Elise Patkotak: Health insurance, like school, should be available to all of us

commentBy ELISE PATKOTAKFebruary 4, 2014 

A recent series of health challenges has once again reminded me just how tenuous our hold is on life. One little thing goes out of whack and suddenly we're in waters too deep to keep afloat without the help of friends and family. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Not only do I have an amazingly supportive community around me, but I also have health insurance. The two combined gave me the chance to get back on my feet.

When the medical problems first occurred, I didn't think twice about calling the specialist who treated me for similar problems in the past. I knew that the faster I started treatment the better chance I had for a full recovery. I also knew I had health insurance that would cover the cost of seeing that specialist and any treatment prescribed.

I can't imagine how scary it would be to find myself incapacitated by an illness and yet hesitant to get help because I had to decide between the rent and the doctor. Illness that incapacitates you to the extent that you can no longer function on your own is scary enough. To then have to decide if you can afford the treatment to resolve the issue is beyond frightening. Imagine knowing that treatment is on the other side of the door to that specialist's office, and also knowing that you aren't able to pay to open that door.

There is a lot of debate in our state right now over education and education funding. There are those who feel that if they pay taxes to fund education, they should be able to take those tax dollars to whichever school works for them. There are others who believe that the public school system is the bedrock of our success as a country and needs to be protected from the financial drain that will occur if people are allowed to take money out of the system.

I pay taxes that go to education. I have no children so essentially I have never really gotten anything for those tax dollars. I went to Catholic school in my youth and my parents paid both their required taxes and the bill presented by the Catholic school. I guess under that scenario my parents also never got any bang for their public school bucks. But that's a very short-sighted view to take since the more people receiving an education equates to that many more people able to contribute to society, whether as a plumber, mechanic, teacher or astrophysicist.

I think we need to view health care in the same manner. Yes, we pay into a system that provides health care for many who do not pay into the system to the extent in which they take from it. This is a sad commentary on life in America and the fact that all too many major corporations use federal welfare to supplement the poor wages and benefits they pay their workers in order to maintain the large bonuses they pay their CEOs. It is also a sad commentary on the fact that in America today we are still fighting over whether access to decent health care is a privilege due only to those who can pay for it.

In my case, had I not had health insurance, I would have been incapacitated for a long time, if not permanently. That means that my ability to work and support myself and contribute to my community would have been sharply curtailed. Instead of being an active member of society, I would have become dependent on the kindness of friends, charities and government benefits. But I received proper treatment and in due time will go back to being an active and contributing member of society.

So for all those people still screaming about Obamacare and ranting about how it's going to destroy America, let me just say you are so wrong that you can no longer even see right in the rearview mirror. Maybe you will never need to use any part of Obamacare. Maybe your tax dollars will subsidize people who can only afford coverage with assistance. But in the end, you will benefit, as will society as a whole, when people can be treated for their health problems properly and return to take an active role in society.

Elise Patkotak's lastest book, "Coming Into the City," is available at AlaskaBooksandCalendars.com and at local bookstores.

Anchorage Daily News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service