February 27, 2014 by wcobserver
Special to the Observer by John Ford -
Normally I avoid discussing controversial topics or talking politics or religion with people. Minds are made up, opinions cast in stone, the state of political discourse toxic. Instead of working to better the human condition, our leaders take care of the fat cats who write the checks and play a game of divide and conquer. And, it works. A lot of people are angry with a lot of other people. The decibel level is maddening. A lot of us seem to be convinced or our superiority due to our own good fortune. Or maybe that’s just the way we like to think of it because we’re afraid of what could happen to us. There but for the grace of God go I…
One of the conversations we all seem to be having lately is about access to affordable health care. We all have an opinion on the situation and we all have a personal stake in it, whether we admit it or not. It weighs heavily on my mind lately as I have a friend in dire need of health care. . A joyful, talented, kind, loving, wise and beautiful twenty two year old young lady name Genesis. I reluctantly hired her six years ago while managing a business in Texas. She came in one day and said she wanted to work, after school and on weekends. Having no interest in babysitting a spoiled Texas teen, I made a vague commitment and blew her off. She persisted. I relented. She turned out to be the hardest working, loyal,talented and dedicated employee one could ever hope to employ. Not to mention fun, smart, happy and full of life!
Genesis never has had many breaks in life ,being born to a single mom who works two jobs and with not a lot of extras that many of us take for granted. But hopes and dreams and talent make up for any hardship. The world was her oyster! Until last year when she went to the emergency room with a swollen arm, that was diagnosed as a blood clot, that turned into a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect. Which turned into a crisis because she did not have health insurance. A crisis that translates as; “I am twenty two and may not see twenty three because I have no health insurance. I may never have a successful career. I may never date. I may never dance. I may never marry. I may never have children. I may never know love. I may not be alive next year.”
Today as I write this, my twenty two year old friend Genesis is in the hospital in Texas getting another heart catheterization and numerous tests so the doctors can come up with a definitive plan to save her life. The plan is to perform open heart surgery and quickly. Last year this would not have been possible as Genesis had no insurance. No matter how many visits to the emergency room, no matter how many visits to cardiologists, the diagnosis was-no insurance, no surgery. Forget Medicaid, forget any charity, it just was not going to happen. No tickie, no laundry. That changed when my young friend conducted an online fundraiser and raised enough money to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Health Care Act. She got to purchase insurance even though she had a pre existing condition. She gets to have life saving surgery. She gets to live.
The Arkansas State Legislature may convene again in Little Rock and may vote again on whether to fund the expansion of Medicaid that would make affordable health care a reality to an estimated 200,000 Arkansans. Some 80,000 plus Arkansas citizens who now have this insurance will loose it if this bill is not funded by a handful of legislators who are holding out. Many of these legislators need not worry about having affordable health care. Their circumstances are such that their access to health care is a given. They have great paying jobs or family to take care of them. Some are able to even finance their full time businesses with government funds while telling the rest of us to buck up and take care of ourselves. One prominent warrior in the fight to end the expansion had the gall to hold an election fundraiser with medical industry lobbyists while the Legislature was in session last week . Government to the highest bidder. She has hers and the rest be damned.
I think it is important when we have these discussions that we remember that lives are on the line. It is not an abstract concept. It is about countless people who need medical care to stay alive. It is about my young, dear, sweet friend who deserves to live. There are real consequences in denying people affordable health care. My wonderful, young friend gets to live. She gets to have dreams. She gets to live!