Sunday, May 10, 2009

Universal Health Care & Cops On San Diego Streets

With the ending of last falls election, some of the political steam left my blogging. Because rebellion against the establishment is fun to write but expounding on the pratfalls of Republicans and expanding on my admiration of Barack Obama went from supporting my candidate to feeling like I was gloating.

I don't like to boast and I certainly have never belonged to that group who likes to beat their chest and proclaim their victory. Oh, I celebrate. But I don't like to be perceived as rubbing it in.

But I am returning to these fields of endeavor. There is stuff going on.

One of the things that got Barack elected is his commitment to revamping health care in this country. Over the last few years, I have become an advocate for ending our current broken system altogether and putting the federal government in the role the insurance companies are now in. I feel health care should be up there with police and fire services, roads,infrastructure, education and national defense as the things that a modern society provides for all its citizens. This gets me labeled a socialist, or at least a believer in socialized medicine. But my argument has always been that taking basic health coverage out of the hands of the private sector would be a boon to businesses large and small . And a situation occurring in my hometown illustrates why, and also speaks to the very important issue of public safety.

San Diego is recovering from bankruptcy. Among the actions they have been forced to take is dramatic restructuring of retirement benefits for Police Officers and Firefighters. Those changes go into effect on July 1st, and affect not only new hires but employees who have been there for forty years.

Because of it, San Diego expects to lose up to 100 of its most experienced police officers and an unknown amount of fire crew in the next six weeks as they take retirement anywhere from two to five years before they planned on it.

See, under the new plan, health benefits for retirees are capped at just under $9,000.00 a year. As opposed to the full coverage they currently receive. And if any of you have actually seen what a hospital stay costs in this country, you know that this is the equivalent of paying 10 cents on the dollar.

I understand why the City of San Diego had to restructure. For that matter, so do most of the officers and firefighters. They aren't quitting in a self-righteous huff. They are reluctantly leaving departments they love and can still actively contribute to based on an inescapable financial reality.

In a nation with universal health care, this would be a non-issue. And 100 of the best of San Diego's Finest could continue to protect my children and share their experience with younger officers for a few more invaluable years. I'm sorry, but I firmly believe that some things you can't learn off a computer or out of a book.

So tell me, architects of John McCain's "5K Health Benefit." What good does a 5000 dollar tax break do for these people? Tell me, opponents of UHC, how private insurance is doing a better job in this case. Tell me why UHC would not be a good thing in this case.

And then, sorry to be harsh, tell it to the mother who wants to know why the people who shot her son while he was standing outside a party are still at large.

Or how about you look at today's headlines out of Southern California and last Octobers... and then make an argument to me about why you feel it is a good thing for some of the most experienced leaders and Chiefs in San Diego's Fire Department to take early retirement? We need that experience available come fire season.

The lack of a comprehensive health care system in this country is a threat to our economy and to our very safety. Nearly every other advanced society on this planet provides health care to all its citizens without placing that burden on the employers and without leaving millions of freelance employees, private contractors, self-employed or the unfortunate unemployed and their families in the predicament of choosing between dental care and new clothes, food or even the rent.

Tell your congressman. Tell your Senator. It is far past the time we caught up with the rest of the world on this.

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