Monday, August 24, 2009

Dear Senator Snowe:

Despite the fact that you represent the State of Maine, about a three-hundreth of the American population, your position on the Senate Finance Committee gives you one sixth of the power to make the U.S. a healthier country by holding fast to a public option in health care reform.

Arguably because you are a Republican, your vote on the Senate Finance Committee has even more clout. Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat vying for most Blue Doggy Dem ever, and you could perhaps come to a conclusion that will make health care available to everyone.

You may be wondering why more Mainers and Americans are not banging on your doors about the public option. You may be wondering why small Maine papers are not editorializing in favor of the public option. You may be wondering why the loudest voices are the obstructionist shrieks of those who already have all the health care they need. Or perhaps you know what we all know.

Mainers and Americans are busy and confused. School is about to start and we need to get our kids sneakers and pencil boxes. The swine flu is a distant May memory and everyone's relatively healthy before the rush of vectors about to exchange zillions of viral RNA and DNA next week. Most wonder how to buy Christmas presents in this economy. For many health care has been a nagging worry for decades. The current drama is only a sideshow.

Our local sources of information are tasked with covering municipalities, crime and courts, not health insurance graft and greed. Because of this dearth of information, most of us are not conversant in health insurance shenanigans like the arbitrary formulary changes. That's when insurance companies decide they will no longer pay for particular prescriptions and ill people must change drugs or go without. Many have never heard of rescission, when the insurance companies simply drop customers because they have become too expensive to cover. Too few Americans are familiar with the facts surrounding other countries' methods of providing health care and of our true, less than stellar, status in the world's health care standards. Our infant mortality rate is worst than Cuba's.

The loudest obstructionist voices are those in fear. Some, like current Medicare recipients, are afraid they will lose care, some are afraid they will pay more taxes, and some are afraid, as the Bristol, Tenn. NPR interviewee said, of "minorities getting more benefits than they deserve." The unspoken racism implicit in many of the arguments against the public option must be addressed squarely, especially under the auspices of our first black president.

The most obstructionist sound, of course, is the unified chorus of insurance companies and drug manufacturers. The way we know that our inefficient, horribly broken and, for some, deadly system works for them is that they want no change at all. For them, increasing their bottom line this year trumps the health and lives of Mainers and other Americans. Even access to health insurance does not equate with health or even health care as an amazing article in the current Atlantic Monthly points out in painful detail.

For some, the debate itself has become obstructionist. When confronted with tea baggers bent on curtailing any education at town hall meetings or zealous health care advocates like myself running mini-seminars in the grocery store, at parties and in the local diner, too many people set their eyes toward the middle distance and sigh.

Senator Snowe, your independence is legendary. Please use it to find a way through this morass and ensure that no American's health is at risk because his or her family has inadequate access to care.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Well-said. Hope she listens.