The choices we make

According to U.S. Representative Mo Brooks, R-AL, people who lead good lives, those who have “done things the right way,” tend to be healthy, while sick people deserve to “contribute more to the insurance pool,” meaning pay more money. The reaction on social media has been predictably harsh, and it’s worth considering why.

I’ll use myself as an illustration. Around my seventh birthday, I developed Type I diabetes. That is exactly the kind of thing that’s referred to as a pre-existing condition. It means that prior to Obamacare, no health insurance provider would sell me a policy. And since I’m a writer primarily in my professional life, my employer doesn’t give me a policy — being self-employed with the aforementioned pre-existing condition.

Contrary to the thoughtless assertion of Brooks, I didn’t do anything the wrong way to end up in this condition — anything beyond choosing the wrong genetic combination, at least in the Republican view of things. The same is true about many others in this country who have pre-existing conditions that results from chance.

What about people who do make “bad” choices, though? Smokers often become addicts when they’re young, and poor people frequently have limited access to good food, resulting in obesity. Opioid users often get hooked when doctors prescribe them excessively powerful pain killers after a medical procedure. And even the people who leap into poor decisions deserve the old advice about walking a mile in their shoes before we can say what we’d do in their lives.

In other words, the healthcare realities of Americans are much more complicated than Brooks’s simplistic view of the world. And in any case, the primary victim of a person’s decisions about health or the person’s genetics is the person himself or herself. By contrast, the decisions a politician makes affects many others. While I can empathize or even in some ways sympathize with the diseases that we suffer in this vale of tears, I find the bad choices of a politician to be on a whole other order of wrong.

Now selfish right wingers repeatedly ask why any one person should have to pay for the healthcare of others, regarding that as theft or slavery. My answer is that we all live in society and enjoy its benefits, so we owe in return. The Internet, for example, that we’re using to exchange the ideas of this article wouldn’t exist without society, and specifically without the research projects of the government and academic institutions that created it. But more than that, the selfishness here rams up against the facts, since the healthcare costs per capita of other developed nations are less than half ours, and in example after example, everyone has needed care. When Republicans reject universal healthcare, whining about government takeover and costs, they’re being stupid.

With all of that in mind, I have a question for Representative Brooks. If I should be denied healthcare even though I didn’t choose to have the condition I have, why should he have taxpayer-funded healthcare when he has chosen to be an asshole?

For more of my writing, go here.

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