An open letter to my government representatives: Don't let us down on health care reform

by Aengus Cargo

Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, Senator Bennet, Senator Udall, Representative DeGette:

As we all know, the nation has been alive with discourse of all flavors over the current state of the health care system and the insurance industry. Recently, Senator Baucus has brought forth his proposal, dubbed by some critics (rightly so, in my opinion) the “Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act.

Please listen: The very reason we need the government to intervene is because millions of us have a Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. Private industry has already proven that it cannot be trusted to look out for its bottom line and simultaneously safeguard and maintain the health of the American people, even if some of us are misguidedly rallying in the streets against our interests at the urgings of their preferred Chicken Littles of media and industry.

It is my belief that what needs to be accomplished is the affirmation of every American citizen’s right to a basic level of health, security and well-being above a private company’s right to make a profit, which it currently does in part by conveniently discounting and disregarding its customers’ human rights at its whims. Private insurers need to know, as my mother would say, that “your rights stop where another one’s starts.”

Legislation that hands millions of new customers directly over to health insurers, who have made clear that they give their profit motives precedence over honoring their commitments to their policyholders, sometimes with deadly consequences, is simply a conversion of taxpayer money into more income for the industry and a tacit acceptance of its horrific business practices.

As a taxpayer, I have no qualms about the cost of health care reform–I consider it our duty to one another as citizens, as a community, and as a nation. How do you think it looks when Washington puts us all further in hock frivolously throwing money down the toilets of the banking industry, tax cuts for the rich, and Iraq, to cite a few recent examples (our last president tried to flush Social Security as well), and then tries to tell us that we’re not entitled to a health care system that won’t be tainted by continued rewards to an industry with no reservations about flipping us the middle finger and leaving us for dead when we dare get sick? Why are regular people being taught to accept the ever-growing obligations to war, to creditors, and to failed industry, and at the same time not to make an across-the-board investment in one another as this nation’s human capital: workers; thinkers; doers; entrepreneurs; taxpayers; human beings?

I am free to help pay your medical bills, and those of my grandparents, and for those of us in states of extraordinary need, but not for a system that’s going to be there for me, free from the tentacles and inflated costs of private interests, even if I don’t have the right job, the right friends, a trust fund, a winning Powerball ticket, or the good fortune to remain healthy and free of accidents between now, at the age of 29, and my 65th birthday, should I find myself again without income or coverage?

Is continued corporate captivity the thanks we are going to get from our representatives for supporting them with our votes and paying for their salaries, benefits and pension plans? We not only sacrifice our own salaries, benefits and pension plans (and for many of us, our homes) for others’ bad decisions and greed, but now we can expect to be groomed to accept some compromise from Capitol Hill that may or may not improve our lives while the jackpots continue to flow upward?

A hostile climate has been created for every working person in this country. We have been told for years by the powerful, privileged and obscenely well-compensated that we are going to have to do things like “tighten our belts” and “weather the storm” (or, as some have called it, the “rough patch”). We’ve individually and collectively been subjected to repeated assaults on our financial well-being, our employment opportunities, our civil rights, our health and our futures by an ever more demanding section of the population so far insulated from what we are truly facing. One can turn on the television and at any given time watch a politician, executive, “industry expert” or news reporter talk about our right to access affordable health care, even though they themselves would never fathom or accept such treatment, as though United States citizens were no better than numbers on a balance sheet or some rogue band of freeloaders trying to burgle the upper class.

We all know who is really being burgled.

Let me tell you something: I don’t care to hear what anybody in a position of privilege has to say unless they have truly done their homework or they have first-hand life experience to back it up. I don’t care if some insurance executive is going to have to postpone the construction of his exact replica of the M.C. Hammer mansion in Dubai if he doesn’t get some additional payoff from the American public. I’ve got skin in the game here, too, and you and the rest of our representatives have the opportunity to come through with flying colors for me and for my fellow citizens. We’re all counting on you, even those of us who don’t know it or won’t admit it because it wouldn’t fit their politics or their way of thinking to do so.

