Jay Lake: Writer

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[cancer] HCR, one conservative and me

Had a very revealing chat with a conservative friend today. We’ve known each other for over ten years. He’s a very nice guy, classic Midwestern conservative in his politics, about which we occasionally trade friendly jabs.

On the back of another call he asked how chemo was going. We talked about that, and I mentioned the problems with the HCR bill, commented that the possibility of not overturning lifetime coverage and pre-existing condition limits were alarming to me.

He complained that there was nothing in the Constitution about a right to healthcare, and he was sick of liberals redistributing wealth. The metaphor he used for publicly-financed healthcare was sick people walking down the street asking everybody to pay $20 for their treatment, and why should he have to do that?

I pointed out that one of the purposes of government is to maintain the commons, that he never gets back the portion of his taxes that go to bridges or fire prevention, either. In a society as wealthy as ours, in my opinion, healthcare should be a right. We can afford it.

He said, fine, don’t take it out of my pocket. I told him that by the time I’m done with chemo, my treatments will have cost the insurance carrier about $350,000 over the past 26 months, and me about $15,000 in both out of pocket and indirect costs. That if I’d had to bear the $350,000 myself, I’d be dead now. And how is a profit-based insurance system ever going to be incentivized to pay that kind of money for me, except by Federal mandate?

He told me it was the principle of thing, that he just didn’t want to see wealth redistributed so freely. I told him I wasn’t willing to die for that principle of his, and if he got sick like I am, he wouldn’t be either. And that this could happen to anyone, it wasn’t ideological or behavioral, it was life. He reluctantly acknowledged I had a point.

I don’t think for a moment I changed his position on this. But that is what calls a “pain story,” and maybe I helped him see my perspective a little better with my pain story.

The thing that baffles me about so many of my conservative friends is that they hold high-minded beliefs with horrid, even deadly consequences. They tend to be so deeply unwilling to acknowledge the consequences of their own beliefs. This once, I got a conservative friend to acknowledge for a moment the true human cost, to someone he cares about, of one of those high-minded beliefs.

I won’t call it a win, but I will call it progress.

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