Friday, July 13, 2007

Until NPR Asked the Questions....

Until this weekend I agreed with a lot of what Governor Mike Huckabee has stood for in his campaign. I didn’t so much mind his position of leaving the issue of gay marriage up to the states. With abortion, I stood by his “life begins at conception, but it doesn't end at birth" line. But when I heard Huckabee talk about America’s health care crisis I realized, finally, enough with the one-liners.

Mike Huckabee recently appeared on National Public Radio's "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook (Listen HERE). The hour-long segment included a conversation with Ashbrook and a short piece with questions from listeners. One answer that Huckabee offered caught my attention: his response to a question from an individual who asked why Huckabee does not support a single-payer system to solve the health care crisis in America (yes, there IS a crisis—CLICK HERE). The Governor's response really put me off and bumped him down on the list of Republican candidates in my eyes.

Mike rephrased the listener’s question and instead insisted that the problem in America is not a "health care crisis," rather a "health crisis." He continued with a barrage of lines including, "we're paying to treat the guy who fell off the cliff instead of putting a fence on the cliff."

I don't agree with everything Michael Moore says, but ‘SiCKO” made me aware of a reality in America where many of our fellow citizens are denied the care they desperately need. Millions of Americans, who experience everything from accidental injuries like severed fingers to a range of cancer types, go untreated because they can’t afford the cost of proper, complete treatment. Even worse, many of these people HAD insurance and the faith that the money they paid companies such as Aetna, Cigna, and Humana would guarantee them care if and when they needed it.

Sadly, I don't think these individuals would see any improvement in their situation under a Huckabee administration.

We were passed by Europe a long time ago with regards to recognizing the need for universal health care...but Latin America?! Check out this quote from 'wikipedia':

Most countries in Latin America have public health care provided. Mexico is planning to launch its own universal health care network...Health care in Venezuela is probably the most extensive and given the country's fortunes in oil wealth, expenditure has recently increased greatly, starting with mass vaccinations.

47,000,000 Americans don't have health insurance. That’s fact. The saddest part of the problem is that while America can boast it’s one of the most compassionate nations in the world because of our tradition of liberty and freedom for all, so many of the important figures in this country are so dug in to positions of small government and lower taxes at any cost that political principle and individualism might win out over the morally right solution—universal health care. I'm firm in my belief that every American should indirectly pay for universal health care for the 47,000,000 Americans that can’t afford it now. Furthermore, such a system doesn’t lead towards a society of dependence and unfair burdens being placed on those of us who are insured; a working-class citizen could fall into poverty by paying $60,000 for finger surgery or a few hundred bucks extra in taxes that would guarantee free health care for their family.

Which option seems more American to you? Should we have a nation where injuries go untreated and sicknesses claim thousands of lives because we won’t all chip in to solve the problem?

Mike Huckabee says that what separates us from the terrorists is that they celebrate death while we celebrate life. Well, 18,000 people die in the United States each year because they can’t afford health insurance and the care they need. I won’t argue that the terrorists don’t celebrate death more than us, but we have got to realize that even a great country like the United States can no longer get by on reputation and tradition alone.

I won't call out Huckabee as not being compassionate, as I think he's one of the most caring politicians out there, at least among the current GOP field of candidates. I do think, however, that he's dead wrong about the actual problem of health care in America.

I have relatives who've fallen seriously ill and have their insurance company refuse to pay for their treatment. Mr. Huckabee, they didn't smoke, they weren't overweight, they didn't do drugs, they suffered because no politician has had the guts to stand up to America's biggest criminals: the insurance industry. 47,000,000 uninsured Americans sure sounds like more than a “health crisis” to me.

(all photos: © 2007 by Luke N. Vargas. All Rights Reserved.)

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