That was pretty much the gist of the comments on an editorial I read Tuesday: Breast cancer, health insurance and an apology to President Obama. The author, Spike Dolomite Ward, was recently diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. Her family was uninsured and she was frantic about how she was going to pay the bills for her treatment. Then she found out about the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, which “guarantees access to insurance for U.S. citizens with pre-existing conditions who have been uninsured for at least six months.” Dolomite Ward says:
The application was short, the premiums are affordable, and I have found the people who work in the administration office to be quite compassionate (nothing like the people I have dealt with over the years at other insurance companies). It’s not perfect, of course, and it still leaves many people in need out in the cold. But it’s a start, and for me it’s been a lifesaver — perhaps literally.
I should have known better than to read the comments. There isn’t a single issue you can post on the Internet without attracting at least one troll. (Updates on the Jerry Sandusky case led more than one person to say alleged victims were coming forward only to make money.) And throughout the day I was writing this post, the title of the editorial changed (to “‘Obamacare’ to the rescue”) and some of the nastiest comments were deleted by the LA Times. But many remained, of which the following are just a sample:
Sophiac3: What infuriates me is that she has a house… that she owns. She chose to keep it instead of insuring her family. That is the most irresponsible thing I can imagine.
BlakeSDavis: What a bunch of baloney. Another stunt for Obama. …Even if this woamn’s story is true, it has a hollow feel to it… Hope you’re happy lady, because you go your bills paid at the expense of everyone else!
Will Bergeron: Set aside for a moment the fact that if she was so responsible, perhaps being faced with dire economic conditions, it might not have been the best of times for her husband to “start a new business” and pay for health insurance out of pocket… and maybe her “business” as an artist might not be the best idea ever, and that – oh the horror – it might be a better idea to find a “regular” job that pays the bills and provides health insurance in the meantime while they get back on their feet and can more realistically “take chances”… and lets set aside the fact that selling their house and renting would have been a better idea than losing health insurance.
MarkLucky: Personal Responsibility is what we should be preaching — not the message of watch to government save my sorry butt because I lived beyond my means… this poor lady should have sold her house and moved to a place to live that was within her means… probably well before cashing in a 401K or any other measure she took to try and maintain the lifestyle clearly beyond her means… now her irresponsibility becomes my problem?? Yeah, that seems fair…
IntellectGetOne: Perhaps you missed the part about her living in the Valley? Her having her own home? Her living a lifestyle by CHOICE where she decided NOT to spend money on health insurance so she and her husband could continue to pursue their dreams? Where she and her husband did not want to move or sell their expensive home — and now, she wants us to thank Barrack Obama for giving her health insurance?Hey, if the President wants to pay for her out of his pocket — more power to him. But for him to pass a law that forces the rest of us to pay for her decisions and her spending patterns and her wonderful, glorious lifestyle out in the Valley — then that, my friend — is just plain wrong.
IntellectGetOne: Gee, instead of apologizing and then thanking Barak Obama, maybe you could apologize to the rest of us and thank us? We all made hard choices and took jobs as working stiffs so we could pay our insurance. You got to go the non-profit route and keep your nice home in the Valley. Now you get the benefit of health insurance on our dime. The least you could do is thank us for paying for your mistake.
William Plantagenet: How dare you make me pay for your decisions. While you decided to become an artist (starving artist comes to mind) with some silly non profit instead of a nurse or an accountant, and your husband decided to try to strike it rich, I continued to pay for my own family’s healthcare. You decided to live in the expensive San Fernando Valley instead of Fargo or Ottumwa. You decided your own spending priorities. You decided an expensive area is more important than your healthcare. You decided trying to start a business is more important than your heathcare. You decided having a job to be creative was more important than having a job with healthcare.I have zero sympathy for people like you who want ME TO BAIL YOU OUT. I decided differently and am now being forced to pay higher premiums to freeloaders like you. You make a decision, you take the consequences, good or bad. You make me sick.
