The breaking of a national fever
The ACA is very likely to uncover the low-grade fever that has beleaguered our society for several generations and afflicted a wide swath of our citizens.
With the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in principle, with the exception of the Medicare question, the cottage industry of ACA punditry is working overtime on the costs, whys and wheretofores of the act’s legitimacy.
Depending, of course, on the writer’s political bent. One of the elements that is resistant to the think-tank-policy-wonk-political-pundit calculations and prognostications and projections is that infernally damnable one of the simple humanity or quality-of-life effect the ACA will impart.
Much is written and spoken about how much we cannot afford this abomination of legislative and now judicial interference in our otherwise perfectly balanced and equitable society. Not much is written about the subtle but real effects the ACA will have on our citizens, many of whom are so wrapped up in day-to-day survival in an increasingly brutal economy that they may not even realize the changes coming their way. Nor would many of them initially be able to articulate how the changes affect their lives until well into the implementation of the ACA.
There is often a general feeling ascribed to the country by pundits when trying to capture an elusive or definable feeling shared by citizens. We might hear the descriptors “patriotic” or “divided” or “religious” being bandied about to describe as nearly as possible a shared characteristic feeling of the American public. Yet, when the feeling is like a low-grade fever that is always in place but never elevated to the point of becoming significant enough to warrant discussion or recognition by policy makers for action, it can grow incrementally by generations until it saps the vitality of the populace and degrades the quality of life of the entire nation without ever rising to prominence or awareness.
The ACA is very likely to uncover the low-grade fever that has beleaguered our society for several generations and afflicted a wide swath of our citizens without their fully recognizing after a while the deleterious effects. Although difficult to articulate, one way to recognize the affliction is to observe those who do not suffer from the affliction.
To be more clear, since I am speaking of the entire society as a whole, it would help clarify the affliction by observing a society where the affliction has been resolved long ago. Like any affliction, there are side effects to the treatment and cure. The opponents of the ACA will be quick to point out the shortcomings of the cure and treatment, so I won’t need to illuminate them other than to say they are minor.
So what’s the name of this national affliction? Well, that’s the conundrum. I can’t think of a term that encapsulates it’s true nature, but I’ll describe my observation of it compared to societies I’ve lived in and traveled in that do not suffer it:
- It’s the burden of single mothers who strive to provide for their children and, because of a number of circumstances, are unable to secure for them the health care they deserve simply by being children of what many claim is the best health care system in the world, yet are denied even minimally adequate access.
- It’s the burden of hard-working young parents who, in spite of education or effort, are unable to rest secure that their families’ health-care needs will be affordable and accessible when needed.
- It’s the burden of countless American families who operate just outside the margins of corporate security, yet not far enough out to qualify for the spotty safety net that now exists. Who work hard and are honest and good neighbors. Who bear the low-grade fever of always knowing that being a hardworking, honest, decent member of society just isn’t enough anymore to provide basic necessities for their families.
- It’s the exhaustion of a lifetime of operating ethically and honestly just under the threshold of being qualified to obtain health care.
- Part of the fever is knowing that your friends and family have contributed greatly to this country in effort, volunteerism, service to country and yet they don’t enjoy the luxury of decent health care insurance because their livelihoods did not provide corporate benefits and as small shop owners or small independent business owners the cost was simply out of reach.
- Another part of the fever is the vast numbers of good, honest, decent American families who have been financially devastated by major illness that clever actuaries in insurance conglomerates have managed to evade paying for through slick and high-level access to lawmakers who facilitate laws written entirely in favor of the insurance industry.
When ACA lives up to its promise
It is ironic that our wannabe politicians and won’t-ever-go-away permanent representatives continuously trot out the “small business is the back bone of America” story, yet have failed miserably in the past 50 years to make it possible for small business to truly afford comprehensive health-care insurance for owners and employees. That is a slice of the fever not often articulated, but that rubs raw the sensibilities of those who are held up as examples of the American dream while being denied that dream in our legislatures.
When this ACA business lives up to its promise, those suffering from the fever, which is in reality all of us, will see some changes we don’t hear expounded on much. Having seen other societies without the infernal fever, I can tell you a little of what not having it looks and feels like:
- Mothers of small children who have a partner who works hard and is a great father will not have that worry at 3 a.m. that they can’t really afford to have their child seen by a doctor.
- Old folks who have contributed so much to our society won’t have to spend their golden years wondering and worrying if they have adequate finances to keep them in the home they worked so hard to acquire if unexpected or out-of-the-ordinary health problems arise.
- Single mothers who work hard and provide a decent and stable environment for their children won’t have to spend endless amounts of energy searching for adequate health care or health-care insurance for their families.
The list just goes on and on and is not easy to articulate since much of the low-grade fever of a society which has as broken a health-care insurance industry as ours goes unnoticed or unarticulated. But the fever is there, week after week, year after year.
Becoming a much better America
It would be simplistic to suggest that this ACA will bring a resolution to all our issues of health care and health-care insurance and health-care access. Yet, this act will pull back the scrim of that low-grade fever that goes almost unnoticed, and once we as a nation begin to see a bit more clearly how archaic our system of health care is compared to those societies that value human dignity and quality of life and humanity and the common good far more than what we always claim to and never demonstrate… we will have a very good start on becoming a much better America.
The critics will spend countless hours and millions of words decrying this as a socialistic move or the doom of our economy. Yet, the national fever, when it begins to lift, will expose to the vast majority of Americans that it is possible to better the lives of citizens without collapsing civilization. Some will root for success. Some, as we know, will not.
Bernie Digman is a native of New Mexico who has lived in Farmington, Albuquerque, Gallup and Las Cruces, where he and his wife own Milagro Coffee y Espresso, Inc. He’s still an active member of the Las Alturas Volunteer Fire Department and spends time traveling and with their son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons in Minnesota.
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