by Andrew Piotrowski
Even after the congressional votes have been counted, and the bill signed into law, the debate on healthcare reform continues on. Ranging from the small arguments over the dinner table to the “expert” shouting matches between talking heads on cable news sources nationwide, we hear the same, tired rhetoric about socialized medicine vs. the crisis of medicine. Rarely do we stop to think about the effects that this new law will have on individuals in our community. While the already-covered worry about changes in their plans, or more tax increases to cover the trillion-dollar legislation, we do not bother to think about those who have been waiting for this kind of reform to pass for many years. If the numbers of 46-47 million without health insurance are an accurate estimate, that means that there are roughly over 250 million in this country WITH a current healthcare provider. Because of this fact, it is easy to understand why so many people would overlook the need for increased coverage of everyone who calls this country home.
Granted, there have been amendments and measures taken in bi-partisan fashion to ensure that the undocumented do not receive treatments, so we can count on the fact that 10-12 million people living within our borders can still get sick or injured and not be treated properly. Until our country becomes more enlightened as to the positive impact that these undocumented workers have on our country, this will unfortunately be the case. But what about those who reside here as documented immigrants or naturalized citizens, and still do not have the coverage they need? Take into account the story of a woman I overheard last week while volunteering at ECIRMAC. She had heard about the passage of the healthcare legislation, and was wondering as to when healthcare plans would become available at an affordable level to her. As the head of a household of five people, and the only working adult in the house, she has very little money to cover anything outside of her normal budget. She also suffers from chronic back pains, and requires medical attention and proper medication to alleviate her symptoms. Without healthcare, she says, doctor visits can range from $80-100 per visit, and that does not even cover her prescriptions. Because of this, she has to make a choice between visiting her doctor or providing other necessities of life to her household. In this modern day and age, with the level of advancement that we have achieved here in the United States, for one of our citizens to have to make such a decision seems almost inhumane. Because many parts of the legislation, such as the pooling together of interstate healthcare plans will not start taking effect until later this year and will become fully realized within the next four years, this woman will still have to wait for relief to come. Even for those who already have health insurance, the notion that there are those suffering in this country without it seems unjust. However, as our debate furthers from the source of the problem, and becomes bogged down in debates over the powers that the federal government should wield, we continue to forget the sobering examples of those who desperately need this reform for their own self-preservation.