Sunday, February 10, 2008

“I need it, but I don’t want to pay for it!”

I liken universal health care (and government in general) to my kids. Back when they were young, we paid for everything. As a result, they “needed” this and “needed” that. It got out of hand, and my husband and I realized we were creating little entitlement junkies. It was time to teach them a serious life lesson about responsibility. We gave them chores that allowed them to earn money for their “needs.” As I suspected, our jaunts to the mall still consisted of those same “needs,” and it was a lovely moment when I reminded them that they had their own money.

“WHAT?” they screamed? “You want US to pay for that Barbie/G.I. Joe with OUR money?” The indignation nearly melted the paint off my car.

“Absolutely,” I replied, enjoying the moment. “This is called fiscal responsibility. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and you have to spend your money wisely. Ask yourself whether you really need this toy. Of course Dad and I pay for your basic needs, but if you want to add one more Barbie/G.I. Joe to the bursting-at-the-seams toy box that’s filled with hardly-used toys, then knock your bad selves out. Only you’ll have to do it with your money.”

“It was a lot more fun when Mom bought all the toys,” they grumbled while deciding they didn’t really need a new toy after all.

And that’s the way I see this push for a national health plan. Spending is a lot more fun when the government can raid our wallets via taxes and garnished wages (if Hillary gets her way) in order to provide something that “feels good” but is structurally unsound. Just like my kids, there’s no accountability or concern for quality. Anyone been through the DMV lately? But where I was able to reign in my kids’ spending habits, we continue to vote in politicians who foster wasteful pork barrel spending so that “the little people” will continue to support them. And they use my hard earned money to do it.

I noticed that when my kids paid for toys with their own money, they took better care of them. They made sure the toys were put safely back in their toy chest, kept clean, and in good working order. Toys that we’d bought were left outside for the dog to eat and barf up on the carpet at three in the morning.

Being a parent isn’t a popularity contest, and I’ve made thousands of unpopular decisions in their lives. But I said no to my kids because I wanted them to understand that they are responsible for controlling every aspect of their lives – that, for example, it’s no one else’s job to ensure that they have medical insurance or even pay for their medical care. If you’re sick, you go to the doctor and you pay for it – just like you do when you buy a new G.I. Joe.

Why on earth can’t we say no to the politicians who promise Coke in the drinking fountains and “free” health care for all? Since it’s “somebody else’s money,” there is no incentive to be fiscally responsible. They’re Robin Hood on crack, and they’re killing our free will along with our overworked ER docs. How long will it take until our ERs become every bit as inefficient as the Department of Motor Vehicles and my kids’ toy box?

And what about the docs? If you listen to the politicians, they are always talking about how doctors “make too much money.” Docs are already making less because insurance companies have decreased their payouts. None of my doc friends went into medicine for the money, but my GOD, considering what they go through to become docs, I think they should make whatever they damn well like. But then again, I believe in a free market and healthy competition to keep spending in control.

In my personal circle of friends, three docs left the ER, and one left medicine all together. Multiply this across the nation, and you have a serious strain on the medical community. I understand that many who aren’t insured aren’t lazy or looking for a free ride. But looking at my tax bill, I find it difficult to contain my frustration and anger. I thought very hard about my future and took special care to get a good education and seek jobs that offered good insurance. When we were unemployed a long time ago, we still paid for our insurance. It ate at our savings, to be sure, but we viewed medical care as vital as breathing. If I worked hard and thought ahead so I wouldn’t be a burden to society, why can’t others? Isn’t this responsible? It’s not my neighbor’s job to see that my kids got their puppy shots and check-ups. And can someone please tell me why I have to pay for someone who’s in this country illegally?

Nothing is “free.” The money has to come from somewhere, and that ‘somewhere’ is our out-of-control taxes. The more we make, the more we pay because it’s our “duty” to take care of those less fortunate. Is it also my duty to pay until my personal money tree has been picked clean?

It’s a given that the government is all too willing to step in and to implement their social programs funded with our sweat. It’s all about control and votes. But I think what bothers me the most is society’s compliance in letting it happen. How many people out there have long forgotten our independent American spirit that believed in making all things possible through our own hard work? We make our lives happen – not the government.

Many are unwilling to take personal responsibility for their lives and expect those who produce to pick up the tab. If you have a cold and fever, do you go to your PCP and get checked out – knowing you’ll have to pay for the services up front – or do you clog up the ER and get treated for free? If you live in any American city, the answer is yes.

In the end, I’m less concerned about the reasons why people have this “it’s your job to take care of me” attitude. I’m more concerned with protecting what little I have remains mine. And my kids? They buy their own toys.


Ami said...

The problem is complicated, which is why Hillary in office scares me.

Yes, it is really screwed up now and government control of medicine will only make it worse.

