***This was originally published on June 28th, 2012. The day The Supreme Court ruled on The Affordable Care Act. It’s a deeply personal story, and a story very relevant today as The Affordable Care Act is we speak, once again before the Supreme Court.***
This is Leila Evelyn. Leila is my daughter and this was taken of her shortly after she was born on September 13th, 2011. She was 3 months early.
I don’t often get overly serious. I’ve found that a little humor goes a long way when discussing potentially contentious subjects. This is probably the most serious thing that I have ever written. Some may agree, some may disagree and some may be offended. I will in no way apologize nor attempt to be objective. Sometime in the next few hours it will be decided whether a healthcare mandate is constitutional. It’s being said that an entire presidency depends on what the Supreme Court rules. I don’t see it that way. This goes way beyond Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Democrats, Republicans or any election. It’s about who we are as people and where we are as a society. Access to affordable healthcare is neither a constitutional right nor a civil right. Access to affordable healthcare is a human right, and we seem to have forgotten that. We have the best doctors in the world, but what good are they if the people who need them the most can’t get to them. We have the best hospitals in the world, but what good are they if the people who need them the most can’t stay in them? We have the best and most researched medical procedures in the world, but our infant mortality rank is 29th out of the 40 industrialized nations in the world. Poland, Slovakia, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Greece. These are all countries with a better infant mortality rank than the United States.
People the world over have risked their lives or sold everything just to live here, but 50 million US citizens have no access to adequate healthcare. Kings, Queens and Dictators from all over the world have come here for life saving procedures, but right this second there is a single working mother in a county hospital ER waiting for hours with a sick child because the bare minimum state welfare she has won’t permit her to go anywhere else. 8.3% or almost 26 MILLION people in this country are diabetic. And almost 1 million are under the age of 20. If this was a country in the middle of Africa it would be called an epidemic and the UN would be air dropping cases of Insulin. But we are “debating” the constitutionality of mandated healthcare? Close to 50% of the entire US population falls squarely into the medical definition of unhealthy, and all we are hearing is “the government can’t tell me this, the government can’t tell me that.” You’re overweight, have a pack and half a day habit and your 9-year-old has to stop in the nurses office before lunch to get an insulin shot. What the hell CAN the government tell you?
The pictures attached to this piece is why this particular issue is so personal for me. They were taken September 13th, 2011. About 15 minutes after my daughter was born 3 months early, and was only 12 inches long and weighed 1lb 15oz. She spent 3 full months in the NICU. The first time she left the NICU was the day she came home. Those 3 months were the most stressful, frustrated, and edgy I have ever been. I cried till I laughed and I laughed till I cried. I ate because I had to and I at one point was popping 2-3 Ambien just to fall asleep, and I rarely stayed asleep. Many a night I showed up in the NICU at 4am. My point is this, we have insurance. We were lucky. Her total bill came out to just under 1 million dollars. I can’t put into words the amount of stress I was under while realizing that she was insured. And I can’t put into words the amount of relief it was to be able to tell them to do whatever they needed to do without worrying about how it was going to be paid for. I have never told anyone this, but I honestly don’t know how–or if–I would have made it if I had to think about whether or not she was getting anything other than the best care possible with no insurance. I wouldn’t wish that three months on anyone, and those were under the best circumstances possible. To know that there are people in this country today wondering whether or not their insurance status is what will decide whether their children are getting the best care available really pisses me off.
I’ve heard arguments ranging from “if the government can make me purchase insurance they can make me purchase anything” to “there is a better way to reform healthcare.” If there is a better way then why have we been talking healthcare reform since Teddy Roosevelt was President? I dare anyone who opposes this “socialist power grab” to sit next to your own child in a plexiglass box where you can’t even touch her because her skin and organs have not developed enough to fight off basic human bacteria and tell me that you wouldn’t thank the Lord above to not have to worry whether or not your insurance status affects her treatment.
We are coming out of a horrible recession, yet the only industries to consistently post record profits every year are the insurance and drug companies. Democrat, Republican and Independent insurance companies for far too long have been bankrolling our elected officials. You can’t make me have health insurance, but I also cannot get Canadian prescription drugs which are a hell of a lot cheaper, and now we are literally at the point where the insurance company is God. They get to decide who lives and dies! Point blank, my life and the life of my child are worth more than a fucking campaign contribution.
This isn’t a political thing. It’s not Democrat, or Republican. Despite what CNN, MSNBC and Fox News are saying, it’s not a referendum on Barack Obama’s presidency. It’s a referendum on society, and humanity. The “we’re all in this together” era is gone and we are left with the “I got mine, good luck getting yours” era. Complete apathy. We have convinced ourselves that giving a damn about the guy next to you constitutes a “welfare mentality.” Many years ago I read something that has always stayed with me, because for whatever reason I “got it” the first time I ever read it. During the Civil Rights era Dr. King once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” The guys who paved the way, King, Malcolm X, John and Bobby Kennedy, if they could see what we’ve become they would be disgusted. We are failing them. Without question.
We are arguing over who can access the best healthcare. The Supreme Court needs to tell us whether or not being humane is constitutional. If we have the best of everything, shouldn’t we be the ones to first make use of it? At the end of the day we are actually debating, no, we are playing politics with our own health and well-being. This whole thing has come down to 9 people deciding who wins or loses. And it disgusts me, because no matter what the ruling is no one is winning and we are all losing. Actually it’s a lot worse. Our very lives come down to numbers. Who lives, who dies, who eats, who starves at the end of the day come down to profit margins. It’s an election year and one of the most common election year slogans is “Wake up America!” It should be “Grow up.” America, grow up!
And these are of Leila 1 year later, on her 1st Birthday and Christmas 2012.
It seems like it was just yesterday that I wrote this, but here we are in 2020 and here is 9 year old Leila Evelyn.