Why the Government Shutdown Makes Me So Mad

1_photoI think about health care a lot. We are blessed with three healthy children – but not so healthy that there haven’t been scares and emergencies. We’ve been to the hospital at least once with each child in the last five years, not to mention the hospital visits to actually give birth.

So I think about health care a lot. Because many families are not as lucky as we have been. Their children need many more hospital visits, or round-the-clock care, or expensive medication taken every day. And that’s expensive, more than they can afford.

I think about medical bills a lot. We are blessed to make the choice to be a single-income family. But that requires some sacrifice, and it requires more when you have doctor and hospital bills to pay, and I’d guess we’ve spent around 50 of the 62 months since our oldest was born paying on some sort of medical bill. Most of our tax returns have gone to paying off doctors and hospitals.

So I think about medical bills a lot – because my income pays them, and because I am lucky enough to have a good job with a good salary and decent enough insurance that cuts down that hospital bill to a manageable burden. But many families – most families – are not so lucky. They have two incomes, or three, or four, none of which provide insurance or salaries big enough to pay for insurance out of pocket. So they don’t go to the doctor, and if their children get sick, they put it off and hope it gets better. But what if it doesn’t?

I think about my kids a lot. I think about what could have happened. When my wife had HELLP Syndrome, and the hospital stocked blood with her type just in case. When it was discovered only because we were seeing her doctor regularly. When we stayed in the hospital for five days because of how long recovery took. I think about that. I wonder what if we hadn’t had insurance? When our youngest daughter was struggling to breathe at 5 a.m. last week, we didn’t think about whether we could afford to take her to the hospital. We still don’t worry (too much) about paying for three days in the hospital and more than a dozen breathing treatments, two steroid treatments and our very own nebulizer and medication to help her recover at home.

So I think about kids a lot. I wonder which of our oldest daughter’s trips to the emergency room with seizures would have bankrupted us if we hadn’t had insurance. Or which of our middle daughter’s. Which is why I get pretty passionate about the subject of health care. Because I really believe it is unconscionable for the richest nation in the world to let children die and their families go bankrupt because they can’t afford health insurance.

And you know what? Maybe the Affordable Care Act is not the solution. We’ll find that out soon enough. I think it will do a pretty good job, but I could be wrong. No one knows for sure. But I think about our many experiences with doctors and hospitals, and I think about other families who aren’t as lucky as ours, and I wonder exactly why trying to fix this problem should be strangled in the cradle. If you don’t like this option, what’s your alternative? The status quo isn’t good enough. Haven’t enough families lost their homes? Haven’t enough children died?

This isn’t a game. These are people’s lives. It’s about more than winning the next election, or retaking the White House, or energizing the base. It’s about children. It’s about families. A group of people in one party of one house of one branch of our government have either forgotten that or willfully ignored it. That makes me angry.

This isn’t an abstract political debate. This is personal. Because I think about health care, and I think about medical bills and, most of all, I think about my kids a lot. And I wonder. What if we weren’t so lucky?

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