Tag Archives: health care

The Least of Three Evils (for MA voters)

13 Jan

In Massachusetts, a state where gay marriage is legal, the representatives of the state ought to believe that gay marriage being legal is a good thing, right? Joe Kennedy is sort of for gay marriage, but only in that the government shouldn’t really have a say and that churches ought to be allowed to decide for themselves. Scott Brown believes marriage is between a man and a woman.

Viewed through this lens Martha Coakley is the only viable candidate. But Martha reeks of standard party-line politician, and I hate the party system. Nearly everything she says seems like it was pulled from the “how to be a democrat 2010” handbook. Maybe she believes it all, but it all reads and seems like it’s just politics. It seems like she says things because they are the-things-you-say-to-get-people-who-believe-what-I-believe-to-vote-for-you, and not because they are her true beliefs.

Aside from gay marriage, what I want from my government is the, well, the governance, that will lead us to a humane world. Everyone wants a humane world. We’re human beings. We ought to have a humane world. That said, the three areas which I think are most important for a humane world – Health Care, Education, and the Environment – are all poorly represented by these three would-be-representatives.

Joe Kennedy is by far the most realistic candidate of the three. His website shows that he’s familiar with bills currently under review by the legislature, and that he understands what the job he’s applying for actually is: he’ll be reading a lot of complicated bills written in legalese. He’ll be writing other bills, filing bills, and voting on bills. That’s it. Promises like

“Martha will fight to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to housing, education, health care, and employment opportunities”


“I believe we ought to strengthen our border enforcement and institute an employment verification system with penalties for companies that hire illegal immigrants (Scott)”

are un-detailed statements of large scope essentially beyond anything that a senator can actually do and they do little to convince me that Scott or Martha are actually aware of what the job is (odd for Scott, who is already a state senator). Joe Kennedy is, at least from the impressions he’s given, trustworthy. He makes his share of un-detailed statements of large scope too, like “I believe we must promote free trade and peace” (who doesn’t?) but he also includes detailed ideas about what bills he’s going to write and file, and how he’s going to vote on current ones. Unfortunately he seems to be wrong about Health Care, and claims to be against both income and sales taxes, which sounds nice but does beg the question of where he expects the government to get any money at all. China?

Like Joe, Scott is also wrong about Health Care. Both of them vehemently oppose the current Health Care bill (although only Joe claims to have actually read it) but neither of them provide any workable alternatives. The bottom line is that we absolutely have to change our Health Care system. It’s awful. It’s inhumane and utterly embarrassing that a country claiming to be civilized doesn’t provide healthcare to all of its residents. While Martha is at least vowing to support the reform the Obama Administration is hoping to pass, she doesn’t seem to be aware that it doesn’t go nearly far enough and that while changing what we have is extremely important (so important that we must change it even if it’s only for the sake of change), changing it into something which treats health care as the humane right that it is is even more important.

None of them seem to understand this.

Martha is also weak on education, seemingly pleased with the foundation of “No Child Left Behind” stating that it just needs “several reforms” in order to “deliver the changes students deserve.” This is, of course, ridiculous. Joe thinks we should abolish “No Child Left Behind” as well as the Federal Department of Education and instead let each state innovate their own educational systems. It might work… it might not, but at least it’s an acknowledgement that our education system is in need of truly radical reform, something neither of the other two candidates seem to know. Scott is politically vague about education, saying he is “passionate about improving the quality of our public schools” (who isn’t?) and that he “support(s) choice through charter schools, as well as the MCAS exam as a graduation requirement.” Goodie. Let’s first give them a “choice” about which type of school to go to but then continue using standardized tests as a way to determine the education level of our citizens regardless of which school they chose. Great plan.

Nothing short of a complete redesign of our educational system is good enough. We need a system which acknowledges that each individual student has different interests, different ways of learning, and different levels of understanding which develop at different rates. Anything less is inhumane.

None of them seem to understand this.

As for the environment, here’s Martha:

“I support common-sense environment policy that will help to reduce pollution and preserve our precious open spaces. I realize that without action now, future generations will be left to clean up the mess we leave.”

Here’s Scott:

“Our planet is in trouble. I believe protecting our environment must be a priority, not only for today but for future generations.”

