An epiphany occurred during a recent oil change and with the help of my auto mechanic I think I may finally have a grasp on the health care crisis.
"While we were under the van we saw something"
"Saw something?" I say to Bill. The name Bill was embroidered on his shirt above the oil smudge.
He clears his throat. "Transmission fluid."
"Transmission fluid?" I echo back. My faltering voice confirms Bill’s suspicion: This lady don’t know nothin’ about cars.
"Is it fatal?" I ask, knowing my ten-year-old van has already lived past its 200k-mile expiration date, plus it already survived one transmission transplant, could it survive another?
Bill informs me that I should have a warranty on the second transmission. Whew.
All I have to do is unearth the piece of paper from the glove box, file cabinet, trunk, miscellaneous drawer or wherever else deemed appropriate for the "I’ll probably never really need this piece of paper" papers.
I’ll spare the details of what happened next and just provide a few mental pictures: Contents of glove box, file cabinets, trunk, and miscellaneous drawers strewn in every direction. On a positive note, my son found his other shin guard.
As I write this my mini-van sits in a garage with its innards in pieces. Will it ever be the same? Bill only knows, but that isn’t the point.
The point is that what could have been a simple transaction between Bill and I got a little complicated, but compared to the current health care system finding a lost receipt was easy.
If this were the current health care system, the more tests Bill ran on my mini-van the more he would have gotten paid, and if Bill found a problem, he wouldn’t have been able to fix my van until he got authorization from my insurance company.
If this were the current health care system my insurance company would have people whose sole job it was to look for loopholes and small print so that they wouldn’t have to pay for my transmission transplant.
If this were the current health care system my premium would keep going up. According to Harper’s Magazine, since 2002, the average insurance premium has gone up eighty-seven percent all the while the insurance companies’ profits have gone up 428 percent.
If Bill the mechanic had increased his fees that much in such a short period of time, no one would be getting a new transmission. This probably explains why seven out of ten people bankrupted by medical bills had insurance.
If this were the current health care system both Bill and I would be asking for a system that allows Bill to do his job (fix cars) and me to do mine (drive kids to soccer and piano in said fixed car.)
If this were the current health care system, we would have folks telling us we don’t want reform.
We would be told if the system gets fixed Bill’s income could be cut in half and his taxes might go up another twenty-five percent.
We would be told if the system gets fixed, the government, not Bill, could decide when the mini-van takes its last group of kids to the zoo.
We would be told if the system gets fixed we risk Canadian style treatment and the most we could hope for would be an occasional lube job. "Do you want to wait two years for brake pads?"
Meanwhile I’m looking heavenward saying, "I just want my van fixed."
I know, I know, health care is more complicated than fixing my mini-van, not to mention more expensive, but we Americans already pay twice the price tag other nations pay for health care, and our government already assumes up to one half of that cost.
Knowing this, it makes me wonder: Is this crisis just about money or about who gets the money?
While the red team vs. the blue team squabbles back and forth like kids in the back seat of my mini-van, it seems a certain party sits quietly unnoticed- a certain party that just made an eighty-two percent profit.
Most Americans agree we can do better than the false choice being offered up, one that says some people won’t get any health care insurance so the rest of us can enjoy the best.
Most Americans agree that those with insurance shouldn’t have to employ insurance lawyers, have bake sales, make phone calls and plead for much needed care because unlike my mini-van, they cannot wait.
Most Americans agree that we are better than our health care system lets on.