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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/15/10

Medicare Option or Civil Unrest

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Have you ever had one of those intuitive sensations that something really awful was about to happen, and it did? Kind of like those who felt some ghostly dread shortly before the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy or after the election of Ronald Reagan. That a terrible event would soon throw the nation into chaos, and absolutely nothing would ever be the same again?

I feel that way now. There's something happening here. The lyrics of that old Buffalo Springfield classic play in my mind. Yet, I am not in dread for not knowing what will happen. I know. Everybody else knows, too. The worry comes from what comes after, for it is inevitable what will arise when the first of the monthly bills come in demanding hundreds of dollars to pay for the mandatory but near worthless policies of the Health Insurance Cartels.

All across the United States, what remains of the once Great Middle Class is holding its collective breath, knowing all will soon be made slaves to the Health Insurance Cartel by law after the President signs a Health Reform Bill that does not include an affordable Medicare Option. Already struggling to make mortgage and car payments, pay for all the other necessities of life as well as manage to put aside some college savings for their kids and a little for their own retirement, these severely stomped upon men and women will have to decide whether to defy the government and face fines they cannot pay or even go to prison, or give up saving for their kids' college and their own retirements. How many are asking themselves even now, "Will we lose our home because we can't pay both the mortgage and the high cost of mandatory private health insurance?"

The rich will be unaffected. The poor will get government help to pay premiums. The middle class will get no sympathy for debt obligations and allowances for the costs of necessities like food, mortgage, utilities.

Yes, it is not only possible, it is likely that millions of Americans will be added to the criminal class for failure to find the money to pay for the private health insurance mandated by their government.

The majority realizes what the corporate-owned government of the United States of America is too-desperately-compromised to acknowledge: only Health Reform that includes a low cost Medicare Option can be introduced to the budgets of those neither rich enough nor poor enough to avoid being bankrupted.

Have you noticed how many absolutist Medicare-Option progressives have abruptly caved to the private insurance mandate in the last ten days? From Ed Shultz to Markos Moulitsis, from Howard Dean and health insurance whistle-blower Wendell Potter to even Nancy Pelosi, all have declared it off the table after months of fiercely advocating for the Medicare Option. All of those surrenderers have that same wide-eyed look of terror while each echoes, "Don't lose the chance of reform fighting for the perfect"; "There's a lot of good in this bill; it can be improved upon after passage"; "Do you want to stand in the way and be responsible for the 45,000 people who will die this year due to a lack of health insurance?"

Does it occur to any of these back steppers that the 45,000 will not be able to pay the triple-the-healthy-rate premiums the private insurers will demand of them?

Here is what I envision to be the America of the very near future should the Medicare Option not be available to millions of already financially strapped Americans:

It was not among the worst of times--it was the very worst time ever. Millions who were barely able to make their mortgage and high interest credit card payments went to their mailboxes and found among the many bills a new bill from a health insurance company. The company demanded, under penalty of fine or imprisonment, a month's payment of hundreds of dollars. Grown men brought to tears huddled with their wives and children. "There goes any hope of keeping our retirement account, Darling." "Sorry, kids, you're going to have to forget about college unless you can get scholarships or go in debt deeply enough to afford it." "This bill is more than our mortgage, we won't be able to live here anymore."

The kids start crying. Their parents know that if something isn't changed soon, paying the healthcare payments will bankrupt them. They'll be homeless. The consideration of refusing to pay the insurance goons brings into focus the IRS and inevitable imprisonment that will result in state seizure of their children.

The only way out of the horrific nightmare their own government put them into is to rebel against that government. Millions with nothing more to lose may do exactly that. If they do, there will not be enough police and military to quell the riots.

THEN Congress will meet in emergency session to pass a Medicare Option and break up the health insurance monopoly.

Stop, children, what's that sound? Everybody look what's going down.

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Retired, Robert Arend was president of an AFSCME local from 1997-2007.
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