We as Americans need to join the rest of the West in providing each other, across income, party and racial lines, with a guarantee of basic care not as some so-called “middle-class entitlement,” as I have heard wafting condescendingly out of the windpipes of more than one multimillionaire, but as a long-overdue recognition of our needs and our rights, and perhaps the making of amends over the treatment so many of us have endured from entities that have been allowed growing and crippling control over the quality, course, and length, of our lives.

If a strong stand is not ultimately taken on our behalf, it will be a damning and ominous indicator of what this country truly thinks of me, my neighbors, my family, my friends, and the rest of my fellow citizens. I implore you: Keep an irrevocable public option on the table and stick to your guns on it. To be blunt, some of your colleagues absolutely will do their best to beat you over the head with whatever you do, so you might as well make it worth doing in the first place and roll with the punches so that we, as a nation, will come out better for it. I don’t want something for nothing, as the elites would put it–I want something better for what I have put in and will continue to put in, and the people of this nation have more than paid for it in service to their employers, their families, their communities, their country–and some with their lives.

Thank you,
A. N. Cargo
Denver, Colorado (CO-01)

16 replies »

    • Jeff, would it be unfair of me to summarize thusly?

      A lot of us believe that we’re all in this together and we have to act accordingly. You believe that all is well as long as you got yours. I mean, not to be harsh, but at the core of the philosophy, that’s about it, isn’t it?

  1. Sam,
    Whatever I have gotten is by my own abilities, very hard work, and willingness to accept risk. I could lose it all tomorrow and that would be tough for me, but I wouldn’t be begging for government handouts. While you might think that you have a morally superior position, you don’t. What really surprises me is that you all are fooled by this manufactured health care crisis, which is just a diversion to take your eye off the ball of what’s really happening. It’s a shame that seemingly intelligent people like you are having your “compassion chains” pulled by a group of elites that really doesn’t give a fuck about you. You’re being played like an audience of David Blaine and don’t even realize you’re being played. At least I’m honest and look after who really counts….myself and my immediate family. I’m not smart enough to engage in the lofty rhetoric of this stupid health care debate, as I’m concentrating on the real issue that matters, and ensuring that we’re protected and hedged against the upcoming cataclysm that none of you seem to be aware of. You are watching a three card monte game and have lost sight of the queen, but haven’t figured that out yet.

    • Jeff,

      Ummm, have you been paying attention at ALL? If so, how in the fuck have you concluded that all of us simple-headed librul doofuses aren’t concerned about onrushing economic cataclysms? Seriously? Because I recall being terrified about said econoclysm six or seven times a day.

      I’m happy that for some people the health care crisis is nothing but lofty rhetoric. It’s a shame, though, that too many of us are one middling accident away from complete and utter financial ruin. For me, and for too many people I know – and know personally – the problem is anything but philosophical. Like a guy I know who, through no fault of his own (and with zero warning whatsoever) lost his job a couple of weeks ago. And his boss – a guy who “creates wealth” and “accepts risk” and who has worked my acquaintance 70-80 hours a week for the last decade in exchange for providing insurance that will cover some of the guy’s autistic son’s care (I’m trying hard to steer clear of words like “extort” and “strongarm,” although it isn’t easy) – yanked that coverage as quickly as possible. And now my friend honestly doesn’t know if he’ll ever be able to get coverage for his son again.

      But his boss – he got his.

      Point me to the part where I, or anyone else here, suggested that we trusted a bunch of elites who don’t give a damn about us (because I can show you dozens where we say the exact opposite). Show me where we don’t realize we’re being played. On the contrary, Jeff. What we really believe is that we’re being played daily, and that the game is rigged. We’d kill to be able to take care of our families. We believe that those elites are … well, I guess we believe they’re a lot like you.

      The most accurate thing you’ve said here – and perhaps anywhere – derives from this construction: “people like you…” You seem to believe that we are people of a certain type, and that this type is not like you.

      In that, I’d say you are fundamentally correct.

