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What’s Health Got to Do With It?

Goleta Grapevine Ponders the Public Option


With the national debate on healthcare rising to the intelligence and organization of an unlit nighttime skateboard park, I hit the streets of Old Town Goleta to interview residents with opinions on this topic.

I approached a figure in red, black, and blue, who gave her name as Ima Riot. I don’t know the actual color of her clothes. Her semi-patriotic coloring was the result of her just then having been laid flat when a car had careened across four lanes of Hollister Avenue and sideswiped her like a Glen Beck tirade. The heavy thunk that followed was the sound of Ima’s brain ricocheting around in her skull cavity. Protected by a thick ideological membrane, Ima was shaken but not stirred and she appeared just as lucid as she had been before her encounter with the pavement.

The ambulance quickly arrived and any reservations I might have had about visiting a hospital waiting room were overcome by my desire to experience secondhand the navigation of our healthcare system.

Ima seemed unfazed as she was wheeled into the waiting room. She was clutching her insurance card, secure in the knowledge that she would be taken care of. The waiting room was rather full of other people with a variety of ailments-a man clutching his chest, a child having difficulty breathing, and several other people with indeterminate aches, pains, and skin infections. And now there was Ima, expecting to be treated before long. I introduced myself and asked her opinion about the current healthcare debate.

We have the best healthcare system in the world,” she offered. “If we were in Canada, we would have to wait for service.”

I observed that we were waiting. I also mentioned that it appeared that some of the people in this waiting room were not really in an emergency situation. But since they couldn’t afford a doctor, they were using the emergency room instead of making a doctor’s appointment, further lengthening the wait for emergencies such as Ima’s.

Ima replied, “Sure, if we had socialized medicine, they could all have health insurance and see a regular doctor, but then I would be paying for that through higher taxes.”

Being present as an impartial reporter, not as a debater, I decided not to mention to Ima that for people who did not have insurance, their emergency room visits were being paid for by taxes. Nor did I mention that had they their own insurance, they could have afforded preventive care, lowering the costs of health insurance overall. So I pressed on.

I asked Ima what she thought of having at least a public option for healthcare and her eyes began to glare like ditto marks. “What! Again with the socialism! I won’t have it. We need more free enterprise. Look what deregulation has done for the airlines, the financial industry, and energy policy! Anybody with half a brain would want to stay the course.”

Ima went on, “Private enterprise is always best. Let’s keep the government out of our business, except maybe for my mortgage, property tax, and charitable deductions, my stimulus check, our bank bailouts, farm subsidies, national defense, local police and fire protection, Medicare, Social Security, child labor laws, and making sure that our food, toys, drugs, air, and water are safe and pure.”

We had now been waiting for quite some time and Ima was beginning to look seriously agitated. But in a seeming reminder to herself, she muttered that she had heard that in socialized France someone had to wait two years before she could schedule an appointment for a “je ne sais quoi.” Ima didn’t know what part of the body that is but she had heard it on a radio talk show. Ima beamed, “I’m so grateful to Rush for keeping us informed. I can’t recommend him too highly.” I thought to myself, “I can’t recommend him very highly either.”

Ima had also heard, from an ex-beauty queen, ex-VP candidate, ex-governor-Madame X-about “death panels.” Yep, Ima said, if we got nationalized health insurance, the government would be making decisions about whether she should live or die. Ima wants Madam X to run for President in 2012. Ima said, “I think she would be an unqualified success.” I thought “unqualified” was a particularly good choice of words.

Just then, Ima was taken into the examination room where it was determined that several of her brain’s logic centers had been destroyed, though without really altering her reasoning capability. Her doctor thought she should have some antibiotics and a blood transfusion but Ima’s insurance company was resisting. The insurance company said that considering the thousands of auto collisions that occur daily, Ima’s accident qualified as a “pre-existing condition.”

As I left Ima in the hospital, I reflected on the majestic beauty of our democracy. We are all entitled to our opinions, regardless of the facts. Our Declaration of Independence states that we are all endowed with ” : certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I was left wondering if Ima thinks good healthcare has much to do with life, liberty, and happiness.

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