According to Maureen Martin, “no” is what every American should say to federal government entitlements. In the March 18 Farm and Dairy, Martin appropriated former first lady Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug slogan as her anti-entitlement rallying cry. (“Government handouts? Just say no,” p. A4)
Martin centered her criticisms on the health care bill. She described the bill and other entitlements, such as farm subsidies and school grants, as “handouts.”
Entitlements, according to Martin, were intended to help “only a few particularly needy types.” While she did not identify those types, she implied that 32 million uninsured Americans do not comprise one of them.
Uninsured Americans are not, as Martin suggested, asking for handouts. They are hard-working, tax-paying individuals asking for answers.
A 50-year-old retail clerk wants to know why she must choose between filling a prescription or a grocery cart. A 35-year-old construction worker wonders how he can pay for open-heart surgery that costs more than his net worth.
A young insured couple discovers they cannot afford a life-saving surgery for their daughter, born with a congenital heart defect. While they carry insurance for themselves and their daughter, their policy excludes coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Inequities in this country’s health care system transform elation into devastation. Surgical skills, medical breakthroughs, technological advances and research discoveries that are answered dreams for the insured become living nightmares for the uninsured.
How many of the millions of uninsured Americans die early deaths and endure unnecessary suffering because they cannot afford a prescription, a visit to the doctor, or an operation? In this great nation, should access to quality health care become the province of the privileged, the insured and the wealthy?
Or, should access to quality health care be a right for all Americans? Just say yes.
While Martin treats the word “entitlement” as a dirty word, the dictionary defines it as a “legal right.” Access to health care should be the legal right of every American. It has always been a moral right, albeit long ignored and often denied.
The tragic discrepancy between legality and morality began to diminish on March 27, when President Obama signed the health care bill into law.
The discrepancy will be further diminished later this year, when insurance companies must comply with a set of mandates. The companies will be prohibited from placing lifetime limits on insurance coverage, excluding coverage of pre-existing conditions in children and canceling coverage when policyholders become ill.
In 2014, when 95 percent of Americans will have access to health care, the discrepancy will disappear. The moral right will become the legal right. The health care system will no longer be a source of national shame. It will be a source of national pride.
Martin and her supporters are correct in observing that some federal mandates only complicate the problems they were intended to solve. What they fail to consider are the mandates that correct the problems they were intended to solve. On those rare occasions when federal government regulations do benefit the American people, we should celebrate that success.