I’m afraid of being found permanently unfit and so non-productive as to have no value. I fight to return to my normal tasks, my usual level of output.
My new morning routine: I wake slowly, reluctantly. Eventually, I send my hand to find my cane, sit up and carefully put my foreign-feeling foot in its strange boot on the floor. I search with my still functioning foot for the one shoe that makes me relatively level when standing.
Balancing carefully, I hobble down the hall to the bathroom big enough to hold the handicap seat over the toilet.
Later, I can see if my husband can help me deal with the shower challenges or if I need to stick to a sponge bath for my morning grooming routine. Either takes about four times longer than usual; either leaves me worn out and needing rest.
All comes from a major foot surgery a few weeks ago.
Even so, between my cane and my knee-cart and my handicap tag for the car, I know that my sojourn into the world of the disabled is limited. While there is another surgery still to face, I probably have only six months total without my usual full mobility.
I am genuinely afraid of being found unfit and non-productive
However, for now, I live in a radically different world. It’s frustrating. My lack of productivity bothers me a great deal. Even though my husband lovingly does all I ask, I hate asking. The first night I made it to the toilet by myself, he was appalled–worried that I could have fallen and hurt myself. My response, a semi-joking, “I big girl now. I do it myself.”
I fight to return to my regular tasks, my usual level of output. Deep inside I am genuinely afraid. I’m fear being found “unworthy” or “without quality of life.”
And then I saw this piece about the fact that the Nazis first took out the ill and less physically abled before starting on the Jews. It’s a short and chilling piece. Read it if you can get to it.
If not, below is a short snippet. The author, himself unable to walk because he was born without the normal leg bone structure, is speaking with a neurologist about the Nazi death camps and the use experimentation with the Aktion T4 program.
The neurologist does not know much about what I’m telling him. While he does know that approximately 300,000 disabled people were killed in T4 and its aftermath, he doesn’t know about the direct connection between T4 and the Holocaust. He doesn’t know that it was at Brandenburg, the first T4 site, where methods of mass killing were tested, that the first victims of Nazi mass killings were the disabled, and that its personnel went on to establish and run the extermination camps at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.
Yes, the Nazis practiced efficient killing methods on the less physically and mentally able. They honed their skills there and then went on to systemically exterminate others deemed unworthy to live.
The Graham-Cassidy Bill: cruelly and brilliantly eliminate the unfit and non-productive
And now, the US stands on the verge of following that pattern. I had thought that the need to repeal the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) had burned itself out this summer. The ACA, no matter how flawed it is–and it does very much need repair–has also made health insurance and thus decent health-care far, far more affordable to millions.
The latest replacement proposal, the Graham-Cassidy Bill, is a step down even from the one horrible bill passed by the House in May and the one horrible bill already defeated by the Senate. After an intense search to find an understandable summary of the bill’s provisions, it appears that this one from NPR, comparing the three bills, seems to be the best.
Keep this chilling fact in mind: “States are encouraged to seek waivers that would allow insurers to charge more money to those with pre-existing medical conditions.”
Translation: Everyone might have “access” to health insurance but anyone with a pre-existing condition, that is, any medical ailment for which a person has received either treatment or advice before applying for insurance, can be charged unaffordable amounts of money. That was the genius behind the ACA: the same rates were applied to everyone BECAUSE everyone, including the young and healthy, had to purchase insurance, thus spreading the risk. When only the sick purchase health insurance, the premiums become prohibitively high.
As CNN puts it, Graham-Cassidy:
Loosens Obamacare’s regulations regarding pre-existing conditions: The bill would also waive several key Obamacare protections for those with pre-existing conditions. While it would still require insurers to provide coverage to everyone, it would allow carriers to charge enrollees more based on their medical history. So younger, healthier folks could see their premiums go down, but sicker Americans could find themselves priced out of policies.
The legislation also would eliminate Obamacare’s essential health benefits provision, which mandates insurers cover an array of services, including hospitalization, maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse services. This could lower premiums somewhat and give consumers a wider choice of plans. But it would also make it harder for people to buy comprehensive policies so those with pre-existing conditions may not be able to find coverage that meets their health care needs.
- Alcohol or drug abuse with recent treatment
- Cerebral palsy
- Congestive heart failure
- Coronary artery/heart disease, bypass surgery
- Crohn’s disease
- Kidney disease, renal failure
- Mental disorders (including Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Schizophrenia)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Organ transplant
- Parkinson’s disease
- Pending surgery or hospitalization
- Pneumocystic pneumonia
- Pregnancy or expectant parent (includes men)
- Sleep apnea
Finally, check out the New York Times Summary:
It is hard to overstate the cruelty of the Graham-Cassidy bill. It would eliminate the mandate that even healthy people buy health insurance, end the subsidies that help people purchase coverage and stop the expansion of Medicaid. It would offer states block grants they could use to help people get insurance but would leave people at the mercy of individual state legislatures and, over all, would provide $239 billion less than what the federal government would spend under current law between 2020 and 2026, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Slower and crueler than the Nazi plan
So, here we have it: the elimination procedure will be slower and even crueler than the Nazi program. Our current government, with its GOP majority, has every intention of making sure that the non-productive and unfit, especially those lacking in financial resources, will stay sick and suffer early and needlessly painful deaths.
Yes, cruel. Why brilliant? The legislators who support this will innocently say, “What do you mean, you can’t get health care? Every insurance company in the nation will be delighted to sell you a plan [that will cost 70% of your income and still not cover essential needs]!”
Personally, although opposition to the bill continues to grow, I think it is going to pass. We have taken, as a country, a pivotal move to a near total “Me first” society. Yes, the buzz word is “America First” but all that means is, “no one ultimately counts except me.”
What are our options?
First, of course, make a few phone calls and express your dismay to your elected officials. As always, do this courteously but firmly. Ask for specifics as to how they see coverage working in their particular state for those with pre-existing conditions.
Second, do all you can to preserve your health. Eat right (eliminate sugar especially), exercise, get enough sleep and fresh air.
Third, since health care is central to so many, work to educate yourself as to reasonable alternatives, especially before the next election. Please be aware that the push for a “single-payer” or “Medicare-for-all” plan only means “Government controlled healthcare” and has an even far greater set of problems attached to it than our current broken system.
There are alternatives, but they are all complex. Anyone who suggests there is a simple solution to this mess is either egregiously lying or dangerously ignorant. Don’t buy into it. Change will have to be incremental and well-thought through. Fixing the ACA should be the priority for the next few years. It does work, but there are significant problems with the funding and structure right now.
Fourth, let us examine ourselves and how we have degenerated from some sense of moral world leadership, however flawed, into this moral morass of refusing to care for our neighbors in any way. Remember, once “they” have eliminated everyone else, they’ll come for you as well.
This, in my opinion, is the vital role of the church in this debate. Let us who call ourselves people of faith show in as many ways as we can the importance of the common interest. We, above all, need to tell the stories of the power of the poor, the less physically-abled, the “unfit” of society. We, above all, need to explain what “quality of life” really means.
Fifth, be active players in the political scene. Assuming this does pass, it the 2018 elections can swing this in another direction. Question all candidates about their understanding and hopes for the health of US citizens. Inquire about their knowledge of the stakes involved. If you are one of the lucky ones who will not be negatively affected by this bill, you (and I) carry a responsibility to help those who are affected. Let us do so faithfully and tirelessly.