Guest Commentary

Want health care for all? Support this bill!

In the 20-plus years of my adult life, I've been relatively healthy. Apart from trips to the emergency room for stitches and splints after various vestigial Little Boy Episodes--when I crashed my bicycle, caught a line drive with my face, punched the wrong door--I've managed to avoid any serious trouble.

Good thing, too, because my health was insured for only two of those years. I'm sorry to say I've preferred being uninsured, given the choices. Inasmuch as health-insurance companies exist solely to skim hundreds of billions of dollars off the top of our annual health-care costs, I'd rather not pay them one slim dime. But never mind that--my own personal accounting doesn't lie. The grand total of my health care costs over those 20-some years equals what I would have paid in premiums for less than one year. Thus far, I am ahead by a factor of 20.

Today, I remain one of 46 million Americans, and 1 million Arizonans, without health insurance.

But let's make an important distinction: Just because I don't have (or want) health insurance as it is currently configured doesn't mean I don't have (or want) health care. But again, I am sorry to say that my interactions with the mainstream health-care system have convinced me that I'm better off not participating in it. I believe that hospitals are places people go to die; most doctors are at best supremely distracted, at worst disinterested pill pushers; and most treatments will leave you worse off than you were before. I think these conditions can be attributed directly to corporate control of a twisted for-profit system. By necessity, over the years, I have learned to self-diagnose and self-medicate in ways that would impress Andrew Weil.

If the latest New York Times polls are to be believed, your assessment of the health-care system is likely to be almost as depressing as my own. Three-quarters of you believe it's going from bad to worse.

Oh, there was a time of hope about a dozen years ago when Hillary, shortly after her husband ascended to the presidency, holed up with health-care honchos and promised reform. But she had neither the juice nor the will to make it happen. What we got instead was a syringe in the back called "managed care," which amounted to further consolidation of control in the hands of huge corporations.

So, despite my stubborn, heretofore successful health-care regimen, these days, I wonder about my advancing age, my multitudinous moles (some of which appear to grow at times, which is a bit disconcerting, here in the melanoma capital of the known universe) and other potential maladies. And sometimes, I wish I could go get some of those moles hacked off without blowing a couple months of rent. So, sure, I'd gladly accept health insurance, and I'd gladly use it, if I knew that a doctor would actually spend time listening to what I'm telling him about my body instead of filling out reams of paperwork to enrich some insurance company. But where, oh where, can I find such a system?

Um, only in every other industrialized nation on the planet. And they average less than half what we pay, for a system that serves everyone--even sick, poor people (imagine that!). But how, oh how, can I get it here in Tucson, Arizona? Hmm. I could appeal to my elected representatives. In the face of a hopeless Congress (a few dozen Grijalvas vs. 400 DeLays), along comes my very own state representative, Phil Lopes (a District 27 Democrat), with HB2752, a bill to create a statewide health-care system that would cover every Arizona citizen without any new taxes. Don't believe it? Go read the bill yourself.

Unfortunately, Phil's bill doesn't have a monkey's chance in a Borneo forest fire of passing this year, despite a December Arizona Republic poll showing that 81 percent of you want the government to create a system that ensures access for everyone. There will be the usual caterwauling against it, with ominous warnings of "fraud" and "socialized medicine." This argument kills me. It seems that we Americans, apparently based on the lottery-ticket chance that one of us might grow up to be a corporate health-care executive, prefer that our welfare system serve huge corporations instead of the general public.

Could we possibly be that greedy and selfish? Are you that shortsighted and narrow-minded? If not, call Phil Lopes at (602) 926-3278 and thank him, and then ask him what you can do to help pass his bill.

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