No, I’m sorry, that’s backwards. The first quote is Scott, not Martha, she’s the second quote. Point is they sound basically interchangeable.

Give Joe points for being different at least:

“I would consider myself an Environmentalist and I am a strong advocate of green initiatives… The Greatest Polluter in America is the US Government.”

I kid (a bit) about the similarity of Scott and Martha here but give Martha credit for at least being thorough and detailed and stating that “climate change is one of the most pressing moral issues of our time.” I’m not sure it’s a moral issue, but it’s certainly pressing. The only thing Scott’s website provides are vague promises and beliefs about the environment and his site doesn’t mention even once global warming or the climate crisis (neither does Joe’s) although I know from the debate that he’s not convinced it’s entirely caused by our actions. Scott says

“I support reasonable and appropriate development of alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal and improved hydroelectric facilities”

as if there’s someone who doesn’t. Way to say nothing. I support the sky being blue. I support wheels being round.

Look, we can’t have a humane world if the planet our world is on is sick. It’s really more important than anything else. It doesn’t matter how well educated we are, how healthy, how safe, how peaceful, how anything, if our planet is sick.

None of them seem to understand this, though Martha comes out as the strongest of the three here if only because she’ll support the progress that the Obama Adminstration is trying to make in this regard.

So I’m genuinely stumped here. I have no idea which of these three represent the least of the three evils. I’ve read and heard that a lot of people are voting for Scott simply because he opposes the current party that’s in power. This is true, he does, but he represents the other party. Checks and balances aren’t supposed to work the way the party system works. If you really want to elect someone who is going to ensure that one party isn’t in control, vote for Joe. But is that even a good reason to vote? If I truly don’t want any of these people to represent me, shouldn’t I not vote for them? Isn’t that how a democracy is supposed to work? Votes are our way of saying “yes, I agree with you. You represent me.” Isn’t there more to you than just “I oppose large government” or “I oppose the currently-in-power party”?

How about “I support a humane world with an effective government”? I’d vote for the one who could back that up with details about how they’re going to do it.

The President leaves me wondering

22 Jul

Obama says the only way to make sure everyone is covered by healthcare is a single-payer system.

So why aren’t we implementing one?

[to be clear, I don’t really understand what a “single-payer system” is and am only slightly grokking the concept of a “public option”]

Right now I have no insurance, which most of the time saves me a lot of money that I also don’t have. Sometimes (when I actually need healthcare) it costs me a tremendous amount. It sounds like if this health care reform goes through it will mean that I’ll have to pay for my own health insurance just like I now have to pay for my own car insurance. It will be as “affordable” as car insurance, but that doesn’t actually help me until I have an income…

The three smartest things Obama said in tonight’s conference were:

1. He and everyone in congress has excellent health care now, so this isn’t about him (or them…)

2. The only way to get things done in Washington is to set deadlines because the status quo has inertia too powerful to overcome otherwise.

3. No matter what change happens, there will be at least one group somewhere that is unhappy about it, finding that they were more benefitted by the previous status quo.

Things I wish he had said (he’s just not as strong in his convictions as I’d prefer. Or his convictions are different than mine…):

1. Health care is a right, not a privilege.

2. As a country that is founded upon equality and opportunity for all, America ought to be judged by how it treats the least of its citizens, not its elite.

3. It’s about humanity. It’s not about this party or that group gaining some kind of artificial political ground. It’s not about money. It’s about humanity. It’s about every single individual getting the healthcare that is their right.

2007 Summer Movie Write Up – Part One

28 Jun

Hello, and Welcome to part one of Juno’s 2007 Summer Movie Write Up. If you’d like to make that sentence as exciting as possible please go back and read it out loud with your best MoviePhone Voice impersonation. Today (since it comes out tomorrow) I cover Michael Moore’s new movie, Sicko, which is about the American health care system. The trailer can be seen here (although having seen the movie I must say that it’s a pretty terrible trailer. The tone of the film is entirely different, and some of that stuff isn’t even in the movie.) Other movies that will be covered include:

Shrek the Third
Live Free or Die Hard
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Spiderman 3
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Oceans 13

