Nationalized Health Care, Down Syndrome, and Abortion

I’m going to go out on a limb today and say something that a good portion of my readership probably won’t like. Namely: I support Obama’s health care plan.

You might remember that last year a group of us put together a bill to mandate coverage of “habilitative” services for children with special needs. This extremely frustrating process has shifted me from a default status of “big government=bad” to support of national health care.

Consider this:

  • A child who has a stroke on the birthing table will receive whatever therapies s/he needs throughout his/her life. But a child who has a stroke in utero, even a day or two before labor begins, will be denied the same coverage.
  • Likewise, if Alex (Heaven forbid) suffered a fall and received brain damage that made it necessary for him to receive ongoing physical, occupational, or speech therapy, he’d get it. But Julianna, who already faces an uphill battle for learning anything (aside from being cute, which she gets naturally 🙂 ), gets denied based on her diagnosis of Down’s.

As long as we were covered by First Steps, we got what we needed. It is a great program. But it only goes to age 3—and Julianna didn’t even walk until 2 ½. For 2 ½ years, we threw all our effort behind the basic gross motor skills, with OT and speech taking second place. This is the natural order of learning. But by the time she walked, we had less than six months to focus on speech therapy. Six months, when it took 2 ½ years to teach her to walk.

At 3 ½, she receives one hour a week of one-on-one speech therapy from the public schools. And although her comprehension is within twelve months of normal, she’s not even as far along as Nicholas (16 mo.) in speech production. She doesn’t know how to control her muscles. She can’t even babble the back of the mouth sounds (k, g, etc.) The only solution is speech therapy, and a lot of it. Can the school give her more? Probably. We’re certainly going to ask, come fall. But through insurance, we’re just plain old out of luck, because she has a pre-existing condition—namely, Down syndrome.

And we have good insurance. Insurance that served us well, as long as we had somebody else providing therapy.

This is the inequity—dare I say, the discrimination—that the Children’s Therapy Act seeks to address. But even knowing that grassroots-level legislation takes years to get passed, the complete and total lack of responsiveness from the political leadership was disheartening, to say the least. For weeks on end, we deluged the speaker’s office with calls to assign the bill to committee. We called senators, trying to get someone to listen to us. No response.

I contacted a former state senator, hoping for advice on who might be open to listening to us. Instead, I heard how insurance is not supposed to cover ongoing needs; insurance is supposed to be for short-term, emergency care, and we should not be putting mandates on private companies. I wanted to strangle him. Political philosophy is all well and good, but not when it holds us hostage. Because folks, there is not another good option.

A health insurance company can negotiate a rate with providers. A family can’t. It’s not because the therapists are unwilling; it’s just not allowed. That means that where an insurance company pays a fraction of the fee, families pay the whole freaking thing. Every time.

We know of people who have sold their homes to pay for therapy. People who have turned down good jobs, preferring to stay in low-paying ones, because Medicare does cover therapies. People who have gone into debt to meet their child’s needs.

How is this just?

This is why I put my support behind federal health care. Because as of 2014, it requires that insurers provide coverage equally across the board, regardless of “pre-existing condition.”

Now, I know the arguments. High taxes, socialized medicine, general governmental incompetence. I get it. I do. I’ve heard from people who lived in Canada and loathed the system, saying it was absolutely useless. But I’ve also heard from people who lived in Canada and said it was fabulous. Likewise for people in Europe, who come here and are appalled by our for-profit health care system. No system is perfect; somebody’s always going to be upset. But I truly, honestly believe that most of the backlash against “Obamacare” is about political power and fear of change.

What about abortion? Well, here’s the thing. Abortion, horrific and loathsome as it is, is not going to be legislated away. Not now, anyway. We as pro-life Christians would be far better employed changing hearts and minds than banging on a door that simply cannot be broken down right now. Through Theology of the Body, through natural family planning, through support of unwed mothers, we can change the world. Because where hearts and minds are, laws will follow.

One final thought. Parents given a diagnosis of Down syndrome during pregnancy are presented with a world where their child will be discriminated against every day. If parents can’t even trust their health insurance to help them get needed care for their child, how can we be surprised by a 90% abortion rate?