The mother of a young South Carolinian shared her daughter's story earlier this week on a political blog I frequent. Her daughter was pretty upset about the "poor people" around the country "who don't want to work". It was these people, her boss swore, who were causing him to have to cut her daughter's pay to cover the cost of the insurance he was going to have to provide. So the mother asked her daughter a question. "You have a full-time job. You work hard. Could you afford your own health insurance?"
"Then you're a poor person."
The woman's daughter works as an assistant manager in a small, multiple location chain of delicatessens. The owner of the deli chain, who was dead set against the healthcare reform bill, plans on reducing his employees pay by 15% to cover the costs of the insurance he is going to have to offer.
This may have been the most poignant story I’ve read during the nationwide, twenty four a day, seven day a week healthcare debate in which the nation has been engaged. More than any of the hundreds of glowing press releases, dour op-ed articles and political analysis pieces that have been circulating around the internet these last few weeks, this particular exchange spotlighted one of the issues even a perfect healthcare plan would fail to address -- the self image of a significant portion of the American public.
The intense, passionate and sometimes violent debate over the healthcare bill passed by the House of Representatives on Sunday night and signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday has shown that plenty of Americans, including a significant number of those who are covered by Medicare and Medicaid, were vehemently opposed to “government healthcare.” And there were millions more, like the woman’s daughter mentioned above, who had come to accept the idea that they could not afford healthcare insurance as a fact of life. Even now, the partisan vitriol surrounding this new law continues unabated, as if we are in the overtime portion of a football game that has had to go to extra innings to be decided.
There are too many of our citizens who are like the daughter in the anecdote, citizens whose personal circumstances would be vastly improved by the new healthcare law who are nevertheless opposed to its very existence.