“Freedom” and Health Insurance

Anyone remember that scene from, what, Deep Impact (one of the asteroid movies that came out at the same time) , and Tea Leoni is standing with archetypally remote father on a beach waiting for the tidal wave caused by the asteroid? That’s how I feel now that the House passed that horrifying bill worsening health care in America.

(Ok, that also reveals too much about the shallowness of both my brain and how I spent my 20s.)

Some Republican lawmakers think that forcing people to be part of health insurance is an assault on people’s freedom. I can see that argument, and it makes sense in a pure libertarian way. I am not a libertarian.

Perhaps it makes sense if there were an alternative, like everyone in my neighborhood chipping in to provide room and board for a highly-skilled doctor who is an expert at both my next-door neighbors geriatric needs, my other neighbor’s teen-age epilepsy management, and my own rheumatoid arthritis. Yeah, that’s funny, let’s move right along.

Here’s one thing freedom does mean to me: Being healthy.

  • Being able to go outside for a walk on a beautiful day.
  • Being able to pick up my child for a hug (when she wants one, of course, and god knows there are times now when giving her a hug is sooooo embarrassing).
  • Being able to sing without the sharp pain of each intake of breath (RA hits the lungs, isn’t that cool?)
  • Making plans to see friends, knowing I will probably have the energy to follow through on those plans.

Without medical care, all of those things are beyond me.

Here’s another thing freedom means to me: Being able to work where I can and want.

  • Regular readers know I love my job. And surely tenure wipes away all fears of losing job-provided health insurance, right? Wrong. When you’ve experienced long-term debilitating illness, the fear of losing health insurance never goes away. Every time I have changed jobs in the last decade, I have had to change health insurance, which means for a couple of months, while insurers battle with my rheumatologist, I do not get my prescriptions filled, and all those things I said I like to do above, well, I can’t do them.
  • And what if I decide at some point that I’ve given what I can to law teaching? BuellerDo I really want to be the burned-out law professor who mumbles from notes he’s been using for 30 years? No, no, I really do not. But my choice will be between staying at my job and trying something new like building my own immigration practice (forget being able to pay for the health insurance that would be available to me with my pre-existing conditions) or finally writing my not-so-Great American Novel (ditto). So the “freedom” not to pay into Obamacare actually becomes a force that locks me into my job.

Another thing freedom means to me? Freedom to choose to buy affordable insurance.

  • Look, I am writing from a place of about the greatest privilege imaginable: tenured law professor (not official until August, please let me not be jinxing it). And I work with and among some of the least privileged, most marginalized people imaginable, and I see their health crises up close and personal, and know the tangle of problems that happen when emergency room care is the only care they can access, because the law forbids them from participating.* Do they feel free because they aren’t allowed to avail of Obamacare? Guess what: NO they do not.

So, for the “Freedom” Caucus, I want to say, first: PrincessBride.gif

And I want to say, second:

[Unprintable] [unprintable] [also unprintable], you [unprintable] [unprintables].

There. That feels a little better. Now, I better go take that handful of pills that keeps me walking and breathing, thanks to the health insurance that, for the moment, I have.

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*Post coming soon on how “undocumented” increasingly means nothing to me, since all my “undocumented” clients are actually on the slow, broken, slow, complicated, slow path toward having one of these statuses that would qualify them for Obamacare. (Did I mention the path is slow?)