Monday, August 17, 2009

FORE! Another Swing at Health Care

Note: I would not have blogged about health care again except that NewsHour's editor for Patchwork Nation Anna Shoup asked for local reactions to the raucous town hall meetings taking place across the country.

My nephew, a college junior, has been working this summer as a caddy at a well-heeled country club near Washington, D.C. Last month he caddied for former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich. For a young man who spent last summer as a youth organizer for the Obama campaign, I was surprised at how much my nephew enjoyed his 18 holes with Newt. He said Gingrich was very personable, joking constantly about politics and his poor golf shots. At the end of the round, he tipped my nephew $150.

After seeing Gingrich on TV recently rabble-rousing about Obama’s health care plan, I would have tipped my nephew twice as much to take a swing at Newt’s backside with a golf club. Just joking – I’m totally a pacifist. Gingrich implied that the President’s plan was socialism and that it may lead to euthanizing the elderly. Just joking, Newt? Or once in the clubhouse, do you fabricate tall tales about your golf scores too?

A friend, who just went through a myriad of medical tests, told me that he’s not sure he can afford to be healthy. Even though his insurance partially covers costs, the out-of-pocket deductibles are killing him, so to speak. As I wrote in my first Patchwork Nation blog (posted 7-23), my recent surgery cost $25,432.65 or over two-thirds of my yearly salary. Fortunately I’m insured, although my premiums just went up. A number of co-workers had to opt out of our group plan because they couldn’t afford the higher monthly costs. Hence, my premiums will go up again.

The National Coalition on Health Care states that due to the recession and rising unemployment it’s conceivable 57 to 60 million Americans will be uninsured by next year. Over 8 in 10 uninsured people come from working families. Hopefully the advantage of a government health insurance option is that the competition would drive down the exorbitant prices of private insurance. I don’t think that’s socialism, Newt. Isn’t that a tenet of free-market capitalism?

After reading my first blog, another friend told me she enjoyed my clever writing but couldn’t believe I thought the government could run a more efficient health insurance system than the private sector. Hm-m-m-m-m-m. This friend worked in banking for 30 years. After last fall’s financial fiasco that created the economic funk, I don’t think the private sector can claim any superiority, especially over the government that bailed them out. The fact is Americans pay more for health care than in any other country on earth, yet our overall health statistics rival those of a third world nation. The system is broken.

As director of an arts organization, I’m proud that the national advocacy group Americans for the Arts has lobbied legislators about the health care needs of artists and nonprofit arts organizations. Many artists are self-employed or work in nontraditional employment relationships, leaving no options for group coverage. Also, skyrocketing health care costs are consuming the decreasing budgets of nonprofit arts organizations already battered by the recession. Americans for the Arts urges arts people to write their senators and attend town hall meetings to ensure that the voice of the cultural community is heard. Details at

So, Newt, if you happen to attend a town hall meeting in Akron and start telling tall tales about President Obama’s health care plan -- watch out for the teed off woman in the back row with a golf club. Fore! Just joking – I’m totally a pacifist. Really.


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