WASHINGTON -- I am willing to put down the entire miserly amount I have in my miserable bank account to bet that I have never, ever in my extended lifetime heard such griping, crabbing and jawboning as I have heard over Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act.
You may know it as the issue that turns your wife's face purple or causes your uncle's fists to clench uncontrollably. Or you may recognize it by the responses from some Americans that they are either "winners" or "losers," period. Some complain that they will never see their doctor again, while others cry out that they WILL!
In short, it seems to me -- and I, of course, am the one perfectly reasonable person left, at least in our nation's capital -- that there is a crying need for some of the most important questions to be answered critically, but rationally. So let me give it a try, and please stop shouting.
-- Many men are complaining that the health policies under the new law include care for women giving birth. They have asked, in balanced language, why the &^$*-% they should have to pay for this particular service.
My first thought is to ask: Did these gentlemen have mothers? If so, then they can easily appreciate how much the entire family would have gained by having insured care. In the vast majority of cases under the old individual insurance policies, child-bearing and birth costs were NOT included.
The complaining gentlemen may also want to think about the costs involved in their health plan for drugs like Viagra, which may turn out to be useful to a woman, or may not. At any rate, it is good to keep one's voice down, and everything else, as well.
-- The question of the moment seems to be whether one actually CAN keep one's doctor and policy, "period," under the new law -- or not, "period."
Well, President Obama, the presently exhausted daddy of this new plan, sure dug a hole for himself here. For the last two years at least, he has been saying you CAN keep your old plan (ditto for those on Medicare). But now it turns out that he left one small dependent clause out. He should have said, "You can keep your doctor and your policy, so long as it provides the higher Obamacare levels of care."
-- How should one be expected to register for this new plan when the website is shut down half the time? What if we miss the deadline? Will it mean going back to the ER (for the uninitiated, these are the horrendous emergency rooms George W. Bush thought were the health plan of his era), those torture chambers of the past?
This is a legitimate gripe, and I hope you will hold it fast inside your heart. Should I have to go to an emergency room once more, I cannot be held responsible for my actions. And now that I hear ERs and hospitals in general are breeding grounds for the new bacteria that cannot be touched by antibiotics, I am even less responsible.
As for reaching some one who can help you register, get a phone.
-- Why are the Republicans being so singularly nasty about Obamacare, as though they cannot find anything at all good about it? And why are the Democrats acting as though we are dealing with the Second Coming?
The young, ferocious Republicans of the tea party have made Obamacare their single most hated piece of legislation. They have focused all their hatred of government around this, even though Obamacare is built upon private insurance companies. Health care for all has been a major policy issue of the Democrats since Lyndon Johnson somehow got Medicare passed; now they feel they're in the home stretch, and nothing is going to stop them.
-- Can this possibly mean that the Republicans really don't care about health care for the old, the sick and the poor?
-- Why has health care become such a bedeviled situation? Isn't it obvious that all Americans -- and all Frenchmen, and all Samoans, and all voodoo doctors -- should have health care? Why have we allowed it to become "the" issue that is driving Americans apart?
The problem is that many Americans have lost the sense of community that the original settlers brought with them. We have allowed uncontrolled immigration to divide us, not to strengthen us. We have pretended that all capitalism is life-preserving, whereas much of it is destructive of human values.
Perhaps worst of all, we have refused to realize that it is far more difficult for an older country to reform a huge institution like health care than it is for a new country to build one from the bottom up. It CAN be done, but all the squabbling and insults only make it that much harder.
So let's start again and see if we can't do this with more style and kindness. Let's start with, "A mother's birthing costs should be included in the health care bill because ..."
(Georgie Anne Geyer has been a foreign correspondent and commentator on international affairs for more than 40 years. She can be reached at gigi_geyer(at)juno.com.)