I wrote this in January, but I kept it to myself because I’m old school journalism who believes in keeping my politics out of my writing. Plus, I’m not knowledgeable enough to write about this subject. That’s why this piece is rather superficial. But most of all, I’m too chicken to write about anything that involves political points of view for fear of ticking off and losing people I care about and who believe differently than me. That includes friends, family, and, yes, fans of my books.
Then something happened … and, well, I want to stay alive. For those of you who have children, and for my many Christian friends, my reason for wanting to live will sound trite. I want to live to make sure my sex book gets finished, published, and promoted. So … there you have it
I’m driving down Capital of Texas Highway when I feel a pain in my left arm. Then it seems to go into my left shoulder blade and back down to my hand. Suddenly I’m wondering if I feel pain in my left jaw too. I know my left teeth hurt last night and a heart attack crossed my mind. I start wondering if I should find a Walgreen’s and buy some aspirin. But I know I need to make a bank deposit before noon and I fear if I stop for aspirin, I won’t make my deadline.
Crazy thinking, huh?
I think crazy like this quite often. In fact, as I type this, my left arm is feeling weird again. Of course, I’m typing from a Schlotzsky’s restaurant after I just ate The Original sandwich dripping and oozing with three kinds of cheese, two kinds of salami, and just about anything else that can give you a heart attack or stroke. And, no, I never stopped to get those aspirin.
Hey, if I’m having a heart attack – if I have heart disease – I’ve just got to die. I can’t afford not to. I don’t have health insurance.
Freelance writers don’t have a lot of options when it comes to health insurance. I used to have very expensive health insurance through the National Writers Union, but then they lost their coverage. They now have it for New York, but not for Texas. The same goes for other writers’ organizations that offer health insurance. The Authors Guild has coverage for New York and Massachusetts, as well as a few other states, but not Texas. Even the Guild admits that their insurance offerings in those few other states are “unaffordable to most members.”
* * *
A few months ago, a friend of mine, upset over the exorbitant cost of health insurance – his just surpassed his mortgage payment – and distressed by the war in Congress and our nation over this necessary evil, scheduled an appointment with his Republican Congressman to discuss health insurance. He then asked his friends what questions they wanted answered. I wanted to know why Texas writers can’t get health insurance, while writers in other states can get coverage. I wondered if we’re unhealthier than other states. After all, I’m typing from a Schlotzsky’s where my sandwich alone has 559 calories, 12 grams of saturated fat, which is 60 percent daily recommended values, and 1834 grams of sodium, which is 76 percent of the daily recommended values.
My friend didn’t come back with an answer from his Congressman. But I guess that’s typical. We expect answers; we don’t get any.
Now it’s a week later. The pains in my left arm, shoulder blade, and jaw have subsided. But I’m still fearful. Republican Scott Brown has won the Massachusetts senatorial seat held for more than 40 years by health insurance advocate Ted Kennedy, effectively killing any chance of health insurance reform. According to the media, the pundits, the professional partisans, this is what the people of the United States want – the death of health care reform.
I’m not so sure I believe them. My friends are far left Democrats; my family members are far right Republicans. I hear them both calling for reform. The problem is that they’re yelling so loudly that neither can hear what the other is saying. Perhaps they don’t want to. Perhaps they don’t want to admit that such diverse believers can agree on anything.
Today, I phoned Alexandra Owens, executive director of The American Society of Journalists and Authors, to confirm whether or not ASJA offers health insurance to freelance writers in Texas. After all, the ASJA website touts one of its member benefits as being access to competitive health insurance products in 30 different states. And when I talked to Ms. Owens, she emphasized just that – that they offer access to individual products, i.e. individual providers just like I, as an individual consumer, could go out and shop for insurance in Texas. I’ve tried shopping for health insurance in Texas. I haven’t succeeded. The last time I applied for health insurance, I was turned down due acne, despite the fact that I hadn’t been treated for it in years.
No organization can provide national group health insurance, Ms. Owens said. Not ASJA, not the National Writers Union, not the Authors Guild, not even Exxon. Group policies can’t be written for such national organizations because each state has its own laws regarding insurance, as well as the fact that health insurance cannot be sold across state lines. Ms. Owens did clarify that there are “pockets” of older policies that do cover multiple states such as New York and Massachusetts. And when she said Massachusetts, I listened.
Just the night before I’d heard a pundit say that since Brown had voted for Massachusetts’ health insurance reform, simply present him with that — an identical, national version of that bill — and he’d have no grounds for voting against it. Of course, I don’t have much hope in that. I believe in these days of partisan rancor, anyone can find any excuse to do their party’s bidding, and it’s my biased opinion that no Republican wants a Democratic President to succeed in any way.
Ms. Owen, however, has hope in the talk of trading health insurance across state lines. That would help associations provide national, group health plans to its members. She stressed that that is even more important now due to the very fact that the number of self-employed is growing every single day. And I know for fact that my Fox-watching, Republican-voting relatives are all for selling health insurance across state lines.
Yeah, I know. That’s crazy thinking again – that I wonder if maybe the Republicans and Democrats could agree on just one line of health insurance reform, especially since each side, and I’m including the partisan public here, appears to say I’m 100 percent right, you’re 100 percent wrong, it’s 100 percent my way or no way.
I hear Rodney King in my head – “Can we all get along?”
No. Not when politics is involved. It’s enough to give me a heart attack.