I spent the entire school day Friday chaperoning my daughter’s 2nd grade field trip to the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Wings over Dallas Air Show. Each parent volunteer got six kids. For almost four hours under a cloudless sky we marched along the airport grounds, meeting re-enactors dressed in WWII battle uniforms who were happy to show us the tanks, helicopters, parachutes, weaponry, and, of course, airplanes that had actually been used to fight the axis enemies during that historic war.
But the real enemy on THIS day was the Texas sun.
Even in October, the temperatures reached close to 90 and there were very few areas of shade. With a half hour to go, my group, exhausted, dehydrated, soaked with sweat, decided as eight-year-olds do that Rainbow Slushies would be the best way to replenish their fluids. Except only three of the kids had brought money, while the other three (plus me with my useless Debit card in a cash only marketplace and no ATMs in sight) were broke.
When I told them that it wouldn’t be fair to the kids without money to have to watch the other kids enjoy Slushies, the ones with the $5 cover charge shocked me with their solution.
Why can’t we just share?
That’s a damn good question, kid.
At first I wanted to tell them what other adults have told me when I’ve proposed that very same question regarding single payer healthcare: because it’s not the job of the haves to take care of the have-nots, kids. This is America – you want a slushie, you gotta earn it.
No handouts, no freebies, just hard work.
Why should the three kids with the foresight and ability to bring cash have to spend THEIR money on those who were too stupid or lazy or broke to bring their own?
I’m sure these sweet, naïve kids would have said, But they’re our friends, we don’t mind.
And I would have told them the same thing I’ve been told, which is, You poor child, you have no idea how stupid that sounds.
With your childish logic, the argument goes, the rest of us would have to pay for all these weak Americans who keep getting sick, or worse, were born that way. And the rest of us work WAY too hard to be taken advantage of like that.
Plus, healthcare is just fine right now.
Only it’s not.
The American Journal of Medicine published a study in 2009, the year before Obama care (ACA) was passed, and it revealed that 62.1% of all bankruptcies that year had a medical cause. But, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute, filings have dropped about 50 percent, from 1,536,799 in 2010 to 770,846 in 2016. Those years also represent the time frame when the ACA took effect.
Two of those medical bankruptcies were mine.
The first happened when one bunion surgery turned into two (the doctor left a piece of metal in my foot and had to go back in for it and charged me twice) and the second was after two years of expensive back treatments ended in an even more expensive fusion surgery (my L4 and L5 are now one). When your industry (standup comedy) doesn’t offer health insurance and you can’t afford the coverage you actually qualify for, you roll the dice and hope you have good feet and a decent back.
Only I had neither.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have guessed how expensive those two relatively simple procedures would be (imagine if it had been more serious), and for years I tried to pay the debt down until it crippled me more than the bunions and bad back had. So I did what all good businessmen do and filed Chapter 11.
Now my credit is screwed for almost forever, and the Republicans are telling me that the healthcare I’ve finally been enjoying debt free since 2010 is going away. This scares the crap out of me, because I’m 51 years old now and my body ain’t so youthful anymore.
I can’t imagine the fear my fellow citizens, my friends, with cancer, or brain tumors, or worse are feeling right now.
I keep hearing, ‘America is the best country on the planet,’ from the same people who couldn’t seem to care less about how this country handles its ill. If you really want that statement to be true, if you really want to make the U.S. the best place on earth to live, perhaps it’s time we consider healthcare an affordable right instead of a means for certain people to maximize their profits.
It’s what I imagine the ‘best’ country doing.
With only a half hour to go, each of our air show group had a spoon and a straw and we sat in the stands and listened to the last of the Doolittle Raiders, Dick Cole, recount what it was like to fight for liberty and freedom for us all. I saw six kids take turns slurping and spooning the three Slushies until the cups were empty, and all six of them seemed just fine with their rehydration solution.
If only affordable healthcare was that easy.
- Mike Lukas