SOCIAL SECURITY AND HEALTH CARE
By Uriah J. Fields
Let me begin this discourse with my personal testimony regarding Social Security, i.e., what it means to me. Prior to my sixty-fifth birthday when I applied for social security I had paid into Social Security just long enough to earn 40 credits (10 years) needed to receive a monthly Social Security check.
During much of my employment I was self-employed or employed by a quasi-religious non-profit orgnization that was not required to withhold social security tax from employees. As indicated, during the last ten years of my employment social security tax was withheld from my wages. Since my retirement I have acknowledged many times with gratitude my good fortune in receiving social security even though my monthly social security check amounts to only about one-third of what many social security recipients who paid more into social security than I did for a longer period of time.
One of the benefits of social security for me is having medicare which includes Part B for which I selected and pay a monthly fee. An insurance policy I kept for 40 years escalated from $10 a quarter when I purchased it to $225 a quarter the year before I retired. The benefits remained the same. The first year I received a social security check the cost of Part B was about one-half of the premium I paid the year before I retired. Without social security I would be one of the more than 40 million Americans who do not have health care insurance.
Social Security is a staple for me. It helps me with an income that allows me to take care of my basic needs and live in dignity. For me social security has been a life-enhancer, if not a life-sustainer. There are millions of Americans whose testimonies are the same as mine. My appeal to the President, members of Congress and all Americans is to save social security for this generation and generations to come. Some people say save social security for the next generation, but it could be lost for this generation if progressive-minded people refuse to confront those who want to privatize Social Security. (Remember this year's debt ceiling debate-destruct in the Congress that never happened before.)
Now let me focus on the Health Care Law that is under attack by critics of President Obama and defenders of the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and poor people. The Health Care Law is sometimes referred to by opponents of Obama as Obama Care. I was reluctant to use this terminology, sensing the motive of its expousers, until I heard Obama during a Town Hall say: "They call the Health Care Law Obama Care. Yes, Obama cares. I do care. They do not care." That did it for me. I recalled from my study of church history that the name Protestant was first used by the adversaries of those called Protestants.
The Health Care Law was long overdue. Other Presidents had tried to reform health care without success. The health Care Law will graduallly provide benefits for Americans, including the poor and unemployed. Already, it provides that children with preexisting conditions cannot be denied coverage, parents on most plans can keep their children on their insurance policies until their children are 26 years old, and insurers are banned from placing a lifetime limits coverage and cannot cancel coveage for policyholders who become ill. Another beneft is the establishing a Medicaid federal-state insurance program for the poor that will start in 2014 when the Health Care Law becomes fully-functioning.
But there is a well-funded effort on the part of Tea Party (Fort Sumter Tea Party (1861), not Boston Tea Party (1773) devotees, in and outside of Congress, to repeal the Health Care Law. They are joined by a sigificant number of Republicans in Congress, some Republican Governors, state legislators and state attorney generals who have taken their case to the courts where they have argued that the Health Care Law, especially the portion of it which mandates that all persons pay for health insurance is unconstitutional.
As of mid-August 2011 two of the four district courts have ruled in favor of the opponents of the Health Care Law and one of the two federal appellate courts rulings were in their favor. An appellate judge stated, "Lawmakers cannot require residents to enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die." It seems certain that this issue will end up in the Supreme Court which is expected to take the case in the next term which begins in October and ends in 2012.
Walter Dillinger who served as solicitor general to President Bill Clinton recently told the Senate Judiciary Commitee "There is nothing else in our economy where an indivuidual who has made no preparation can go and get $1 million of goods and services passed on to them at taxpayer expense." No free riders allowed is a health care friendly policy.
The argument that a person should not receive medical care from the Government is a weak argument. The Government requires people to pay taxes, to fight wars and obey many other laws that are applicable to all individuals. Providing medical care for the poor and others who cannot afford to pay for health insurance is not just an economic issue. It is also a moral issue. No Government that is worthy of its name would dare allow a citizen to be denied medical treatment in case of an emergency even when he does not have medical insurance. It is the taxpayers who pay for it. Would the Government allow a person who has been hit by an automobile to die in the streets rather than take him to the hospital? No. When that person is treated it is the Goverment that pays the bill, i,e., taxpayers. The idea that overyone pays into an insurance fund and everyone receives health care is fair and a feasible way to provide health care for everyone.
A company selling automobile insurance operates that way. All insured customers pay even though they will not receive benefits, certainly, not equal benefits, from the insurance company. For some people, the benefit is limited to having the peace of mind that comes with knowing should they have an accident they are covered. During a 15-year period one-third of the insured people of a major insurance company did not have an accident. Because they purchased insurance all other persons insured by that company had insurance at an affordable cost. Although a person is not required to buy auomobile insurance, he is required to buy insurance if he owns an automobile. Of course, he may choose to walk or ride with someone who has insurance, but if he chooses the latter he will likely pay bus fare which enables the owner of the bus to buy insurance. It appears that if a person rides in a vehicle someone pays for the insurance on that vehicle. Society, hence the Government, has a moral responsibility to provide health insurance for its citizens and to require all citizens to collectively pay for it just as it is obligated to have a military to provide defense for all the people. The fact is when a person who has no insurance or means of paying for his treatment the Government picks up the tab, i.e, taxpayers. The only concern regarding requiring everyone to pay is that there be equity and fairness in the manner peope are taxed.
A single-payer system for Heath Care is most desirable but the President and progressive-minded lawmakers could not overcome the Fort Sumter Tea Party, mainly due to the undemocratic rules in both Houses of the Congress. It is about time for the House and Senate to operate with rules other democratic institutions observe. The present Health Care Law was the best that Congress could enact that provides near-universal health care coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans.
Judges have good salaries and good health care as do members of Congress. All citizens deserve the same. Shame on judges who put politics and ego ahead of justice! When this Health Care case is argued in the Supreme Court it is likely to be Judge Anthony Kennedy who will determine its outcome, keeping it as it presently exists. The Roberts' Court, gang of four, are likely to oppose the law. But surprises happen.
Why is the Health Care Law needed? Although the United States spends twice as much money on health care as any other country it lags far behind other countries in the so-called developed world in providing health care for her citizens. Americans are not getting true quality for the price when they go to the doctor or hospital. The United States spent 15.2 percent of the Gross National Product (GNP) and ranks 37 in 2003. The United Kingdom spent just 6 percent of GNP on health serivices and ranks 18. Total health expenditures per capital for the United States was $5,711, United Kingdom $2,317, Australia $2,886, and Canada $2,998, according to the World Health Organization that ranked France number 1 of 200 countries. Shame on America!
People live longer in 41 countries than they do in America: Japan 83 years, Australia 82 years, France 81 years, Canada 81 years and America 77.6 years.
Dare the American people allow the courts to nullify this Health Care Law. To repeat, it may be Justice Kennedy who saves Health Care. Of course, the demand of citizens will help, in that regard. The Supreme Court is listening to you, too.
Copyright 2011 by Uriah J. Fields
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