           Michael Moore is famous for being somewhat sensationalist. According to his reputation he’s concerned more about audience reaction than accuracy. Make no mistake, his TV show and movies support this reputation, and he is nothing if not a talented entertainer. Making films that end up with reputations as “documentaries” while eschewing accuracy for entertainment is a dangerous game, and it’s one he doesn’t totally win with Sicko, but I do think it’s the best he’s done, especially compared to his more recent fare of Fahrenheit 9-11 and Bowling for Columbine. This is mainly because the point of Sicko is bigger (and I would say more important) than anything else he’s done.
           Experience is the great determiner of human knowledge. The only way to really “know” anything is to experience it. Can one person’s experiences accurately present the complex story of America’s health care system in a simplified one-sided way? Not necessarily, but it is that person’s experience and that can’t be argued. For them at least, it is totally true. Much of Sicko consists of just this kind of presentation, which makes the movie immensely powerful. Perhaps he managed to find the only people in the country that get screwed over by America’s health care system, (not likely) but that doesn’t invalidate their experience or his main point. I’m sure there are people who love and have been saved by America’s health care system too, but they sure as hell aren’t in the movie. Does that make it sensationalist? Perhaps, but the point of the movie is still valid, powerful, and important, as are the stories of those that are in the film.
           Sicko introduces us first to people who don’t have insurance and have had to pay (or not) the price. These few people certainly had some unfortunate tales, but Michael Moore informs that the movie isn’t about them. Instead the movie is about the people that do have health insurance. Why? Because health insurance companies exist to make money, and they do that by not paying doctors and hospitals. The few people in the movie who don’t have health insurance get dwarfed by the myriad group of people that do have health insurance, but don’t have their health care paid for by it.
           Sicko (a terrible title, by the way) has footage of an (ex) insurance employee swearing in court that she is responsible for killing a man because she denied his claim, which meant he didn’t get the operation he needed. Why did she do this? It got her a promotion. Do all insurance employees do this? Do all insurance companies value the dollar over the health of their insured? Probably not… but Michael Moore shows that some, without a doubt, do. And they get rich doing it.
            The movie then follows Michael Moore as he follows a woman into Canada where she claims to be a citizen in order to get free health care. It’s illegal (as demonstrated by the cops showing up) but she does get the care she needs by running to the next-closest hospital where the cops aren’t. Michael Moore then travels to Canada, France, and London and asks locals how much their hospital stay cost, how much the house call by the doctor cost, how much they had to pay for surgery, etc. Always the answer is nothing. It’s all free. Are there citizens of these countries that get screwed over by their free/socialist/tax-funded health care system? Possibly, but they’re not in the movie. That doesn’t make experience and truth of the people in the movie any less valid. Does that make the movie sensationalist? Perhaps, but the overall point is still potent and true.
            I’m not going to go through the whole movie here (obviously I think you should see it for yourselves) but I would like to point out that it could very very easily have been even more sensationalist, and one-sided and, well, Michael Moore-ish. He doesn’t go bang on the doors of Kaiser Permanenté, or yell at Blue Cross and demand they atone for murder. He could, but he doesn’t. Because he doesn’t have to. Because Sicko is about something more important than simplification, petty politics, sensationalism, and fear of socialism.
            It’s about being humane.
            It’s about the fact that we, as humans, have a right to a healthy life. The point of Sicko is that we’re all human, so we should be given health care, whether we can afford insurance or not. It’s just humane. It’s just right. I can’t afford (and don’t currently have) health insurance. According to Sicko if I go to an American hospital and can’t afford my treatment the hospital will dump me on the street next to a shelter. (There is footage of this actually happening to an elderly woman in the movie. She is dumped, barefoot, still in the hospital robe, onto the street.) In France if I can’t afford my treatment it is given to me anyways, because I need it. And then I am given paid leave until I am better. Is this portrayal accurate? Is Michael Moore twisting things a little bit to tell a story? I don’t know. For the people in the movie though, yes, it is absolutely true. America (if not the entire world) should be like the France (or even the Cuba) of Sicko. If you’re sick, you need care. Period. You should get it. Period. Your country (if not your world) should provide it to you. Period.
            Perhaps we should all be provided with tickets to Sicko too. It may not be the best movie of the summer, but it’s probably the most important.