Pre-existing Conditions

Such as, say, living. 

So. Sarah Palin wrote recently: 

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

As someone who has spent an unusual amount of time dealing with insurance companies—although only the smallest fraction of the time Top Management has spent—I couldn't agree more. Such a system is indeed downright evil. 

Where the former governor is confused on this point, however, is this: that's the system we have currently.

Palin is sort of right on one point — there are people who weigh whether children like Trig are worthy of insurance.  They're called insurance companies, and they have decided that these children are not in fact worthy of coverage.  That's because Down Syndrome is a "pre-existing condition." 

In other words, if Palin didn't have insurance through her husband's job—I assume she's no longer on the state's insurance plan, as of a few weeks ago—and tried to land it through the private market, she would not be able to get health insurance. Because of Trig. Because that's the way the invisible hand of the market works; after all, kids with Down's Syndrome are wicked expensive, and it doesn't make even a shred of sense, from a business point of view, to insure such children. So insurance companies don't. Which means the kids and their families are utterly screwed. Unless the government steps in, and either forces the insurance companies to cover such individuals, or the government covers them themselves. 

Margaret Demko, the mother of three-year-old Emily, testified before the Ohio Finance Committee on February 27, 2008, on how waiting for health care coverage has impacted Emily and her future. Emily was born with Down Syndrome. After receiving Emily's diagnosis, the family decided that it was important for Margaret to stay home in order to best meet the needs of their child. They explored numerous options after losing their employer-sponsored coverage, but due to Emily's pre-existing condition, the Demkos were denied private coverage. Luckily, they qualified for Medicaid. However, by their 6-month reauthorization meeting, the monthly family income was $135 over the allowable limits.

The medical bills, in excess of $3,500 a month, were devastating, forcing the family to make difficult decisions regarding therapy. Emily's medical condition requires orthotic shoe inserts, physical therapy, and corrective eye treatments, as well as hearing and blood tests. The Demkos cannot afford to incur all the expenses at once. 

So. We sort of need to ask ourselves some basic but hard questions: do we care about children with Down's Syndrome if they're not ours? Do we feel like paying a few extra bucks per year so a family a few thousand miles away we don't even know can get their kid the therapy he or she needs? Is it, in fact, in our best interest as a society to help each and every member of that society reach his or her full potential? Does our self-interest dictate that in the long run this is to our own benefit? And is it simply the moral thing to do? And, in either case, are we willing to pay for it? And, if so, how much? 

These are tough questions, and they're not really getting discussed. Because people with billions of dollars are paying other people to go to town halls to gin up false outrage over absurdities like "death panels," rather than get to the heart of the matter: do we believe we should continue to be the only industrialized nation without universal health care? Do we believe that children like Emily Demko should be on her own, left to sink or swim? Is that the right thing to do? Is it the smart thing to do? 

I suppose I should mention that there's at least one other problem with Palin's statement, and that's the fact that it's a lie. There will be no "death panel" under any health care plan passed this year. One has never been proposed and one never will be proposed. For a high-ranking politician, even a former one such as the former governor, to make such a statement is simply absurd. There are two choices: stunning ignorance or simple lying. I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and say she's lying. That's actually the more generous of the two options. 


About the other scott peterson

Writer of comics and books and stuff.
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2 Responses to Pre-existing Conditions

  1. middlesex says:

    Palin don’t worry about me and my children ……. i stand with obama’s plan…

  2. Tom says:

    Scott, The crux of the right’s outrage over the prospect of single-payer health care is this: it works. They’ve successfully disguised their dismay as concern that a Canadian-style program will be a disaster for America, but their real fear is that their entire philosophy about government and its ability to help people is a crock. The fact that a small number of influential people stand to lose hundreds of billions of dollars if the U.S. ever gets universal health care is all anyone needs to know in explaining why America is the last industrialized nation on earth without single-payer medical coverage for everyone who wants it. Remember the scene in All the President’s Men when Woodward was told “Follow the money”? Well, the same advice holds here. Follow the money. Follow the money into the pockets of the Republican Party, owned lock, stock, and barrel by health-care industry. Follow the money into the pockets of enough influential Democrats to stall real reform. Follow the money as it pays for lying ads designed to frighten people about the prospect of universal heath care. Follow the money, always follow the money.

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