Thursday, September 3, 2009

Health Care Reform and Family Values

The US pays more per capita than any other developed nation for health care. For that vast sum of money, we do not cover all our citizens. Our outcomes are worse (infant mortality, for example, is higher in the USA than in Cuba). And medical bills, even for insured people, can be catastrophic, resulting in bankruptcy. In fact, 62% of bankruptcies come from health care bills, most of which are people who have insurance. If you think it couldn't happen to you, you're wrong. Nearly all of us would be wiped out, even with what we think are solid insurance plans, by a significant and expensive illness.

Marriage has a significant benefit in insurance costs. Most employer plans will allow the employee to cover his/her spouse and children, for an extra fee. And this is part of being married. Unless you are gay, naturally. If my wife were covered on my employer's health plan, my employer would have no problem. But the IRS would look at the value of that coverage, and consider it taxable income. That would be a sizeable boost in my income and therefore taxes that a straight married couple wouldn't pay, leading to a significant financial disincentive.

Of course, that wouldn't stop creditors from bankrupting us for medical bills. Unlike the government, THEY have no problem seeing us as married. Which leads to stories like this one about a woman whose husband was diagnosed with dementia:
The disease is degenerative, and he will become steadily less able to care for himself. At some point, as his medical needs multiply, he will probably need to be institutionalized.

The hospital arranged a conference call with a social worker, who outlined how the dementia and its financial toll on the family would progress, and then added, out of the blue: "Maybe you should divorce."

"I was blown away," M. told me. But, she said, the hospital staff members explained that they had seen it all before, many times. If M.'s husband required long-term care, the costs would be catastrophic even for a middle-class family with savings.

Eventually, after the expenses whittled away their combined assets, her husband could go on Medicaid -- but by then their children's nest egg would be gone, along with her 401(k) plan. She would face a bleak retirement with neither her husband nor her savings.

Kristof reports that the laws are written to allow seizure of assets up to 5 years post-divorce.

So let's get this straight, so to speak: "family values" in this country not only deny gay families protection including access to insurance, but specifically require straight couples divorce to avoid bankruptcy and ruin of the family and impovershment of the children.

THESE are the "family values" of the Republicans: a big F*** you to families whether straight or gay. Divorce, or go bankrupt. THis is the "status quo" and the "sacredness of marriage" that Republicans support.

There is NO justification for any of this. NO justification to deny gay families legal rights, and NO justification to preserve the status quo of a system that destroys families in financial ruin.

The immorality of this system is truly breathtaking. These people have the audacity to claim morality and Judeo-Christian values. But who would Jesus bankrupt?

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