I was exchanging messages on Facebook the other day with a former Sheridan College student who now lives in Michigan with her husband and two children, ages 4 and 2. She and her husband both work at minimum wage jobs. They pay their bills. They are paying off student loans. Their older son needs extensive dental work. He was getting treated until the government shut down because he qualified for Medicaid in Michigan. His Medicaid was disrupted by the shut-down. It will take 30 days for him to reinstated on Medicaid. Meanwhile his mouth hurts so much he cannot eat much of anything. He is four years old. His pediatric dentist will not treat him unless my student and her husband come up with $400.00 to pay what Medicaid would have paid. Ultimately, they might be reimbursed, but they do not have that kind of cash on hand. I am appalled by this situation.
We are the only country in the developed world without some system of universal health care. A week ago, zealots in our government attached strings to what would have been an unremarkable debt ceiling resolution that they hoped would over –turn the Affordable Care Act. The irony is that I am sure that my former student’s child is not the only one who is suffering because of this short-sighted and dangerous action. The very Americans that Ted Cruz and his cronies said they were helping are, in fact, the ones who are suffering because of the shut-down. Our current system is not perfect, and the Affordable Care Act is not perfect. No system is perfect, but a government that shuts down regardless of the harm it does to its youngest and most vulnerable citizens is beyond irresponsible. It is immoral.
If I could I would send this young woman the money, and I may yet, but that is a small solution to a much larger problem; that is, the partisanship in Washington that does not allow for true governance. When I think about the good that Social Security has done, the good that Medicare has done, it makes no sense not to consider the health and welfare of our youngest citizens. Universal health care is not a “government overreach,” but it is a necessity. The cry that the Affordable Care Act infringes on our “freedoms” rings completely false when we look at a suffering child. When did it become freedom to allow children to suffer for lack of medical care, dental care or nutrition? What kind of freedom is that allows a four-year-old to unable to eat because his teeth hurt too much? What kind of country do we have when we spout abstractions about freedoms but cannot provide the care for our youngest? “Freedom” in this context becomes a totally self-serving word that rings hollow when we know that it was not the children of Congressmen and women who suffer.
I love many things about this country, but I do not understand why we can’t take care of our people. I do not understand why we cannot learn from all the other developed nations in this world. We do not need to have a system exactly like Britain’s or Canada’s, but we must find a better way to take care of our children.