But writing from a “student perspective” is a silly exercise. Because more than students, or young people, we are Americans (and international students: You are citizens of a world where American policy matters). And when we go to the polls next month and decide between Democrats and Republicans, on the issue of health care we’ll face a choice about what kind of country we want to call home.
With the Democrats, we have a clear, bold path to the future. We know where our President stands. We know that he, and those in his party, refused to accept the fact that nearly 50 million Americans were uninsured, that our health care system was so far behind those of our fellow industrialized nations. We know that he took decisive, politically risky steps to expand coverage to 30 million people. And even though Obamacare hasn’t come into full force yet, we see the change already — tens of thousands of people with pre-existing conditions have been able to get the care they so desperately need.
The Republicans’ stance, on the other hand, is blurry and small. The blurriness is obvious: Do the Republicans really hate Obamacare or just Obama? Eleven Republican senators co-sponsored a 2007 health care bill including an individual mandate; their party cried foul about the mandate’s constitutionality just two years later. And what of the GOP standard-bearer, Mitt Romney? There exist five videos of the candidate from 2009 — after President Obama had announced his intention to undertake health care reform — urging that his Massachusetts bill be used as a model for any federal program. Now, it’s hard to pinpoint where Gov. Romney stands on health care, other than that it should be left to the states.
The smallness of the Republican approach to health care may be worse than its lack of clarity. With nearly one in six Americans uninsured, the only ideas Congressional Republicans offered as solutions during the year-long health care debate were tort reform and allowing people to buy insurance across state lines. That’s like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Worse still is some on the Right’s insistence that Americans have the best health care in the world, despite every metric suggesting otherwise. For one, African-American babies have a higher infant mortality rate than babies born in Belarus.
But the Republicans aren’t entirely wrong on that last claim. If you have insurance, if you have access to good health care, then the American system couldn’t be better. I’ve seen that personally, and that’s why I think expanding the system is so important.
My dad died when I was 16, but without health insurance, he likely would’ve passed when I was four. He suffered from two cancers, fibrosarcoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and in 1997, to fight the lymphoma, he underwent a boom-or-bust bone marrow transplant. Miraculously, he survived.
My sister and I grew up with a father. My mom got to celebrate her 20th wedding anniversary. My hometown got a soccer and baseball coach, a volunteer with religious organizations and the local school foundation. And during the 12 years after his transplant, my dad — a filmmaker — produced a series of educational videos about American civics for elementary and middle-school students. Talk about a productive citizen.
Now, recall that roughly one in six Americans was uninsured before the passage of Obamacare. One in six kids in my situation might have to grow up without Dad. Or maybe Dad could get the operation, but his reward for beating cancer? Bankruptcy. One in six.
When we talk health care policy, we so often forget what it’s really about: people’s lives. It’s about whether, as a country, we want to move forward and try to preserve and promote the lives of our fellow Americans, regardless of their genetic draw, their wealth or their employment status. Obama and the Democrats get that; Republicans don’t.
This is not to say the nitty gritty details don’t matter; they do. Which is why states’ rights advocates should be happy that Obamacare provides a waiver for states to introduce their own effective programs. Which is why those worried about rising health care costs should be thrilled by Obamacare’s emphasis on preventive services.
But, at the end of the day, health care is a big picture issue. And as young people, as inheritors of America’s greatness and its intended preservers over the coming decades, we should think hard about what our vote on health care will say about our country. Do we want a health care system that is a beacon worthy of our great history and power — one that seeks to take care of as many Americans as possible, one that is not afraid to take bold steps to change what must be changed? Or do we want ... the opposite of whatever Barack Obama says?
It’s an easy choice.
Will Mantell is the events chair of College Democrats. He is a politics major from Chappaqua, NY. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/11/31469/