  2. Has nothing to do with the Mayan Calendar. If you had any prescience, you’d figure out what I’m talking about, as it’s staring you in the face. Instead, you buy the government’s story hook, line, and sinker.


  3. Sorry I’m late to the party here, gang.

    I bite, Jeff. What’s the health care reform discussion distracting us from? Enlighten me on the cataclysm?

    I mean, I understand that this is manufactured to the degree that the government and media tell us when they’ve deemed something important enough to deal with and exactly how important it is… but if this is the time when we’ve got the right people in office and the right conversations in the public square, and they’ve decided to listen and DO SOMETHING about it, might as well strike while the iron is hot.

    I have a hypothetical for you (and this is assuming you have insurance coverage — adjust accordingly if you self-insure).

    Say you are in a grocery store parking lot, carrying groceries to your car. Ten minutes before, a deranged man a mile or so away hijacked a bus that was being test-driven by the local transit authority to test new experimental bus tires with special swirly treads that–I don’t know–increase gas mileage–that part’s not really important. What is important is that this man will barrel down the road towards your grocery store after he’s figured out how to use the controls.

    You turn and see the bus coming towards you, but not soon enough. You throw the groceries out of the way and almost get away, but are hit by the front driver’s-side corner of the bus, slide along the side and fall. Most of the bus’ rear wheel misses you, but in a cruel twist, the gummi worm-like treads mangle your hands. You’ve also got a broken rib, a dislocated shoulder and a broken leg.

    Your fingers, to which a nurse’s unauthorized cameraphone shots for their Internet forum of choice will attest, resemble a Kindergarten art project. Like, post-Chernobyl candy canes. They can be returned to reasonable finger-like appearance and function with months of reconstructive surgeries, painkillers, and physical therapy. As if it wasn’t enough that clicking a mouse button and typing weren’t painful and restrictively time-consuming once you are released from the hospital, the post-traumatic stress and effects of the medication render you unable to focus for any reasonable period of time on researching and executing trades, even with your wife’s help at the terminal. The numbers don’t come as easy as they ought to.

    Compound that with the stress of dealing with repeated calls, letters and faxes to and from your insurance company while also using your savings to chip away at emergency room, surgeon, pharmacist, physical therapist and mental health therapist bills that pile up because your carrier keeps coming up with bullshit reasons to not cover them, part or all. They say you didn’t call ahead before being admitted to the hospital (you were unconscious for the ambulance ride). They say you didn’t get a referral from your primary care doctor before starting your physical therapy. They say you’re not entitled to reimbursement for your counseling because you didn’t use an in-network counselor (and just for fun, let’s throw in that the counselor IS in-network, but they’ve got her name misspelled in their system — won’t stop every CSR you talk to from continuing to tell you they can’t find her file). They say they’ll only cover generic painkillers. They say the surgeon used the wrong stitch to close up the initial wounds. They say you didn’t need all that saline.

    Eventually the collection calls start. You and your wife diligently file every record of every payment you make towards the bills so that you can eventually submit them for reimbursement once/if you finally convince your carrier to pay.

    One thing’s for sure, though: The providers are getting sick of waiting for their money, and eventually the surgeon tells you that the next procedure will have to be cash up front. And just for fun, let’s say that you won’t have had enough stockpiled to do much else than make payment plans with the hospital’s billing people, the specialists, and pay cash for the PT visits and pills. After all, you foresaw eventual cataclysm, and you were looking out for your family, but you weren’t counting on some asshole you’ve never met doing something reckless that took away your ability to support yourself and your family in the meantime, nor did you think that the free market would give you so much shit when you needed it to come through for you. You’ve more or less been told to go fuck yourself for every reason they can find after an exhaustive audit of your medical records to find possible unreported pre-existing conditions. Barring those, they’re still rejecting claims on the basis of technicalities, coding errors, and tea leaf readings done by random people in cubicles. You’re lucky that they didn’t find a way to retroactively pull your coverage and become another of your growing pile of creditors for whatever payments they’d actually made.

