and, yes, dammit, even die some day (I know, good morning to you too!). But how about we do everything that is in our control to be as fit and healthy as possible until we get to that inevitable end?

There is so much information out there about how to hedge your health bets that no one can honestly cry ignorance. And let’s not forget the value of mindset; the way we frame our view of health, our own in particular. A suggestion? Don’t accept that by virtue of age you just have to be on every med known to man. Don’t accept that you will get what everyone else is getting when “something’s going around.” Don’t buy into the notion that you can’t improve habits, get fit, lower your blood pressure, or rebuild your stamina. Much of this is in your control. I’ve watched it happen, many times. Most recently a neighbor of mine (a man in his 60s) who was teetering towards diabetes, medicated for chronic high blood pressure, and significantly overweight, took his health into his own hands and lost the weight, upped his regular exercise, changed his eating habits, and succeeded in getting himself off all meds and the list of diabetes candidates.

That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is healthcare reform!

But back to medical insurance for a moment: When I turned 50 my One Sure Insurance premium skyrocketed beyond belief because, my insurance representative explained, most people in my decade begin tapping into the pool in greater and more expensive numbers for a variety of reasons. She mentioned obesity as a national epidemic, one that’s costing insurers even more than smoking related illnesses and, more ominously, in increasing numbers as smoking statistics decrease (Obese Workers vs Smokers – Who Costs Your Healthplan More?). And beyond the big ticket items of obesity and smoking, she listed significant increases in other “lifestyle” illnesses past 50; those brought on by “bad habits” such as lack of exercise, alcoholism, unhealthful eating, and general health apathy. I shook my head and thought, WTF, at 50??! We abdicate our involvement in our own good health that early in life? And to add insult to gloomy injury, it appears it doesn’t matter how proactive, preventive, or healthy I may be, I’m stuck paying more for my insurance and healthcare because others in my age bracket – insured others, mind you – DO NOT TAKE BETTER CARE OF THEMSELVES.

That’s enough to make a person sick…to their stomach.

So while all this yelping is going on about the “selfish folk who take no responsibility and expect government to pony up for their healthcare,” I’m a little peeved at those who actually have insurance but don’t take responsibility to do everything they can to stay as healthy as possible. The costs of their health issues brought on by those aforementioned “lifestyle choices” contributes more to rising insurance and medical costs than any current reforms on the table.

How about this: let’s put the government, partisanship, and frothing ignorance aside for a moment and put insurance in its rightful place: it’s important to have for preventive care, in case of emergencies, and certainly when we need treatment or medical intervention. But for most it’s the second line of defense. The first? A persistently healthful lifestyle on a day-to-day basis. It won’t solve or prevent every problem, and surely we can’t minimize or ignore the impact of major diseases that can afflict even the most healthy, but beyond fate and DNA…just try it. A persistently healthful lifestyle on a day-to-day basis. You will see your doctor less, I guarantee, and, as a bonus, with growing numbers of the “healthier aging,” both medical and insurance costs, your and mine, will decrease, no matter what decade we’re in.

“Healthcare reform,” in our own hands and available to EVERYONE. I, for one, would be most grateful if you’d give it a try.

Photograph by Lorraine Devon Wilke 

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Visit for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.