Dec 15, 2014

December 14,2014: Thank Lyndon Johnson, Measure in the Details, Because Liberalism Works

On Thursday morning, December 10, my wife suffered her second stroke in 7 years. The first occurred in October of 2007 while she was in the employ of the University of Georgia engaged as the administrative assistant to the Chief Information Officer. The stroke damaged 3 of the 12 main nerve bundles that make up the cerebral cortex, leaving her with some difficulty with motor skills, some weakness, and a propensity for scanning speech to return when fatigued. She soldiered on nonetheless, returning to work within a couple of months and working for an additional 4 years. As the stresses of employment became more and more obvious we were able for her to leave her employment fearing another stroke would surely result if some dramatic changes were not forthcoming. What followed was a period of unemployment and then, when it became obvious that she could no longer work, a claim for disability. In mid summer of 2012 she filed her claim and was speedily granted the benefit after a review of her medical records. Because, for some insane reason, health insurance does not become available for two years she was unable to seek medical care until she qualified for medicare under the social security disability act. Previously there had only been a one year wait but ‘Ol Two-Cows’ extended the waiting period doubling the time one has to wait until on qualifies for medical assistance. So the nation now poses the absurdity of denying medical treatment to disabled persons for two full years. Such is the logical consistency and the compassion as exemplified by political conservatives.

In any case she was able to first get health insurance when she became eligible nearly a year ago with the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, or ObamaCare as it is widely known. This, in effect, reduced the two year wait to see a doctor by about four months. She then qualified for Medicare under the Disability Act. Having insurance she could now seek treatment. 

While it has been stressful dealing with the events of the last days, one would have to ponder what would have befallen us if this had happened a year or two earlier when we had no insurance and could get no insurance given her medical history of ‘prior conditions’? The answer is at once obvious: the resulting expense would have been financially devastating, reducing the household to poverty, facing trade offs between medical expenses and food.

I’ve had the misfortune of encountering many a swine and the larvae of the swine on the internet, as I have commented on various issues of the day. Often I will get some knuckle dragging bonehead who will tell me straight out that taxes are theft, and that no government is the best government. The fool, if pressed, would no doubt reveal that he is in his twenties or early 30's and doesn’t see why ‘he’ should pay for someone else’s benefits. Of course he can, afford this ignorance, or thinks he can, because he is presently covered by his employment or is in pristine health at the prime of his life. What he doesn’t understand, and will make no effort to understand is that we are what he will be. At some point he too will no longer be employed and will have to either insure himself or will have to rely on government insurance.

The experience of my wife is a text book case; a standing justification of Lyndon Johnson and the liberalism that he exemplified. She lost her job at the prime of her productive years not because of incompetence or failure but because she could no longer physically deal with the stresses and strains. Having suffered already a major brain injury (brought on by stress) she was forced from the labor market long before she reached her golden years. Did her employer step up and see to it that she would keep her insurance and, therefore, her medical security? No he did not. The institution did what every employer does in this country, viewing the employee as a commodity, an interchangeable part, much as any piece of office equipment. They simply let her go, and replaced her with someone else, leaving her to fend for herself. This is the situation millions of workers in this country face every day as they are downsized, let go, forced by medical issues to leave the workplace early, or the company simply declares bankruptcy and wiggles out of its obligation to its workforce.

The point should now be obvious. If you are relying on your employment to care for your medical needs you may be in for a rude awakening, especially if you develop a serious, chronic, or end of career illness. Some may step up and do what is right, but most will not and you will find yourself damn thankful that Lyndon Johnson and now Barack Obama have come to the rescue.

When Medicare was passed it cut poverty among seniors by nearly two thirds. There are reasons for that, given that most of what one will spend on medical care occurs in the late stages of life, at a time when one no longer works and is on a fixed income. For this reason Lyndon Johnson set up a government insurance program in which everyone is compelled to contribute through payroll taxes. The program works. It isn’t perfect, but it sure as hell beats the alternative. As someone who has faced the real prospect of an event like this happening with no insurance at all, it is of some great comfort that for the last year or so we have had a measure of security, secure enough to make that ambulance call last Thursday morning. For that I take a moment and thank my stars for Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Ask me why I’m a Liberal? Because liberalism works.

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