I first became acquainted with the inequalities inherent in American health care when I was a child. As a child of two working parents who did not have access to affordable employer-provided health insurance, I was one of those who were caught in the cracks. Because my parents both worked and earned combined wages that were just barely over the poverty line, my siblings and I did not qualify for medicaid. Thankfully however, we were eligible for free and low-cost care from the government, first at the local health department through the tax-funded health clinic and then later through a donation-funded program at Nemours Children’s Clinic in nearby Jacksonville, FL.
It never leaves my mind that my health care as a child was a direct result of first other people’s tax dollars, and then later through other people’s generosity. Without both, my parents would still be in massive debt – 20 years later. My sister got the lighter side of the ordeal in some ways; she suffered from kidney stones. I myself developed Graves’ Disease at puberty, which is an auto-immune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, and is a life-long – and expensive – disease. My personal estimate is that, without health insurance, the cost of managing my thyroid disease can exceed $10,000 per year.
I am currently an unemployed student living in Independence, MO. My only “income” is federal student financial aid. After paying for tuition, fees and books, I am left with just over $8,000 per year to live on. That goes fairly quickly for rent, utilities, gas and food. There is no money left over for things like health care, which since I have a chronic condition that requires daily medication and doctor monitoring is, frankly, dangerous. Thankfully I am once again saved by a health program that is funded primarily through tax dollars. I get completely free care through the local Truman Medical Center. I say free but it is only free to me; that care represents a burden on other tax payers.
Proposition C is tricky in many respects. I can understand the motivation of wanting to prevent already over-burdened low-income families from being penalized for not being able to afford health insurance. However, my understanding of the health care reforms leads me to believe that, even without Proposition C, MO families – and all US families – that cannot afford health insurance will not be penalized. However, those who can afford health insurance should not have the choice whether to carry it or not. By doing so they create an additional burden on other taxpayers.
Some would say that, as a recipient of free health care that is paid by tax dollars, I should have no say in whether or not proposition C should pass. I disagree. Believe me when I say that I wish that my situation was different, and that I wasn’t a burden on other taxpayers. But when I am out of school and in a position to afford to pay for a health insurance plan, I will not choose to *not* purchase that health insurance plan and count on emergency room care – funded by tax dollars – to bail me out in times of illness. Right now I do not have a choice about being a burden on other tax payers; however in the future when I am able to not be a burden on other taxpayers, I will gladly shoulder my own weight, and I look forward to finally being able to do so. And I believe that requiring those that can afford to carry health insurance to carry said health insurance – or face a penalty for not doing so – is a core part of any health care reform, and is the correct thing to do.
Proposition C also would pit the MO state government in a costly legal battle against the US federal government. This is not the way to go about fixing the problems inherent in the new health care reforms, and would only result in wasting taxpayer’s money and time.
And that is why I voted no on Proposition C.