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by Ron Cruger
The Starbuck's group on health care
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        “While we’re waiting for Steve and Helaine I’m going to the bathroom. That first cup of coffee has gone through me.”
        As Dick entered the men’s room, Steve and Helaine joined the group at the Starbuck’s Round Table.
        “Sorry we’re late, the parking lot was crazy. We had to park way over there by the Pollo Loco.”
        Dick returned to complete the Round Table. Everyone was here. Steve, Helaine, Dick, Helen, Mary, Aimee and me.
        As usual, Dick wanted to start the discussion.
        “Are you as sick as I am about hearing all the crap about Obama’s health care plan?”
        Helaine, quickly placed her latte on the table and faced Dick. “What do you mean, crap. Don’t you want to see all Americans getting good health care?”
        “Oh, sure I do, but…”
        Mary interrupted. “There are no buts about it, there are so many millions of Americans without any health insurance that the rest of us have to do something to help those poor souls.”
        Dick’s face turned a bit crimson. “Millions of those ‘poor souls’ aren’t ‘poor souls,’ they’re just people who don’t want to spend the money to get insurance. They’re just gambling that they won’t get sick or get hurt. I don’t see why our tax money has to be spent on them. A lot of those people just want to sponge off the rest of us.”
        Steve, on his second iced caramel macchiato, was getting annoyed. “What I want to know is what the hell you guys are talking about. Personally, I don’t think that Obama is going to get any health care plan passed. The American public is very leery about all of this proposed legislation. And just so you’ll know, by more than three to one, Americans say that if they were sick or injured they would rather be covered by a privately run health insurance plan than a government run plan. So, let’s not be sounding as though it’s a ‘done deal’ when it isn’t.”
        I felt my toes curling up, which is a sign of my frustration. I had to add, “I just don’t see our government forcing people to buy health insurance. If they don’t want insurance that’s fine with me, but don’t penalize someone for not having insurance. That’s their business. But I don’t want these people going to emergency, running up a bill that I have to pay for. You can’t have things both ways. Take your pick. Pay for insurance and get the care or don’t buy it and don’t get care.”
        Dick got up from the two tables pushed together to form a rectangle, which the group proudly and humorously called “The Starbuck’s Round Table.” He walked to the counter and ordered another expresso. The others waited for his return.
        Upon seating himself Dick said, “Well, I agree with Steve. I just don’t see our government requiring people to buy health insurance if they don’t want to. And I’ll tell you something else. If the government sticks its nose in this insurance business my bet is that it’ll drive the insurance companies out of business and then were will we be? I’ll tell you where. We’ll be like Canada or France, that’s where. The whole deal will be run by the government, and that’s the worst thing that can happen.”
        Aimee, whose father is reported to ‘own half of Hong Kong,’ was getting annoyed. She found herself with her arms crossed in front of her chest. She knew she was getting defensive. “I don’t get it. Isn’t this America? Shouldn’t we take care of our people? Shouldn’t we want all Americans to get the best medical care? So what, if it does wind up costing us each a few dollars more each year to cover all our citizens who can’t afford it themselves. I’ll gladly chip in my share so everyone is covered.”
        Helen had heard enough. This was the first time since she had started attending these “Starbuck’s Round Table” sessions that she felt some intensity rising in herself. “I’ll tell you what bothers me the most. It’s the speed that this health care thing has taken on. It’s going like a skyrocket. After all these years we now have this urgency to write and pass a law and it’s getting me nervous. I just want the President and Congress to slow down a bit and get the damn thing right. We’ve lived all these years without a comprehensive health plan and we can live for a few more months or a year more without one. I’m all for Americans having a decent health plan, but I don’t want a law passed that has loopholes, partiality and unfairness in it.”
        Steve had been waiting to add his thoughts. “Our health care system has been worked on over the years, but sometimes we fixed one part and harmed another component of the system. Now it doesn’t work well at all. It’s way too fragmented and expensive. The system needs a complete overhaul not just a band aid solution.
        Mary, who a few moments ago had crushed her paper cup and was now nervously squeezing it in her right hand, offered a gentle smile and said, “I agree with Helen and Steve, but when the smoke all clears I want to be sure that all Americans - the disenfranchised, the poor, the disabled, will all be able to get good medical help. Guys, remember, a nation is known by how it takes care of the weakest of its citizens.”
        Dick, pushed his chair back, stretched his legs and thought to himself, “Damn, this thing’s harder to fix than I thought.”