Health care helps lessen the fear

I looked out the window as I was getting ready for work and realized that, yes, fall has come to Puget Sound and with it, rain. So we start our six months of gray, dark, rainy weather. Twilight comes earlier and earlier. Could it be that fear also ratchets up? There are reasons — fear of automobile accidents in the dark, fear of bicycle accidents in the rain, flu season, fear of mentally unstable hungry, wet, cold, and homeless people, fear of heating bills piling up.

Add those to the typical household fears that haunt us like a hangover from the collapse of the financial markets five years ago: fear of losing a job, fear of not being able to pay tuition, fear of debt, fear of your paycheck not keeping up with inflation, fear of your kids getting ignored in a crowded classroom, fear of not having health-care coverage.

But wait, come Oct. 1, that last fear can be diminished. And that diminishment of fear is what the Republicans in Congress, all of them, fear the most. Which shows that these Washington, D.C. Republicans are not interested in is easing fear, they want to exploit that fear. Shutting down the government is a damn good way of doing that.

How would a government shutdown pile on the fear? Worried about floods, forecasting, FEMA help with disasters? While you are thinking about Colorado, you will just have to worry more with a government shutdown. Safety of prescription drugs? Guaranteed by the Food and Drug Administration. Shut down with a government shutdown. Applications for small business loans suspended. Medical research interrupted. Museums, parks, monuments shut down.

Social Security checks will still be issued, and Medicare will still be paid. That’s the most ironic thing about the threat of a government shutdown — it is meant to stop Obamacare from expanding health care to millions of people, but the Republicans insist that they will not cut Medicare coverage to millions of other people.

So does Obamacare actually lessen your fear? It lessens mine. Obamacare mandates 10 essential health benefits for everyone:

1. Outpatient services

2. Emergency room

3. Hospitalization

4. Maternity and newborn care

5. Mental health services

6. Prescription drugs

7. Rehabilitative services

8. Lab work

9. Preventive care and chronic disease management, and

10. Pediatric services, including dental and vision care

These essential health benefits are covered with no dollar caps. Hundreds of thousands people who are underinsured, paying through the nose, or just plain uninsured in Washington will be able to get coverage, and they can get coverage which they can afford. That takes away a lot of fear, from all of us.

What happens if you lose your job because of an illness? How about if you are an older worker in poor health, staying on the job despite your illness because this is the only way to keep health coverage until you turn 65? With Obamacare, you will be able to buy affordable and comprehensive insurance, not dependent on employer coverage. That lessens the fear.

So while the Republicans in Congress want to pull the ladder for health care up and away from the near-elderly, Obamacare insures that the sick and near-elderly can make it into Medicare without facing destitution. What’s not to like about that?

Finally, let’s ponder the mental health benefit. Many of the homeless people on the street are mentally ill. They may be single, poor, and don’t have health coverage. What does Obamacare do for them? It enrolls them into Medicaid and includes mental health coverage. Finally there may some light at the end of the tunnel for these folks. And for those of us who may harbor a little fear (even if we don’t want to admit it), providing mental health coverage for the homeless makes our world a lot safer, for all of us. That’s what Obamacare does: it lessens our individual fear and increases our individual and collective wellbeing. That’s precisely what the Republicans in Congress fear.

John Burbank is the Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute (www.eoionline.org). He can be reached at john@eoionline.org

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