The Reason We Are Still Divided on Health Care Reform
By Cindy Gomez-Schempp
Que Paso columnist
(Originally published in the High Plains Reader August 25, 2009 by Cindy Shawcross*)
I’ve watched and been to several house and town hall meetings about health care over the past year. The news feeds us daily doses of footage from the latest debacle at a town hall meeting. Consistently you see some fighting or angry constituent flinging or screaming something at a senator, representative or other meeting goers. Something else continually resurging at these town hall meetings is the question about whether “illegal aliens” will be getting health care under the new reform bill.
As crazy as these town hall meetings have become, the most outlandish comment/argument I’ve heard thus far is the “illegal alien” one. No, it isn’t the “death panels will decide who lives or dies” or the “we’ll be funding abortions” one either. It isn’t the one about how health care will be rationed, or how seniors will lose their medicare. I’m not even shocked by those who compare the health care reform plan as a Nazi regime ideal or Obama to Hitler. All these irrational arguments are meant to be divisive and most people see them for what they are. They intend to misinform and scare people enough to waiver on what seems common sense – health care available to every American human being.
The majority of those opposed to health care reform, or many other reform ideas which have been offered up during Obama’s administration, are steadfast and unchangeable oppositions. They are based on long held ideals, principals and are honorable to those who hold them. The people who hold them are strongly resolute in their reasons for opposing health care, and while you and I may disagree, you have to respect this as their final word. The batwing crazy arguments we’re hearing like those listed above are not apt to sway any of these constituents, for they already are convinced.
The same is true of those in favor of Obama’s health care reform plan. They too are honorably seeking to sustain their ideals and beliefs. They too are interested in upholding their rights to have their views and be heard. Arguments like “we’re gonna pull the plug on granny” does not sway or scare them.
The arguments like “illegal aliens will get health care” is aimed at the people who are not sure what the hell is true and what isn’t in health care reform. The reality of the underlying argument is “how can you support something that might hurt your sensibilities or trample your beliefs?” If you are not sure, then you should oppose it. Meanwhile, like most people who feel health care reform is needed, sensible people realize everyone’s ideal health care reform bill will not be passed. If we pass a law that we’re not satisfied with (which happens more often than not in the world of politics) can we not change it?
What really bothers me about the whole “illegal alien” thing is this: First, it portrays America as the sort of nation that would deny a human within their borders treatment. This is simply not true. Anyone, illegal alien, foreign student, legal immigrant, foreign businessperson, or tourist can get treated at an emergency room—and has to be by law. We don’t deny any person emergency medial assistance on the basis of nationality. In fact, Americans traveling, working, or living abroad legally or not are also allowed emergency medical treatment in numerous other countries. We would expect that from any nation of civilized people.
Second, there is nothing in the health care reform bill that would allow a non-citizen to participate in national health care coverage—whatever form it ends up taking. Therefore, these ideas are ludicrous on their face. Yet, these words “illegal alien” have such power to create panic, fear and dissent that they are still effective. They’ve been used effectively and divisively in environmental issues campaigns, immigration reform, outbreaks of swine flu and the mortgage crisis. Why not throw them into the health care reform mix? I’ll tell you why.
We should, as civil and uniquely resourceful Americans, be talking about the problems with our healthcare system. We should be debating the real fears about cost, affordability, access and quality; and we should be working on a way to resolve our health care problems. Instead of talking about how to accomplish this as a nation, we are currently spending one out of every ten dollars on health care costs, and are projected to be spending one out of every three dollars in the next ten years when we should be considering wisely how to come together as a nation to give the American people what they deserve and are asking for. We’re discussing Hitler and illegal aliens?! Does this make anyone else sigh and shake their heads in shame or is it just me?
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*Original publication in HPR under the author’s former last name Shawcross and email. Updates to HPR’s website have inaccurately changed the name of the post publisher and date. Original post date listed above.
**Current contact email updated.