Musings of an Ethnomusicologist on Unrelated Topics

Compassion and Healthcare: Response to Dave Ramsey

I’ve seen a variety of people post this video on Facebook:

The basic thesis of the video is that the math inherent in Obamacare requires that “we” pay more for health insurance. Though he implicates the government, this is ultimately the fault of the sick who now must be insured. 

To you who have posted this and see yourself as this guy’s “core” audience, I see a few glaringly problematic presuppositions: 

First, that you are all healthy and will continue to be healthy. Having preexisting conditions does not affect you and it will not affect you. In order to agree with Ramsey’s conclusion, you have to be healthy and expect to always be healthy. 

This presupposes that you will never get cancer or hepatitis or Multiple Sclerosis need dialysis or an amputation or that your children will not be born with Downs syndrome or autism or cerebral palsy or any one of the many economically devastating chronic diseases that impact normal people every day. 

I used to work in a homeless program. I knew many people with Master’s degrees and former upper-middle class careers whose lives were derailed completely and permanently by chronic illness. This is not a joke: this impacts real people in serious ways. 

Second, that people with preexisting conditions don’t deserve to be insured at a reasonable rate. Unless they pay inordinate prices. 

Included in this is the strange and dispassionate idea that most chronically sick people have made bad choices that result in their sickness. According to this line of thinking, the average sick person’s lifestyle choices have somehow justified their illness. 

I hope you would never look my dear, amazing 5 year old cousin undergoing chemotherapy in the face and tell her that the cancer she has right now is her fault and that her excessive lifetime insurance rates under our previous system are justified. This is the logical extension of this kind of reasoning. 

Lastly, that the status quo, with 15% of the public under age 65 lacking insurance, thus relying on expensive emergency care and facing excessive debt or bankruptcy with one stroke of bad luck, is better than this alternative. Real people are suffering. Try as you might, you are not exempt from the possibility of suffering in this current system. 

Do you think it’s better NOT to try to solve this huge problem, even if it means paying a little more for the minority of people whose rates will increase? You may think Obamacare is a bad solution, but I challenge you to present a better one rather than attack this one. 

I’m most frustrated because Ramsey – and too many people from meme-writers to pundits – choose to convey these points through sarcastic, biting rhetoric rather than compassionate problem solving which attends to the complexities of these situations. 

And I won’t even get into the obvious implications about your beliefs about the uninsured poor, who are often minorities. It’s clear who “we” are in this equation, and clear who deserves to be healthy. Shame. 

I’m open to better solutions than Obamacare. But I won’t be listening until you speak with compassion and humility. 


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This entry was posted on October 16, 2013 by .
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