This notion that birth control pills are now "free," as Romney claimed in his conference call to donors, needs to end. They are now simply covered by health insurance, which many of us pay for via hefty monthly premiums. We're actually getting something for our money. Imagine that!
I was going to be interviewed by the AP today about my response to the Supreme Court ruling, thanks to the health insurance comic I drew for Kaiser Health News. After preparing some remarks, I was told that the article was running long and they didn't need further commentary. So, in an effort to make ye olde proverbial lemonade, I'll share my thoughts here.
Like most people, I was stunned by the ruling. I never thought I'd say this, but it's possible that John Roberts just saved me a shit-ton of money. Believe me, I have no love for private insurance companies, but the mandate is a positive step forward as we work toward single-payer.
At the same time, I don't particularly feel a sense of relief. I'm dreading the ongoing political battles that lie ahead, and wish this could just be over. The mandate will be framed as a burdensome tax, and ACA supporters need to make very clear that it's a cost-control measure that ultimately benefits us all. It's a way of improving a grossly inefficient system. (Also, people: please stop using the stupid term "Obamacare." Have we not learned anything about framing in all these years?)
Another reason I feel uneasy is that the SCOTUS decision was a frighteningly close shave -- the other four justices would have struck down the act in its entirely! That's radicalism in your face, and it's something we'll have to contend with for a generation or more. But for today, I'll let myself celebrate.
I neglected to post this while I was traveling and having some FTP issues, so in case you haven't seen this elsewhere (it is the most widely-shared thing I've ever drawn), please check out this 4-page "graphic op-ed" I created for Kaiser Health News. Click through for the rest of the comic.
It's a personal piece about my history with health insurance on the individual market. During the Affordable Care Act debate, there was lots of discussion about "death panels" and other complete nonsense, but little about the difficulties faced by self-employed people. Being a freelancer is hard enough -- when you throw in this disincentive, it becomes downright impossible for many people.
Suffice it to say, I'm not optimistic about the Supreme Court's looming decision.
Congratulations, America! Decades upon decades of struggle for a more civilized health insurance system now rest in the hands of your smug, Newsmax-reading uncle. Or his highly-trained, yet no less ignorant equivalents.
A report from 2010 suggests that 275,000 will die due to lack of health insurance over the following decade. Harvard puts the number at 45,000 per year. That's far, far greater than the number who perished on September 11. And the judges who will be deciding the fate of those hundreds of thousands of lives -- most of whom I suspect have never had to deal with the incredible cruelties faced by those whose jobs do not provide insurance -- cannot distinguish a health insurance system from a cruciferous vegetable. I didn't have room to go into the more complex economic issues about risk-sharing which make broccoli an especially poor analogy, but hey, you can only do so much in a cartoon.
Rush Limbaugh's vile diatribes against Sandra Fluke have made him a lightning rod for public scorn, and rightly so. But what bothers me more than Rush -- who, let's face it, has a long history of saying vile things -- is the extent to which his views are echoed throughout the world o' wingnuts.
When I checked out tweets using the #IstandWithSandra hashtag on Twitter the other night, I saw Idiocracy-level comments like "Shouldn't that be #ILayWithSandra?" And then, of course, there's Bill O'Reilly.
Yes, the same man who settled a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2004 after apparently being caught on tape by a female employee (read the sordid filing here!) could not resist moralizing about ladies' sex lives on his TV show the other night. Over the course of a smarmy and woefully ill-informed six-minute monologue, O'Reilly dropped pearls of wisdom such as:
"Sandra Fluke... believes that all of us should pay for her sexual activities.""The progressive colossus is demanding payment for Ms. Fluke so she can go through law school with a healthy social life."
"Ms. Fluke and millions of other women have many things they'd like to do, on our tab."
Never mind the fact that we're talking about Georgetown's health insurance plan, not a taxpayer-funded program -- a distinction O'Reilly blurs repeatedly, not unlike his blurring of the distinction between a loofah and falafel -- or the fact that contraception coverage reduces health care costs, or that even with insurance, the Pill costs women money out-of-pocket. O'Reilly also supports Viagra coverage because it's for a medical condition. (Hint: It's only a condition if you want to have sex!) My hat is off to Sandra Fluke for having the bravery to stand up to bullies like O'Reilly, who undeservingly possess a much larger megaphone than she does.
Related cartoon from the 2008 elections: remember McCain's deer-in-headlights moment when confronted with his support for covering Viagra but not contraception?
Few things are as grating as watching pundits like David Brooks get on a sanctimonious high horse about contraception and religious freedom, as though they were one with the salt-of-the-earth faithfolk. No matter that religious groups can be quite energetic about dictating public policy for those who believe differently than they do. If anything, forcing employees to conform to your religious beliefs seems to violate their freedom of conscience. It's not like the owners of Catholic hospitals and universities are being forced to pop the Pill themselves, or shtup with a government-mandated jimmy hat. Somewhere high above, the aliens are laughing at us.
And yes, my rendering of the Fallopitarian bishop is partly inspired by the Church Lady.
The more I think about Ron Paul's solution to the plight of the uninsured, the more baffled I become. So, churches are going to come to the rescue? That would seem to leave an awful lot of non-churchgoers to die, but maybe that's the point. And what about, as the Beatles put it, all the lonely people? These same politicians calling for communities to pitch in together are the ones pushing the myth of the radically-atomized individual. They are the party of American alienation: inhuman-scale corporate bureaucracies, big-box stores, unchecked sprawl, barricaded McMansions, and oversized vehicles with outside-world-avoiding names like "Enclave." (I generalize, but only slightly.) These are the people who crush attempts at fostering community through urban planning and the creation of public space. For these ideologues to lecture anyone about neighborliness takes a lot of chutzpah.
Not even Ron Paul's muffin-based health care plan could help his former campaign manager who died with $400,000 in medical bills. He was reportedly ineligible for health insurance due to a pre-existing condition. (For an eloquent statement on this, and general Republican cruelty regarding health care, I recommend this Daily Kos diary).
A note about the Kickstarter joke in the fourth panel: I had a nagging feeling that I'd seen a tweet about Kickstarter-funded health care somewhere, but a rather lengthy search turned up nothing. In any case, I apologize if I'm not the first person to think of that.
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