Steinberg: GOP doesn’t get it; insurance isn’t complicated

SHARE Steinberg: GOP doesn’t get it; insurance isn’t complicated

Former Congressman Joe Walsh faced social media backlash after tweeting about late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel’s plea for health care insurance. | Sun-Times file photo

A short quiz. Two simple yes-or-no questions, which half of the readership will nevertheless fail.

Ready? Then let’s begin.

1: Do you want to pay the health care costs for strangers? a: Yes. b: No.

2. Do you want health insurance for yourself? a: Yes. b: No.

You can almost hear the thunderous “No!” to 1. Particularly the day after House Republicans finally fulfilled their dream of scuttling Obamacare. Those victorious congressmen and the citizens they represent frequently recoil in indignant horror at the notion of paying for the health care of others. As former Congressman Joe Walsh succinctly put it in a tweet: “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care.”

He’s referring to talk show host Kimmel’s on-air appeal for health care, using his newborn son’s heart condition as an illustration.

And Walsh is indeed correct — a rarity for him. The poignant plight of others does not obligate him or anybody else to pay for their health care. But you know what does? Possessing health insurance. Paying for the care of others is the definition of health insurance.


Not just health insurance. All insurance. Maybe you don’t know how insurance works. No shame there. Perhaps a quick refresher is in order. Let me draw your attention to the chalkboard, which I have festooned with a square house with a triangular roof, chimney curlicuing smoke; a rounded, lumpish automobile; and a mommy and daddy holding the little oval of a scowling baby.

Life is risky. There is a small but real chance of your house burning down — here I tap the house — or your car being stolen, or your infant son needing heart surgery. Rather than face such slight but daunting possibilities alone, prudent individuals band together to diffuse their risk. They put money into an insurance fund, and that money is used to buy new houses, new cars and pay cardiac surgeons for the few who need them. It’s a good system: the afflicted are made right, and the rest, while out their premiums, are secure in the knowledge that should fate frown upon their house, car or son’s heart, they are not ruined.

Let me ask you another question — no, this is not part of the quiz. Extra credit, rather: Is this complicated? What’s the part Walsh and so many others can’t understand? Is it just the Republican habit of putting negative names on things they don’t like? So that any system of apportioning health care becomes a “death panel.”

We don’t do that outside of politics. Nobody says, “Eww, I don’t want any of that fermented yeasty malt beverage; give me a beer instead.”

So why do people fall for it concerning an issue as vital as health care?

Yes, I know. Because they’re stupid. I know we’re not supposed to say that. As the Trump presidency grinds on, acknowledgment bordering on respect is being timidly extended toward the churning broth of emotion, ignorance, malice and fear sloshing around inside GOP heads. Sense has become just another lifestyle choice. For the moment. Linear, logical reasoning and basic human decency lost a battle on Nov. 8, and has to go sit on the red stool of shame while all manner of yahoos, yokels, dim-bulbs and half-wits pour screeching and gibbering into the public square and start barking commands.

But that doesn’t mean that reality lost the war. Paying for the misfortune of others is insurance, which we all want. Yes, this insurance has limits. You cannot stroll into the Mayo Clinic, slap down your platinum Visa and hire whatever doctors you want — the only system of health care Republicans acknowledge or respect.

It’s bad to be sick, and far worse to be sick without access to medical care. Any decent person or country acknowledges this and acts accordingly. That we as a nation don’t, well, the United States has renounced decency, for now, and is embracing a hypocritical inhumanity that is literally and figuratively sickening. How long we continue doing this is anybody’s guess.

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