    It comes to pass that you’ve used up your savings, you can’t make a living and you live in constant pain. Your relationships begin to suffer. You might get a settlement from the bus company plus those legal fees that promise to pile on when you get them in court. The insurance company won’t budge unless you sue them, the bills are piling up, and in the meantime you’re eligible for SSDI.

    Your move.

    (Adjust for taste due to my documented love of hyperbole and the obvious amount of fun I had writing this, but yes, situations like this befall people regularly)

    • But Nick, if an insurance company behaved that way they’d be out of business. Since we have a free market, you’d take your business to one of their competitors and all would be taken care of.

      Didn’t you read Rand at all?

  4. You really just don’t get it.

    If you don’t see what’s coming, and I do, why should I give it away for free on a blog?

    If you would have ever read any of my off the cuff opinions on this blog regarding the state of the markets(wheat, oil, dollar, equities), and acted upon them you would have made a more than tidy sum. However, everyone has excuses that they don’t have money to invest because of the evil, dastardly Republicans……

    I would think that the sagacious, prescient minds in this forum would have what I’m talking about all figured out….after all, you all have answers for everything else……

    Oh wait….personal responsibility…..I forgot…….. that’s supposed to be a collective thing.


    • If you would have ever read any of my off the cuff opinions on this blog regarding the state of the markets(wheat, oil, dollar, equities), and acted upon them you would have made a more than tidy sum.

      But Jeff, you’ve made clear on at least two or three occasions that the markets you’re talking about are places where no amateur (that’d be us) should ever go. Seriously, I’m just repeating what you’ve said. If you’re to be believed, us taking your advice would leave us completely fucked, if we aren’t already.

      As to this: If you don’t see what’s coming, and I do, why should I give it away for free on a blog?

      So if we’re standing on a corner and a bus is coming, and it’s about to run you over and I see it but you don’t, why should I warn you? Is that about it?

      See, I have an answer to that question. I’ve read my Donne and I think he was right. Which is why I’ve spent so much of my free time here at S&R doing my best to give away, for free, whatever advice and wisdom I might have that might help someone else.

      Those are my values. Thank you for sharing yours.

  5. Sam,

    Just go on with your ignorant bliss and trust the government….after all, they’re there to protect you, as you’re incapable of doing it for yourself.

    • Jeff: If you’ve read what I’ve written over the past couple of years here and can somehow see “bliss” in it, all I can say is that you’re worse off than I could ever have imagined. And if you think I trust the government, you need to be locked away for your own safety. The thing you can’t seem to track is that I trust the corporatists even less. It ain’t either/or. One can mistrust both, and if one is paying any attention at all, that’s what one does.

      Government’s biggest problem right now is that it has been assimilated by the corporatists. Which is to say, we rapidly find ourselves knee-deep in foolishness when convince ourselves that the government and our corporate power complex are different things.

  6. Slammy —

    Oh, of course. Being stonewalled or kicked out on the street outright by one’s insurance carrier and rendered moot by the credit agencies and persona non grata among the very people charged with healing you is exactly what makes our health care system the BEST IN THE WORLD™. All you have to do is march your happy ass over to a new insurer who will be more attentive to your needs and happy to take a customer off a competitor’s hands.

    If you don’t have an eight-figure net worth and/or at least one giant burlap sack full of $100 bills waiting for proper allocation, it’s your own damn fault when you do something stupid like get hit by a bus, suffer a stroke or get diagnosed with cancer… something you’re obviously doing on purpose to go on vacation disability and be a burden on society.

  7. I’m not sure just what Jeff os defending, except maybe his right to be selfish (which I wouldn’t condemn), but let’s be clear about who the enemy is: it is the corporate power structure. Right now while millions of us are screaming from our own little worlds, the lobbyists are on the phone with our representatives. And no matter what we say, it will never matter as much as the money calls. In an industry (one of many I might add: banking, defense, agribusiness, etc.) that makes literally billions each year, what is it it to them to spend a few million on each of our representatives to fix the game. It’s not Republican vs. Democrat. It’s what it has always been. Those with power against those without power. And, as has been done for centuries, they will do whatever it takes to keep it. Is that what you defend, Jeff? Have they so brainwashed you that you don’t even see the enemy before you? Take heart — you’re not alone, dude.

