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Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's Personal

As you all know, I am a political junkie. Big time. There’s nothing sweeter than a stimulating political conversation, especially when the room is filled with fellow Democrats :-). I don’t even mind some political fist fights, er, DEBATES with friends whose ideologies differ from mine.

To me, it’s all about knowledge and giving a rat’s petunia.

I don’t *really* care who you vote for, just vote! Care! Read up! Learn about the issues!

Yet, this presidential election year, I find myself taking a lot of the issues personally. SO MUCH has changed in my life over the past four years. So, so much. I can’t separate my life experiences from my political beliefs. That’s when it becomes personal and real and heart-wrenching. It also means that I have to really restrain myself from shaking the shoulders of those who don’t see (what I deem to be) the important issues in the same light.

Instead of shaking, however, I attempt to sway.

I realize, now, why people can become so passionate about political issues. They become PERSONAL. The issues become a part of your heart because they belong to faces and names of loved ones. No longer are gun laws solely about weaponry; to the mother whose child was killed in a drive-by shooting, gun laws are PERSONAL. No longer are social security issues a passing thought; to the senior citizen who can’t afford his rent because he only receives $400/month from Uncle Sam, social security issues are PERSONAL. No longer are marriage laws simply about courthouse paperwork; to the gay couple who can’t obtain life insurance because they’re not legally tied, marriage laws are PERSONAL. No longer is the military budget an afterthought; to the wife of a soldier stationed in Iraq for 12 months at a time, the ability to pay their mortgage, and the type of equipment her husband dons for protection are very PERSONAL issues. No longer are environmental issues only for the “green peace freaks”; to the Los Angeles father whose little girl has severe asthma and can’t go outside to play because the air quality is so poor, environmental protection is PERSONAL.

No longer is “Healthcare Reform” a catchy election-year slogan; to the mother who, on the way to the hospital to visit her sick preemie in the NICU, decides to open up her mail, only to find a stack of medical bills equaling $20,000 out of pocket, affordable healthcare becomes PERSONAL.

It’s become personal to me.

One of the reasons we moved to Canada was because we knew that we would not be able to afford Ellie’s medical bills in the United States. Once Ellie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, an incurable, life-long disability, we realized that she would require special medical care for a long, long time.

We HAD good jobs. Richard HAD “good” insurance. We weren’t part of the 50 million Americans who were insurance-less. In fact, not only did we make more money than the average American family, but we also had better than average insurance coverage. And we STILL knew that we’d be paying at least $15,000 per year for deductibles and out of pocket therapy expenses.

Now it’s personal.

I know that affordable healthcare HASN’T, by the grace of God, become personal to many of you. You are blessed. I know that most (if not all) of you reading this blog are covered by good insurance, either private or public, and that you don’t worry how you will afford your next medical bill. You are blessed.

WE are blessed too. Blessed to have the ability to pack up camp and move north, where everyone has access to affordable healthcare. We are blessed to have had the resources and credit card limits to pay the $20,000 of out of pocket expenses we incurred in 2005. I am blessed to have this venue to encourage YOU to make healthcare reform PERSONAL.

Of course the Canadian medical system is far from perfect. We’ve waited a few months to get in to see specialists. We’re STILL waiting on a new speech therapist to be hired in our rural area of No-Man’s Land. But, we have NEVER had to wait for any sort of emergency care. I am convinced that had Ellie been born at Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg, she would have received the same care in the NICU as she did at the swanky private hospital in Las Colinas, Texas. And I wouldn’t have had a nervous breakdown at the thought of walking out to the mail pod, dreading the multitude of bills that seemed never-ending.

Am I trying to sway you, my American voter-friends? Yup. (Hey, at least I’m honest!) Am I trying to remind you to feel blessed because of your healthcare system, my Canadian friends and family? Yup.

Personalize it. Think of the two or three people in life that have stolen your heart. The ones you’d die for. The ones who force a smile onto your face in the middle of the work day. Then imagine them sick. Really sick. On a ventilator sick. Requiring a $300,000 surgery sick. Then imagine your insurance company saying that they’ll only cover half of that. Imagine receiving a letter in the mail from the hospital requiring that you bring the $150,000 CASH to the registration desk as soon as possible.

Then think about your vote in November. Think about how the extra $100/month that universal affordable healthcare may (emphasis on the MAY) cost you in extra taxes will prevent another Richard and Chrystie from having to decide between a mortgage payment and an MRI for their daughter. Think about how another Ellie will be able to receive therapy so she may walk. Is that worth $100/month? Is that worth sacrificing a nice restaurant meal every four weeks?

Only you can answer that question. I challenge you to look at the pictures on this blog and tell me that my sweet Ellie, just like thousands of other sweet Ellie’s, is undeserving of quality medical care, simply because her parents aren’t independently wealthy.

Make it personal.


Peitricia Mae said...

You're totally preaching to the choir here (and, unfortunately, to someone who experiences the American healthcare system very personally, yet is unable to vote).

Having experienced both systems as well, I'm a bit astonished as to how violently opposed some Americans are to universal healthcare. They object strenuously to the idea of the Big Bad Government interfering in their health decisions, yet happily embrace the necessity of other national programs (no one seems to mind the US postal service's existence, for example).

I don't know if it's fear of the unknown, or brainwashing by the Governmental Powers That Be (helped along by some serious funds and backroom discussions with lobbyists from private health"care" companies), but so many Americans just bristle at the very thought of socialized medicine.

I, too, have "good" insurance and (thank you Jesus) a relatively healthy family. And I live in fear that Something will happen. That fear is mitigated knowing I can book it back to the True North Strong and Free, but not everyone is so lucky.

Anonymous said...

I am so comforted to know that I am not the only person who has a panic attack (or nervous breakdown) while going out to get the mail. That is a daily disappointment--what bills today, how much, deductibles, out of pockets, ect ect. With children with CP, you are right, bills are going to reoccur every single year, for years. We pay 15K every year for medical care, too, and we have "good" insurance and "good" jobs.

Thanks for your post.

missm said...

Interesting perspective. Thanks for the reminder to appreciate what we have. This is true when it comes to so many things.

I enjoy reading your passionate posts.