"Sicko" is the title of Michael Moore's 2007 documentary about the flaws in America's health care system. My wife and I have always been blessed with good health insurance plans through our employers. Consequently, five years ago I didn't pay too much attention to Moore's film. What a difference five years can make!
First of all, Joanne and I are now five years closer to the time when we have to choose from the plethora of providers, who offer supplementary insurance to retirees for whom Medicare is the primary coverage. I've met with our insurance broker once already and, even so, my head continues to spin.
Second, Claire is now a freelance writer. Self-employed, she can be carried on Joanne's policy until she's 26, thanks to the new law, sometimes derogatively called "Obamacare." Call it what you will … I'm hoping and praying that the five conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court don't gut the law.
By contrast, our son Marc and his family, who live in Hamburg, Germany, are covered by universal health insurance. Additionally, when our grandchild Antonia was born three years ago, her mom got 12 months of maternity leave at 65 percent of her salary.
If Obamacare and the German variety of maternity leave are socialism, then I guess I'm a socialist. Of course, I don't accept that label for a minute. These kinds of benefits are simply what a compassionate nation does for its citizens. What don't opponents of "Obamacare" get about that?
A case on point, this from the March 8th edition of the L.A. Times: "Mary Brown, a 56-year-old Florida woman who owned a small auto repair shop but had no health insurance, became the lead plaintiff challenging President Obama's health care law because she was passionate about the issue …. But court records reveal that Brown and her husband filed for bankruptcy last fall with $4,500 in unpaid medical bills. Those bills could change Brown from a symbol of proud independence into an example of exactly the problem the health care law was intended to address." (Accessed at hhtp://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/08/nation/la-na-healthcare-plaintiff-20120309)
More and more members of the younger generation are striking out on their own, after either failing to find work or settling for dead-end jobs just to pay the bills. At one point during the three days of oral arguments in the "Obamacare" case up at the Supreme Court back in March, Justice Scalia wondered aloud why Uncle Sam should force young people to purchase insurance, if they don't want it.
I'd consider that a fair question … if I knew any members of the younger generation who actually don't want health insurance. I haven't met any "Mary Browns" among my daughter's friends.
There are a million reasons to love the Affordable Care Act. Everyone from small businesses and their employees to underemployed young people and their parents are benefiting from the Act already, as well as many others. But since I'm young and part of a supposedly narcissistic generation, I'm just going to focus on myself right now.
Rest assured, however, that healthy younger generations would benefit the entire country in the long run, so hopefully you'll be willing to read on even if what I have to say doesn't apply to you directly.
In a recent speech, Mitt Romney advised college graduates to strike out on their own in the face of our bleak economy: "We've always encouraged young people take a shot, go for it, take a risk and get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business." He then went on to talk about sandwich shop magnate Jimmy John and the "American experience."
I hate to break it to Mitt, but the "American experience" that I know, personally, is one of debt-strapped grads and parents who have already been wrung dry by college tuition payments. To ask those graduates and parents to risk even more money, with no more aid than the suggestion that they "pull themselves up by their bootstraps," is, frankly, deeply irresponsible and out of touch.
On the other hand, I don't disagree that we need to adapt to the changing landscape of the economy and employment. As fulltime jobs and benefits are becoming scarcer, the younger generations should be looking at alternatives; freelancing and entrepreneurship may well be the wave of the future, and a good way to improve the economy.
But we can't do it all on our own. If Mr. Romney wants me to start my own business, I need access to affordable health care that goes beyond the old solution of marrying someone else with benefits. I need startup money and no, my parents can't simply hand it to me out of pocket. Maybe I have thousands of dollars in loans loan forgiveness might be applicable. I'm not saying that we all deserve a handout, but if entrepreneurship is as beneficial to the economy and the general population as Mr. Romney claims, then a little help on a case-by-case basis seems warranted.
But I don't see Mr. Romney creating any self-employment assistance programs. I don't see him supporting laws that would make entrepreneurship a viable possibility. What I do see is a man who has no idea what young Americans are up against, telling us to risk everything while having no clue what that actually feels like.
There is hope, though. I see hope in the Affordable Care Act. I see hope in groups like Fix Young America (fixyoungamerica.com), with people who are striving to find real solutions to our problems. I see hope in the ambitious, but rarely recognized, youth of our country. What don't I see? I simply don't see any of those things in Mitt Romney.