There will always be people who need some help. Medical expenses of illnesses they couldn't possibly plan for will cripple them. And someone has to do the minimum wage jobs.

It isn't like they're asking for toys. Sheesh, my parents are conservative and won't ask for a dime of help. But I worry about them constantly. Especially when they won't go in for something like pain in the kidney because it usually goes away after a while.

Lynn Price said...

Please don't think I meant to equate medical care with my kids' toys. My intent was to highlight the necessity of personal responsibility and planning ahead for the rough times - something that is in very short supply these days because the government has bred a "take care of me" mindset. There are no comfortable answers to this. But I do know one thing; if government is a major ingredient to any mix, the inevitable result will be lousy tasting cake that makes everyone ill.

Petri said...

You highlighted one very important part in your child's education about personal responsibility. The part that brought you a bit of joy but is also the part no one wants to take responsibility for in National Politics. That is the Temper Tantrum. Learning hurts, your children got through it because in your example you provided a safe learning environment. In the bigger picture learning is risky, because several of those entitled people will learn personal responsibility the hard way, through loss, poverty, and perhaps even death.

The biggest problem that I see with National health care is two fold. 1) How do you take care of the people who were responsible but fell on hard times while not creating entitlement. 2) How do you deal with that person that smoked, drank, and drugged their way into poor health, while deciding they didn't need insurance because they wanted the latest technology or whatnot and now lays dying from their lack of personal responsibility.

I want to help them all, but life is an awful tough lesson.

Lynn Price said...

Thanks for stopping by, Petri. You sound like the typical doc who possess a good heart and talent. You've been trained to do one thing; help heal people, and I can only imagine how frustrating it is to not be able to do that to the extent that you want.

Personally, I wish docs had the right to toss people out of the ER who use them as their primary care physician. I wish they could toss the drug seekers. I wish they could toss those who are here illegally. I wish they could demand payment from everyone who uses the ER. I wish docs would be paid what they deserve and not have to kowtow to some government weenie who dares to say that "docs make too much money."

But most of all, I wish that I could be allowed to keep more of my own pay that I work my south side off for rather than forking it over to the government.

I don't have the luxury of determining who is deserving of health care and who isn't. The government has mandated that I make too much money and shouldn't be allowed to keep so much of it - not when we have those who are suffering (or here illegally). It's illogical that those without are held in higher regard than those who work to fund their health care and education - and let's not forget housing. Is it too long before the government will guarantee a car in every garage on my dime as well? Without us taxpayers, these folks would go suffering.

I'm not saying reform is going to feel good. It's like telling my kids they had to earn money to buy their own toys. It was painful, and they kept begging. But at some point they knew their pleas were falling on deaf ears. They quit begging and started acting responsibly. How lovely if our government would quit pandering to those who are crying the loudest and protect their biggest asset a bit more - those who keep this economy going.

I know, I need to dust off my rose-colored glasses...

Nick Poole said...

This is chronically stupid.

If you are ill with no money you need help. There are no "lessons for my children" involved. Some people are poorer than you. Stop whinging about paying taxes when you are wealthier than 99% of the world's population.

Lynn Price said...

Ah, Nick, lovely to see you again. Yours are the wise words of a government worker. How predictable. I'd like to suggest that you up your meds again. Or resume taking them. And when you're taking those drastically reduced or free meds, be sure to thank that wealthy taxpayer. And please stay out of Litopia. You're a boor.

Nick Poole said...

Don't worry Lynn. Truce has been called. Good luck with Donovan. Love to Shano.

You've got some good new blood there at Litopia. I wish them well.

Amelia said...

Wow this frightens me a lot. Unfortunately not everyone is in a position to be taking the best possible care of themselves. Money and education are factors that form somewhat of a vicious cycle. People are poor. People get sick. People are hit with further medical costs. I am from Australia where there is a free public health system. It breaks my heart to hear of tales in the US where people are bankrupted from medical expenses. I wholeheartedly agree that people should take responsibility for their own health. I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I have time to exercise and can afford good food and alternative therapies. However I acknowledge that not everyone is in this position. People who don't take care of themselves ultimately have to deal with the consequences with their resulting ill health. Why should they have to pay for it also? When I was 14, in seemingly perfect health, I had to go undergo lifesaving surgery to remove a ruptured tumour on my liver. No one knows what the cause was. And at 14 it was an absolute freak of nature to have such an ailment. My parents had private health insurance. But can you imagine what sort of predicament we would have been in if they did not, and public healthcare was not free? It would have cost them tens of thousands of dollars. Who else needs public healthcare? The elderly. Those on minimum wage (which I hear, in the US, is despicably low). Students. Accident victims. It could be you, it could be anyone.

This is turning into a bit of rant but I hope you can see where I'm going with this... Public healthcare is present in most progressive societies and I would hope that any compassionate person would support such a thing.

By the way... it is not 'free'. It comes out of our taxes.