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Why Health Care Will Kill My TV

Chicken Soup for the Worker’s Soul

by SARA MANN

My TV is going to die soon. It will break and I will have to go shopping for another. I know this not because it is making any sort of sound or tuning in and out. It’s not too old. Its inevitable malfunction has nothing to do with the recent digital conversion. No. My TV will break because I am certain that as the health care debate continues I will throw something through the screen. I’m not allowing myself to eat in the living room anymore. I can’t risk a plate going into the face of Lou Dobbs or a glass launching through the table of "Harry and Louise." Health care will kill my TV.

My rage comes not only from a place within me but from my mail, sitting on my desk. It’s based in reality. It saddens me that there is even debate at this time and it saddens me that the debate is simply another tool being used to confuse the middle class. Here are a few questions I have for people watching ads against a public health care option.

Can you choose your own doctor now?

I can’t. I have fairly good health insurance, by any standards. It’s affordable. My co-pays are small but I cannot see a doctor of my choosing. That decision is made for me. If I want to see my doctor I have to be very specific when I make the appointment. If I am scheduled to see him for the flu and we discuss my knee the appointment is not covered by my "fairly good insurance". I have to call my insurance company before I go to the emergency room to make sure my visit will be covered. I have to make sure that if I have an emergency it’s near the hospital my insurance has designated as my Primary Care Facility… otherwise… whoops! No payment! This is all from someone who has "fairly good insurance".

What about the people with no insurance?

I talk to others about insurance and the story is not the same. I know two people, in their sixties, who are without health insurance. Both of them are unemployed. This isn’t because they have no skills. One is a union electrician! They tried to survive on COBRA but after nearly losing their home they simply couldn’t afford their health insurance. When there is no money there is simply NO MONEY. Now they are terrified of being sick. Everyday is a stressful reminder that they simply can’t afford to live.

Government will make health decisions for you?

Who makes your health care decisions now? I dare anyone with health insurance… bad, good, excellent… any health insurance, to go get a cat scan. Women, go get a mammogram. Men, go for a colonoscopy. It won’t be covered. I guarantee it. No one with private health insurance makes their own health care decisions. Dot your I’s. Cross your T’s. It won’t happen. Sure, most of that mammogram or colonoscopy will be covered if you’re of a certain age, if it’s a certain time of year, if you go to a certain facility or if the moon is in line with Jupiter. Sure, there’s a chance it will be covered but it’s not by your choice. Keep in mind the individual working in that tall black building downtown somewhere has every incentive to find a loophole on your form. They have every incentive to deny your claim.

Who would you rather make health care decisions?

Health insurance, public or private, only works as a collective. We all pay in so some of us can take out every now and then. That’s how it works. Because of this we must concede that somewhere down the line someone is going to have to make a decision on the insured’s behalf. It is inevitable with so much money and so many different cases involved. That being acknowledged I think we need to ask ourselves this very important question: Would you rather have officials, elected by the people, help to make decisions for the people or would you rather a CEO (who stands only to profit) make decisions for the people.

I prefer the elected officials. If they make bad decisions let’s just get them out of office. There’s a lot of talk about the inefficiency of government. We forget that we are the government! We hold sovereignty. Each time that we believe or fall prey to these ads suggesting that government does not work we hand another piece of our country over to corporate America. Only… be careful. Corporate America is not really even corporate "America" anymore. It’s corporate-China. It’s corporate Mexico. It’s corporate Bangladesh. These companies that apparently care so much for our health care system and care so much about out autonomy as patients don’t care enough about us to keep our jobs here or to even keep their money here. They are here to funnel it out, into international investments and cheap labor. They are not advocating for your rights as a worker.

This brings me to the popular book series, Chicken Soup for the Soul. Anyone who has ever walked past or into the inspirational or self-help section of a bookstore knows about these heartwarming little books. The books are compilations of stories and anecdotes relating to a certain profession or perhaps a certain stage in life. I’ve seen Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Teenager’s Soul, and many others. The stories in these books are always feel-good. The title describes them perfectly. One reads them and feels warm and comfortable. They are full of light-hearted, feel-better tales, kind of like a warm bowl of homemade chicken soup.

I suggest that corporate America is putting out a gift book of their own: Chicken Soup for the Worker’s Soul. It’s warm. It’s caring. It’s wrapped up in a patriotic book jacket and flying off the shelves. It’s delightfully full of crap. They want us to believe this is non-fiction. They want workers to believe that we’re all the same, on the same side- wall street and main street, those who shower before work and those who shower after work. The tales they fill this book with are outlandish and exceptional stories of women who could not get medical treatment in Canada, people in Sweden who are forced to travel for flu vaccines and elderly people being denied treatment because of their age. It’s a perversion of comfort to be sure. The anecdotes are scare tactics but Americans are buying it up. It’s a best-seller, marketed as inspiration.

Chicken Soup for the Worker’s Soul. It’s a nice idea but sew it on a pillow or put it in a greeting card and leave us to do the work that so desperately needs to be done. Meanwhile, I will walk away from TV and try to stick to something a little less inspirational, a little less warm and comforting, like reality.

SARA MANN is a Chicago-based flight attendant for a major airline and lives in her  hometown of Rockford, Il. She can be reached at sara.mann@hotmail.com