Public Health Care and the Social Contract


Permit me to go out on a limb and write the article I feel I must write. Warning: I'm about to get political.

Every American deserves health care. Yes, I said it: We deserve it. If we are expected to hold up our end of the social contract, as law-abiding and taxpaying citizens, we ought to feel the system sustained by both our obedience and our monetary tithing will take care of us. Otherwise, why bother respecting our end of the contract?

In the richest nation in the history of the world, a large portion of our citizens are without basic health care. Many more are only one health crisis away from financial ruin. Dare they call an ambulance when an emergency strikes or show up at the 'wrong' hospital, for instance, they'll find themselves many thousand dollars in debt. Meanwhile, tying health benefits to our employment situation (which up to 10% officially, and likely much more, of the working populace is presently without) turns our jobs into a form of indentured servitude, forcing us to cling to undesirable positions out of fear we'll lose our insurance. What is all our nation's wealth for, if not to improve the lifestyle of our people, with protection and education and public works initiatives… and, yes, medical care?

When I read the current health-care debate against the backdrop of Jupiter, Neptune and Chiron's triple-conjunction in Aquarius, I want to believe this indicates now is the time to make universal health-care happen in the U.S. As I've written before, this is an inspirational astro-combination, begetting an expansion in our compassion for the collective, based on integrating the awareness that something is terribly broken and we all suffer for it.

I am aware, however, this is a common trap that many astrological pundits fall into—interpreting the planets' messages according to one's own political stances and motivations. I will not, therefore, allege neutrality. While I hope Jupiter/Neptune/Chiron-in-Aquarius will prove to be a symbol of Americans reinvesting hope in community-based health-care solutions that measure societal success by whether the majority of its members are receiving quality-of-life improvements from its institutions, I also know that's not a given. I am making no predictions here… merely throwing my voice into the chorus of collective intention-setting, spurred as I am to become part of the message in favor of a public government-administered health insurance option.

Those opposed to a public option will often default to the argument they don't want government bureaucrats involved in making decisions that affect the care they're given. 'My medical treatments,' they insist, 'ought to be between me and my doctor! I don't want someone in some office somewhere determining whether or not my life is worth saving!' But this is completely faulty reasoning, based on the current situation of Americans' health care system, according to which our treatment decisions are actually between us, our doctors and a private-insurance bureaucrat who uses statistical spreadsheets to assess whether our treatment or claim will be approved or rejected. Our care is already mediated by someone in some office somewhere.

The main difference between having it mediated by a government bureaucrat or a private-insurance bureaucrat is that the private-insurer is a for-profit venture financially incentivized to limit care, reject claims and cancel policies. The government, meanwhile, works for us… and its principal purpose is (purportedly) to serve the needs of the collective. Who would you rather have watching your health-related back: someone paid to restrict your care by corporate-bigwig bosses who make tons of money off their response to your suffering, or someone paid for by your own taxes to look out for you?

I understand there will be implementational challenges to establishing public health-care administration. Like with any large-scale project, some pieces won't work so well initially… maybe not perfectly ever. But concerns about how shouldn't be an excuse not to go for it anyway. That's because, in my opinion, what really matters is standing tall in acknowledgement of the moral imperative, which is what I plainly see in the U.S.'s need to provide care for its citizens. If our officials have been able to use the same reasoning of morality to, for instance, defend deficit-spending on behalf of military efforts in lands thousands of miles away (ultimately to serve the financial profit of a select few), why is it so ridiculous to consider health care in this way—only with an actual direct positive impact on the lives of large groups of Americans?

As far as my moral compass is oriented, taking care of the sick and injured is far more ethically important than funding bloodshed, in supposed advocacy for some abstraction known as 'democracy abroad' (which really ought to be called what it is: 'multinational corporate capitalism abroad'). Providing health care to citizens in need is the right thing to do. I see no ambiguity there. When we are driven by principle, nothing ought to be allowed to stand in our way—and especially not sleazy insurance lobbyists and politico talking-point conjurers.

You know something has gone terribly wrong in the propaganda factory when media commentators start to mischaracterize a plan intended to help a population lacking medical care as (believe it or not) a socialist conspiracy to kill off elderly and unwell people. To clarify, it is our current system that doles out treatment based on what's considered profitable to corporations. The very idea that the proposed health-care reform includes benefits that would allow for optional counseling about end-of-life issues (e.g., setting up living wills, defining one's own treatment preferences) has set off illogical alarms… or at least provided a faint thematic strain for easy deceptive exploitation by health-care reform opponents. It is only because a vocal agitated minority already entertains xenophobic perceptions of President Obama (you know, the one with the funny name and the dark skin) that people are willing to mistrustfully compare him to Hitler, ready to march innocent old folks to the death chamber. (Reality check: The elderly already have a government-run health-care plan. It's called Medicare. Heard of it?) If anything, this hijacking of the truth merely illustrates how averse the American people are to actually discussing the realities of sickness and death without an associated hysteria.

No other issue facing the U.S. today gets me more riled up than health care. I admit it, I'm angry… and so are plenty of folks on all sides of this debate. I'm angry because, as a self-employed individual, I pay huge amounts out of my own pocket for insurance that does not cover routine preventive blood-work as part of a periodic physical exam (though that's what my doctor prescribed for me)… charges me so much for a perfunctory follow-up appointment that I opted to cancel one to save a few bucks… and, should I switch carriers, I may be rejected for coverage in the future due to the 'pre-existing condition' of having recently had a minor benign growth removed, though I am pretty much perfectly healthy, which just may stick me with my present insurer for the rest of my life (unless I want to go get a job with employer-provided coverage, just for the insurance), or until the government fucking fixes this mess.

As a thirtysomething white man with a clean bill of health, some resources at my disposal, and a pretty pushy mouth when I need it, I find it exceedingly difficult to get the health care I need without paying unreasonably for it. One of my best friends got rejected for individual coverage in her early 30s because she was overweight, though she's never had health problems related to her weight and is physically active. Another one, who has a spouse with chronic leukemia, lives in fear of medical-expense-related financial disaster. It makes me wonder: How do my fellow Americans, many of whom are at a much more distinct disadvantage than I, do it?

It became clear to me, under the influence of Jupiter, Neptune and Chiron, that I had to do something to express my feelings, or my anger on this issue would eat me up alive. I've chosen to use this website as a mouthpiece for passionately advocating on behalf of a public health-care option. I respect that some of you may passionately disagree with me on this issue. I humbly ask you to reconsider your viewpoint from the perspective that government has a moral obligation to provide its people protection and care as part of the social contract regulating its relationship to us. I don't mind paying taxes, as long as they buy us something of real societal use to a broad expanse of the populace—such as relief from the worry that, should we become sick or hurt, our 'recovery' just may cost us everything we've got.