Arguing with the “good”
Someone please explain to me the mindset of a mature woman who calls herself a Christian yet casually opines that she really, really hopes that health insurance reform dies on the vine.
She can’t imagine why regular insurance isn’t good enough for people. The ones who want a public option, she says, are those “Medicaid types.” They don’t work. They’re lazy. They want something for nothing.
She was exercising next to me at our local Curves gym. She’s a friendly woman, talks a mile a minute, is clearly opinionated about everything and, except for her stunning disregard for people who are less fortunate than she is, a kind person. She told another woman there, who’d recently survived breast cancer, that she was looking wonderful and that she and her group had prayed for her.
“Thank you,” the woman said.
Somehow the conversation turned again to health reform. “That Obama,” my Christian co-exerciser said, “he’s all for abortion. Now that’s not something that someone who’s for life can support. And old people! He said he wants to kill old people!”
I’d been quiet up to this point, but I couldn’t let that go.
“President Obama has never said that,” I snapped.
“But he wants death panels …”
“That was a bald-faced lie. All that part of the health care insurance reform bill would have done was to pay doctors for counseling people about end-of-life care and to make them aware that they can decide for themselves now what they want doctors to do should they be unable to speak for themselves.”
“Well, I know he wants abortion.”
“Yes, he supports a woman’s right to an abortion. But he doesn’t encourage it. Why would anyone encourage it? Obama supports abortion but encourages people to act responsibly and use birth control. He wants people to be educated about these things so that abortions aren’t necessary. But they’ll be available as a last resort.”
“Abortion is evil. It’s taking a human life.”
“You have a right to believe what you want. But you have no right to tell me what to believe or to make decisions, based on your beliefs, which affect my life.”
“Well, I don’t think we need health care reform. There’s nothing wrong with our health care system. People from countries with socialized medicine come here for medical care all the time because they can’t get it at home! So what’s so wrong with just having insurance?”
“Nothing, if you can have it and can afford it. But what if you can’t? What then?”
She just gazed at me.
“Look. I was laid off from my job. I lost my health insurance. Not long after that, my rheumatoid arthritis, which had been in remission, became active again. I had to wait quite a while, but I was finally able to get medical care through the Veterans’ Administration, since I’m a vet with a service-related disability. So today my RA is being treated by a VA rheumatologist. I take meds that help, with luck, to keep the RA under control. But if I didn’t have the VA, I’d be up a creek.”
“And not only that. I have VA health care right now, but when I find work again, I’ll no longer be eligible for it. I’ll make too much money. So it’s imperative that I find a job that offers health care as a benefit. And then I have to hope to hell that the insurance company they use will accept me. Rheumatoid arthritis is a “pre-existing condition.” Some of the medications used to treat it are outrageously expensive. The disease is incurable. I might need surgeries in the future. Joint replacements. An insurance provider could deny me right off, or at any time thereafter. And then what do I do? I’m up a creek again.
“When health care insurance reform passes, even if it doesn’t have a public option, insurance providers won’t be able to deny me insurance or drop me because I have rheumatoid arthritis. And if I lose my job again, I’ll still be able to get good, quality medical care.”
“OK,” she conceded. “But the public option is just socialized medicine. It’ll be like Medicare, and everyone knows that’s a joke!”
The other woman, the breast-cancer survivor, spoke up. “I take medications right now that cost $2500 a month. I have Medicare. It covers most of the cost. Medicare covered my mastectomy and chemotherapy. It covered my hospital bills. There’s no way I could have paid for all that. I’d have gone bankrupt. Medicare saved my life.”
The good Christian went silent. So did I. We finished our workouts and, a while later, left at the same time. As we went to our cars I grinned and said, “have a really great day.” She smiled back, told me to do the same, and that was it. Off we went in our own directions.
I’m glad we were able to be civil in spite of disagreeing with one another, in spite of having political views that are, obviously, on opposite ends of the spectrum. I see this woman three times a week at the gym, and I’d rather not have to try to avoid her. I’m sure she’d rather not have to deal with that discomfort, either. Still, as I drove home the whole conversation bothered me more and more.
Because, to my understanding, being a “Christian” means caring about others. It means helping others in need. It means compassion, charity, love. It means doing unto others as you’d have them do unto you. Jesus Christ was full of kindness. He had a special eye for “the least of us.”
I wish I’d asked that woman “what would Jesus do” in regards to health care insurance reform. I’d like to see her try to explain how Jesus would say, “Tough shit. I’ve got mine. Why should I pay for you? You’re on your own, sucker.”
I wish I’d told her that people like her are the reason I have no respect for religion, particularly Christianity – or at least, her version of it. But I didn’t. And maybe, because I went back to being friendly and neutral again at the end of our short time together, she’ll think about the whole conversation today, just like I have. Maybe she’ll even change how she feels about health insurance care reform. Maybe she’ll see, suddenly, how she’s been lied to about everything from President Obama’s birth certificate to the horrors of “socialized medicine.”
I can hope, can’t I? Heh. Jesus would.