On March 22, 2017

An act of mercy: “Let them eat cake!” Health care. part I

By Marguerite Jill Dye

I was outraged to hear Utah Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz comment that low-income Americans could sacrifice their new iPhone for health care instead. I wondered how he could be so blind to the struggle of America’s poor to pay food and rent. But it was House Speaker Paul Ryan who called the GOP bill an “act of mercy” and that took the cake.
Suddenly Marie Antoinette came to mind. She lived as the Queen of France in the Palais de Versailles but longed for the countryside of her Austrian homeland. She often fled to the retreat she created, l’Hameau de la Reine, the Hamlet of the Queen, on palace grounds. An elegant carriage, not Air Force One, carried her from Versailles, France’s White House at the time, to her own version of Mar-a-Lago, her fanciful country estate. Revenues and taxes covered expenses while famine and plague struck France’s feudal serfs. They existed in squalor, abused, without rights. Paupers had no health care and lived short lives. When there was no bread the Queen brusquely declared, “Let them eat cake!” to an angry mob.
How could Paul Ryan, like Marie Antoinette, be so out of touch with people’s reality? But when Joe Kennedy III valiantly spoke up in the Congressional House Energy Committee hearing, my faith was renewed and I was encouraged with his inspiring and heart felt Kennedy words:  “I was struck last night by a comment that I heard made by Speaker Ryan, where he called this repeal bill ‘an act of mercy.’ With all due respect to our Speaker, he and I must have read different Scripture.”
He continued,“The one that I read calls on us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, and to comfort the sick. It reminds us that we are judged not by how we treat the powerful but by how we care for the least among us.
“Mercy! Defined in purely secular terms: compassionate treatment for those in distress. It is kindness and grace. There is no mercy in a system that makes health care a luxury. There is no mercy in a country that turns their back on those most in need of protection: the elderly, the poor, the sick, and the suffering. There is no mercy in a cold shoulder to the mentally ill. There is no mercy in a policy that takes for granted the sweat, the tears and the sacrifice of working Americans that they shed every day so that they might care for their family’s basic needs: food, shelter, health, and hope for tomorrow. There is no mercy for the 2.6 million people who will lose their jobs if Obamacare is repealed. This is not an ‘act of mercy.’ It is an act of malice,” Kennedy said.
Bravo! I support him with gusto. He acts on principle, on behalf of the people, not lying, cheating, and stealing like a wolf in disguise filling billionaires’ pockets while attempting to rob 14 million of health insurance next year and over 24 million by 2026.  Nearly three-quarters of those who gained insurance through the Affordable Care Act will lose it, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Death estimates from the GOP plan range from 24,000 to 44,000, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisors and the New England Journal of Medicine. Which ones of our elected officials will have blood on their hands?
Unless, of course, people rise up to reject the “survival of the fittest” national health plan. Unless, of course, some can afford the price hikes that most victimize the poor.
If you’re rich, you’ll be fine, as you can afford to hire boutique doctors like a few friends have chosen to do. A boutique doctor, as far as I can figure, is rather like the doctors when I was young. For an extra fee, they answer calls and quickly respond with advice and prescriptions without delay. They recommend tests and procedures, and see patients in off hours as needed. One friend pays $5,000 per year to sign up with her boutique doctor. Having recently survived cancer and a stroke, she pays for the extra attention as a precaution. God bless her and all others who need extra care.
How many seniors can afford a 20-25 percent increase in premiums, let alone hire a boutique physician? What kind of people propose a plan that increases insurance by $3,600 for a 55-year-old earning $25,000 per year? Or a $7,000 annual increase for a 64-year-old earning $25,000 per year, and even worse, a $7,000 increase for a 64-year-old earning just $15,000 per year? This plan throws our most vulnerable younger, older, and disabled tax-paying citizens into a swamp filled with rich alligators who will benefit from substantial tax cuts. The American Health Care Plan is Robin Hood in reverse!
I thought about our friend who suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease and is dependent on Medicare and Medicaid in a long-term care facility. His wife is an artist living on Social Security and a few teaching dollars that barely make ends meet. Medicaid pays for two out of three nursing home residents in the U.S. If this plan were to go into effect, would they be thrown out into the street? I thought about other close friends battling cancer, heart disease, and genetic illness. One is a disabled Marine living in pain from injuries and PTSD while trying to overcome his addiction to doctor-prescribed pain medication. I thought of family members and friends with asthma, anklosing spondylitis, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and other autoimmune illnesses. I thought about the connection between the state of our health and the end of the Environmental Protection Agency; unregulated mining and pollutants pouring into our rivers and seas, poisoning the foods we eat, and toxins rising into the air we breath.
Then I thought about the battles raging in Washington and in town halls across the nation, and the fear in the hearts of doctors, their patients, and families who foresee the devastating effects of replacing the Affordable Care Act with the GOP’s proposed American Health Care Act.
Then, strangely enough, my mind returned to Marie Antoinette, whose cavalier attitude and aristocratic ways led to her demise. When the people overthrew the corrupt regime and demanded their rights during the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette was beheaded by guillotine.
Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who supports the Constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has joined Indivisible, and lives with her husband in the Green Mountains of Vermont and on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Photo by Jill Dye
Ink drawing titled ,“The King of Tweet and the Queen of Cake.”

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