  8. I dont understand why all the attention is being put on insurance companies ? The ins. companies react to the increasing cost of health care. The doctors and hospitals are the ones raising the price. The only hedge we have between us and skyrocketing health care cost is the insurance company refusing to pay it and negotiating a price. Have you noticed the cost of prescriptions lately ? the markup is outrageous ! why is nothing being mentioned or “REFORMED” on there end ?

    I find it very interesting that all you see is representation from the provider sector making there point. Which is simply blame the insurance company. Do you know what the differance is in the profit margain between hospitals and providers and insurance companies ?

    The facts are not all on the table and insurance companies are taking the blame for everyone. Regulations should be put on the providers which would in turn cause the insurance companies to go down on price. Our economy is driven by competition ! The insurance companies would force each other down on price and keep them there….

  9. An observation of our times
    by Terry

    I had learned that common sense was needed to survive,
    To help determine right and wrong, for me and mine to thrive,
    To make decisions good for all and not just best for me,
    Allowing us to live as one, forever to be free.

    But, common sense has proven rare and seldom is it seen
    In the hallowed halls of Congress and the rantings of the Green.
    White is white and black is black, no gray is there to share.
    I am right and you are not, no compromise to spare.

    With this in mind and much to do, our leaders start to fuss
    About our country’s destiny and what it means to us.
    About how we are not endowed with brains enough to think
    Of ways and means to fix this land and keep us from the brink.

    About how special interest groups deserve to reap the gold
    While we the people pay and pay, it’s the Government of old.
    There is no “change”, except to find a novel way to take
    The dwindling sum of money that we work so hard to make.

    So, what to do to fix this mess, the question does arise.
    Our leaders think they have it solved, and much to our surprise,
    The money’s gone, the jobs are less and still they spend and spend.
    Is this the kind of leadership on which we must depend?

    “Hold on a sec” the Boss has said, his minions gather ’round,
    “We have the ‘right’ to change this place, our power does abound.”
    With but few words, the die is cast and dreams of what they see
    Have instilled that sense of power in the leaders of the free.

    “With this power, what’s ‘right’ is ours to do with as we may.
    If some should disagree with us, refuse to see our way,
    Then, shout them down, for they must learn what we have come to find,
    That common sense and history mean naught to we, the blind.”

    All those plans from tiny minds who’ve hardly been in charge
    Of anything that made a dime, a business small or large.
    Yet, they know all there is to know about how money’s made.
    They’ll save us all from total doom, but rob our kids in trade.

    To think these few have all it takes to make this country right
    While we the people living here surrender to their might
    Is arrogance personified and ignorance displayed
    And proof their goal is government over citizens betrayed.

    I recall a time before, when government was small,
    Decisions made upon the Hill were good for one and all.
    Now, it seems, the suits in charge, through less than honest means
    Will steal our rights and herd us home, take all that they can glean.

    We will end with nothing left, our leaders have it all
    To give to those who lent support to fuel our country’s fall.
    What does remain is something that you cannot feel or see,
    It’s that ever present memory, what it was to be the free.

    To be fair to all, I must admit our leaders’ fault is one,
    Their heads are firmly planted in that region without sun.
    If they could only see the light and look us in the eye,
    Might they discover honesty is better than a lie?

    We people have a choice to make in what we say and do
    To make our leaders understand we’re loyal, through and through
    To truths that made us great and free, to standards we hold dear,
    But not to debt our children bear through ignorance and fear.

    America’s strength does not reside in Washington, DC,
    But in each and every one of us, it lives in you and me.
    Until the time we stand and shout, “Our leaders work for us”,
    Our fate is clear, our station sure, it’s underneath the bus.

    c. May, 2009