sub2800: But at least she thanks you for it.. oh wait no she thanked Obama. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I made the poor choices that this author and her husband made and then expected to have my fellow tax payers bail me out for my selfishness. I know the attacks will come about me calling her selfish but choosing to keep an expensive house instead of health insurance is selfish and reckless. If her kids are still minors, she should really be investigated by child services for putting them at risk with he poor decisions.
ohioguy280: Let me get this straight. You blew off paying for health coverage, got sick and now your screwed. Why is this my problem? I pay 100% of my families health coverage. Why should I pay for yours?
joanne376: I’m one of those ‘luckier’ people that you disparage. I have a news update for you. I too would dearly love to park myself in a picturesque area of the country and run an arts organization, however in order to be able to do things like pay my mortgage and have health insurance, as well as save for retirement, I chose a business profession in an organization that offers a good health plan in a state with a more sensible cost of living. My conscious decision and hard work required to execute it, is luck? In what universe?
Mark Crawford: OH Boo Hoo. You made a choice to keep your house rather than move into an apartment and did so at the expense of others who now have to foot the bill. You are in effect a self indulgant thief of other peoples money and should be ashamed of yourself.
The lack of compassion is stunning. Most of the negative commenters assume Dolomite Ward could have prevented her situation: her husband shouldn’t have started his own business, she shouldn’t work at a nonprofit, they should have sold their home. Yes, she and her husband discussed selling their house and chose not to. Sophiac3 takes her to task for being selfish, but that assumes Dolomite Ward would be able to sell her house, which, in this economy, is doubtful. And there’s no guarantee that if they’d been able to sell the house, it would have solved their problems. Many rental units are just as expensive as mortgages.
Others criticize her for working at a nonprofit and not an accounting firm, where apparently there are plenty of high-paying jobs just ripe for the taking. I’m not sure these people have followed that thinking to its logical end: If Dolomite Ward shouldn’t work at a nonprofit, who should? It’s generally the case that nonprofit employees make less than for-profit counterparts for a variety of reasons. Does that mean no one should work at a nonprofit?
Heifer International, Oxfam America, Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, American Cancer Society, Planned Parenthood, AARP, the ACLU, amFAR, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girls Incorporated, Girl Scouts, Goodwill, United Way, the YMCA — the list of nonprofits doing vital work is endless. But apparently the people who work for all of those organizations deserve whatever life throws at them because they chose to dedicate their life to a cause rather than a corporation.
I believe in personal responsibility, but there is only a certain amount of risk you can reasonably prepare for. Catastrophe is just around the corner for any one of us. The message on this editorial’s discussion board seemed to be “look out for No. 1.” Don’t care about your neighbors. Don’t care about your fellow Americans or fellow inhabitants of Earth. If your house is blown away by a tornado, tough; you should have known better than to build it there. If your family is running out of food, tough; you should have known to pick a recession-proof job. If your car is totaled in an accident, tough; you should have known to avoid that drunken driver. If you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness that prevents you from getting private insurance, tough; you should have known not to be born. It’s not my problem.
Well, I believe it is my problem. It’s our problem. It’s pure luck that we have been born American, and therefore even the most disadvantaged of us have more power, wealth and privilege than any other culture that has ever existed. I believe that comes with an obligation to repay as much as we can to those less fortunate, whether they be our countrymen or not. It lessens everything we believe to be good about America when 15 million children are living in poverty; when wages are stagnant and declining; when neighbors are going bankrupt and facing foreclosure; when millions of people have given up on finding a job; when our infrastructure is crumbling beneath us — and we do nothing about it.
We have the resources to fix our problems. There has never been an occasion in our history when we have failed to find a solution to a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. We built feats of architecture such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam, Mount Rushmore. We sent astronauts to the moon. We developed technology that allows people on the other side of the globe to read this post; to know, in real time, exactly what’s happening on another continent.
If we could do that, we can do this. We can pull together and say, “Enough. My family has access to food, housing, education and medical care, but I won’t be satisfied until every family has that same safety and security.”
We have the money and the ideas to come out of this recession greater than we were before.
Now we just need to find the will.