"That is a good idea, but it is a new one, and we fear it, so we must reject it." - Lothar of the Hill People
There are few things on heaven and earth that I am an expert on, and I will not suppose that health care is one of them. However, since the rest of the country seems to be weighing in on the subject with much the same credentials, I figured the time is right.
Perhaps this is no true coincidence, falling squarely on the day we all take a break from our work to go buy mattresses: Labor Day. National health spending is expected to reach two and a half trillion dollars in 2009, accounting for seventeen point six percent of the gross domestic product. Here are some more fun figures: Sixty-two percent of all bankruptcies filed in 2007 were linked to medical expenses. About one and a half million families lose their homes to foreclosure every year due to unaffordable medical costs.
Anecdotally, the company that I used to work for, an employee-owned corporation, had one of the most incredible health care and benefits package you can imagine. They would pay for your gym membership. They paid for acupuncture. They paid for substance abuse and rehab programs for a number of our employees. They picked up the tab for my son when he was born. We even got cookies every Friday. It was awesome. Now they're gone.
It would be simplistic to say that the cost of those Friday brownies and gym memberships were the only thing that did us in. But I know that, as my teachers' union continues to negotiate a new contract, the cost of health insurance is right at the top of the pile. Just as it is with just about every labor negotiation for the past twenty years.
Back when I owned a corporation, or a part of it, there seemed to be an obvious connection between the relative health and happiness of the employees and the bottom line of the company. Sick and injured employees aren't as productive as the healthy ones. Keeping them healthy is just getting too darn expensive.
Like many of our legislators, I have not read the entire health care bill, and even if I did I suspect that I would still need a certain amount of clarification and tutelage before I felt comfortable saying that this is the solution to all of our problems. But I don't think that I would feel comfortable crossing my arms and holding my breath and hoping that the whole mess would go away. I understand the reticence of some who would rather not pay for other's tumors. I can remember grumbling about the second time we all had to pony up and pay for one guy's second trip through rehab. I can also remember the relief I felt when I got food poisoning and had to go to the emergency room for rehydration after consuming "the last piece of lasagna." It's good to know that when you fall, there's somebody there to help you back up. America's Health Care System is broken. We need to fix it before the "death panel" shows up and pulls the plug on all of us.