Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
Blame the obstructionist Republicans for slow-walking health care reform to death.
Please indulge me if I've said this before; I have no health insurance. I can't buy it anywhere for any price. I once acquired the help of an insurance specialist whose job it was to find individual coverage for people who were self employed. After allowing her access to my medical records, she assured me that she would find something, only to call back in frustration after a week to refund my deposit. Every company has refused me coverage because of the "pre-existing condition." First, this catch-all phrase of doom was an invention of the insurance industry, and secondly, without Divine, metaphysical insight, how in hell would they know what my condition was before I existed? My personal theory was that my soul was in what theologian Jimi Hendrix referred to as "Spiritland," getting ready to go around that wheel one more time. I think the insurance companies would prefer to believe that if you are dead after life, then you are also dead before life. Therefore, if death is a pre-existing condition, they don't have to insure anybody.
It astounds me that so many people question the president's motives over reforming health care and accuse him of every nefarious scheme except wanting to help the American people and the human condition. The GOP has no plan other than to delay the debate and cry, "What's the hurry," which sounds very similar to Alfred E. Neuman's life's query. But tomorrow, forty million people will either have to pay retail for medical costs, if they can afford it, or use the emergency room as their primary physician, and let you pay for it. For a nation whose good was supposedly crowned with brotherhood, we sure have a heartless and ruthless system to care for the ill, the uninsured, the working poor, and the "least of these, my brethren." And what was my sin that forever disqualified me from health coverage? Several years ago I had an ulcer. It went undiagnosed and grew worse for a long time because my doctor was trying to spare me the expense of an MRI since I didn't have health insurance. The last time I had a chest X-Ray, I was billed for $650. How much was yours?
When I could take no more of mooching expensive prescription samples and pleading for doctor's to give me the "brother-in-law discount," I found that the local Church Health Center, although established to help the uninsured working poor, had an exception for musicians that would allow them to acquire decent health care at a nominal cost. I first had to attend an orientation meeting which was filled with mostly poor people coming straight from work, and fill out forms. God bless these folks for the work that they do, but the greeting meeting came with a healthy dose of Jesus and an emphasis on the importance of faith and building a relationship with God. A line in the registration form asked for "Church Congregation." Since Judaism does not have churches, I technically could have written "none," but instead I put "Temple Israel," to avoid any recruitment bulletins. It is, after all, the "Church" Health Center, and I accept their mission.
The young doctor leading our session seemed to have had a bad day and rather than having everyone take a seat, pass out the forms, and give instructions, He had us make a single-file line and he repeated the same instructions fifty times. He grew impatient with an Asian couple that spoke insufficient English and insisted they return at a later date with an interpreter. The young couple in front of me spoke only Spanish to each other, and I was prepared to say, "Yo hablo Espanol," to help these people muddle through on my bad Spanish, but they knew enough English to receive the forms. A brief lecture followed about 1040 tax returns and pay stubs necessary to verify sufficient work hours, and further instructions and calls necessary before being accepted as an "established patient." We concluded with a tour of the Hope and Healing Center on Union Ave., which is a wellness and exercise facility, with a chapel.
It is a tremendous relief to know that should I become ill that I have somewhere to go that will not financially break me. At the same time, while returning to my car after the meeting, I couldn't help but feel somewhat depressed about the whole thing. My wife assures me that the people who work at the Church Health Center Clinic are the most caring and thorough medical professionals she has ever dealt with and that I will appreciate the experience after my years of dealings with doctor's offices. I feel blessed that this alternative is here and is non-sectarian in the dispensing of medical care. But, as a former child of privilege sitting in a room with the likewise uninsured working poor and the truly destitute, I could not help but feel that I was occupying someone else's place whose life was far harder than mine. If I'm able to afford health insurance, then what am I doing accepting charity? The way the collusive medical/insurance complex is currently configured, desperation over health care knows no economic, ethnic, racial, or religious boundaries. Thankfully, neither does compassion.