More than numbers

April 22, 2014

 Times Argus

By: Walter Carpenter, Montpelier

I would like to thank The Times Argus for the editorial “Practical and moral,” in its April 12 edition. In it the Argus cites figures by the economist Paul Krugman that “7,000 to 17,000 people are likely to die each year as a result of the decision by about half the states not to join in the expansion of Medicaid authorized by the Affordable Care Act.”

This is something to ponder with awe. How can a nation supposedly pledged to the fight for liberty and justice for all simply condemn this number of its citizens, or however many it turns out to be? Whether these states rejected the Medicaid expansion is from class or racial hatred, ideology, political charades or spite, or whatever else it is like they are deliberately initiating a process of selection — some are worthy of health care, others are not, the determination based on economic status or even skin color.

The editorial got it right with its concluding statement: “Ultimately, the effort to expand health care in America is a moral plus.” Yes, it is. So often in this nation’s endless battles over health care reform we miss (or do not care) that it is not just the numbers. The struggle is ultimately about people. Anyone who has been on the wrong side of this selection through any of the numerous obstacles the system uses to block them — extremely high costs, pre-existing conditions, income eligibility, to name several at random — knows how this feels. Several years ago I was one of those 7,000 to 17,000. I have not forgotten it.

Thankfully, Vermont has the political and moral courage to see that health care is humanity and not just the dollar signs. We need to stay the course in the road we have gone down with Act 48 and finally make health care a public good for all Vermonters.