We Cannot Afford Not To Fix Healthcare
I am growing weary of the constant drum beat of Joe Scarborough every morning that we just can’t afford health care for everybody. And with the President leaving for Europe this morning, Morning Joe has been on a big kick about how France and Germany say that Obama is spending too much money, and if even France thinks it’s too much, it must really be too much. It’s a typical Republican spin of a situation that draws a wrong conclusion from someone’s position.
What the Europeans are upset about is the massive bailout package for the financial sector of our economy, and they refuse to do the same for their banks and financial institutions. Why? It’s really quite simple. The people of Europe are not about to fall through the cracks that have formed in the economic meltdown because they will still have health care even if they lose their jobs. They can go back to school and still maintain their health. What a thought!
I have shared before how I lost my job as a college instructor some six years ago when my department was closed by the community college where I taught, but I realize in today’s debate over health care that the situation that happened to me and my colleagues is pertinent to the issues that face the workers in Detroit as well as workers across the nation. For a period of five years I was fired and rehired every year until the last. You may wonder why I didn’t go out and find another job during that time, and that is a fair question. I do have an answer to that question. I was unable to find a job that would give me the same healthcare benefits that I needed from the State of Texas. The same was true for my colleagues, all of which except one were in their fifties when the carnage came down upon our heads.
I can’t totally fault the college for discontinuing our program. For the last decade the court reporting school business nationwide was in a major nosedive due to declining enrollments. In fact, 75% of court reporting schools nationwide closed in that period. The fault I do find with the college is in the way they went about closing the program. We did have a number of students who were in various stages of completion of the program, and it was required by law that they be given an opportunity to achieve their goals of becoming court reporters. So the program had to be continued for a certain period.
The other factor was that we, the faculty in the program, did everything we could to reverse the school’s decision to close the program altogether, and we were given a chance to improve our enrollment figures, but we weren’t given any funds with which to advertise and perform recruitment.
The whole thing resulted in a slow and painful coast to extinction. While the college didn’t exactly give us a fighting chance, we were under great pressure as individuals to fight back in every way that we could. Due to the age of our faculty, we were all at that stage in life where access to medical care is not a future need, but a current everyday need. All of us had some sort of chronic medical problem that required medical attention.
So instead of embracing the change in our lives, as the college kept telling us that we should, and moving on, we were all in this situation where we couldn’t give up our jobs. So we fought to hang on to them. What the college did in response was pick us off one by one until their mission was accomplished. Here’s where cynicism came into the equation.
One of our “benefits” from the State of Texas was that if we were still employed by the college, and had been for 11 years, when we reached our 55th birthday, we could keep our health insurance until we got to 65 and got on Medicare. Now, that seems pretty straightforward, but that’s not exactly how we were told it worked. We were led to believe that even if we left before we turned 55, as long as we had 11 years with the State in one way or another, we would be able to get back on the insurance program upon our 55th birthday. That’s a fine line, but it was an important one.
And the college used that misleading information to soften the blow as they picked us off one after another once we turned 54. I know that may sound as though we were sure a bunch of dummies not to realize what was going on, but the college maintained the upper hand all along.
As each of us reached our 54th birthday, we were notified that we were to be terminated at the end of that school year. We were summoned to the Administration Building at the end of the school year, after we had each gone our own way for the summer, where we were informed that we would be losing our healthcare benefit forever due to the fact that we were not yet 55.
In stunned disbelief, the early recipients of this ill-treatment at the hand of their long-time employer sought legal assistance. The college quietly settled the early claims extracting an agreement of silence, leaving the rest of us in the dark as to what was coming.
Those who remained tried everything to revive the sinking program and secure our futures to no avail. The clock ticked unmercifully on toward our future in the unemployment line. But we didn’t know that we were going to lose our healthcare benefits at the end, so we were far more cooperative in the “teach-out” and the wind down, only to be greeted with the truth when time ran out for us.
I was the last to go, and I sat there stunned when told that I was 10 months short of receiving the health care for life benefit I thought was coming. And just like that, it was over. No job. No much-needed healthcare benefit. And the winner was not only the college itself, but also the Republican Government in Austin which saved the money on our healthcare benefits.
I was denied my VA benefits when I went there, another big surprise. But fortunately, I was able to get on my wife’s healthcare plan where she worked, which we lost a year and a half ago in a similar situation. Eventually, I did get into the VA where I get my health care today, but my wife, a cancer survivor, is totally without access to affordable health care.
And did I hear some cynic say, “COBRA”? What a bunch of bullshit that program is. For those of you yet to experience the greatly heralded benefit extended by Daddy Bush where you can keep your healthcare insurance for up to six months if you lose your job, let me explain that one to you. You can keep your health care, if you can afford it.
When I left the college, I could have extended my health care for six months at a cost of over $600 per month. To give you an idea of how ridiculous this really is, my monthly unemployment benefit from the State of Texas during that same six months was around $1300. By the time my wife lost our insurance a year and a half ago, her plan could have been extended by us for $1400 per month; her monthly unemployment check? Approximately $1350. What a deal!
The big point I would like to make here is the fact that my colleagues and I felt pressed by necessity to hold on because of medical considerations to jobs that we should have let go of. The fact is that Mrs. Jack was in much the same situation where she worked. We both had some opportunities at the time to take some lesser jobs with no healthcare benefits, but we did not feel safe in doing so.
Here’s where the evil socialist Europeans have it all over the citizens of the free-trading beacon of capitalism we enjoy here in America. When things go bad, they don’t have to feel the fear-induced mental depression that we are going through. They know that they and their children will still receive health care, and the schools will still be there to train them for a better future.
Here in the US, we have nothing but the hope that the same greedy idiots who got us into this mess will somehow be good people and get us out. How laughable! But, of course, nobody is laughing. We’re all scared to death. I read it in blogs from the left and the right.
The unfettered capitalism that the Republicans have championed for 30 years has turned around and bitten us in the ass, and the same people who unleashed the beast tell us we can’t afford to go to the doctor. Is this any way to run a country? I think not! Our auto industry is floundering under the weight of healthcare costs for its workers, while our competitors in Europe and Japan are free from that worry. How can American industry compete with an industrial model that keeps that burden off of its manufacturers? It can’t!!
It’s long past time to face the truth about unfettered, unregulated, free-market capitalism. It is not working for our people. After all, wasn’t our nation founded on the principle: By the people, for the people? That’s what I remember from elementary school all those years ago. Isn’t it time for our elected officials in Washington to consider the people instead of their vested contributors and their lobbyists? Yes! It’s way past time!
HEALTH CARE FOR THE PEOPLE!