Elizabeth Edwards & the Person in the Casket

Much has been said about how Elizabeth Edwards advanced the cause for health care for every American — how she met adversity with matchless grace and dignity.

But family members do not mourn through the lens of politics.

Seven years ago, President Bill Clinton stood over the casket of former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson inside the Atlanta Civic Center. Politicians preached to the choir of Atlantans that the only way to honor the lion of the new south was to attach Jackson’s name to the airport he made a global success. With Mayor Jackson’s grieving family members behind him, President Clinton reminded mourners why they were present.

A man was in the casket. Atlantans were mourning someone’s husband, someone’s father, someone’s friend.

When a light such as Elizabeth Edwards dims (only to shine in the next world), family members feel the loss more. The person in the casket is not a health care advocate, creature of politics or an embattled wife. She is a mother and, yes, still someone’s wife and a friend.

Want Good Health Insurance? Run for Congress.

Politician Pushing Healthcare

The freshman congressman balked at the lapse in health care coverage. After all, someone who works hard should reap the rewards of their labors. Any lapse in health care coverage — even if it is just for one month — is a risk no American should take.

This story isn’t the struggle of a politician fighting on behalf of a constituent. It’s the stance of Congressman-elect Andy Harris, who ran on repealing health care reform. The incoming congressman inquired during his freshman orientation about the gap between the start of his Congressional term and the government-subsidized health insurance available to members of Congress.

Democrats are seizing the opportunity. Democrats in the House — Joe Crowley, Donna Edwards, Tim Ryan and Linda Sanchez — are challenging GOP Representatives to align campaign rhetoric with action by dumping their government-subsidized health insurance. In a “Drop It or Stop It” ad (below), Americans United for Change is urging GOP members to drop their health care plans or stop threats to repeal health care reform.

The problem is Republicans and Democrats with the loudest voices often have the greatest access to health insurance.

They cling to their own government-subsidized health insurance, and refuse to give it up to prove the merits of the free market system or the public option. Their constituents must carry the cross. Republicans preach the need to carry the load for the sake of “our children,” and forget that their parents (and many children) are languishing by the wayside in the meantime. Democrats — seeking perfect health care reform — are often willing to allow millions of uninsured and underinsured flounder to prove a point.

On the eve of canceling my enrollment in the federal high-risk insurance pool, I can attest that neither Republican nor Democrat’s rhetoric or deeds meet the needs of everyday Americans. Deeds are bound by theatrical rhetoric. While Congressman-elect Andy Harris benefits from his government-subsidized health insurance, he will justify keeping that same plan from the people he serves. Across the country, Americans will question if politicians should be responsible for such a personal decision.

Who Do Progressives Punish When They Don’t Vote?

Voters are marching to the polls to send a message in the midterm election. That message, according to polls and pundits, is an angst rooted in social issues and the economy. A narrative has frequent play in the 24-hour news cycle: Where is the enthusiasm from progressives who were fired up during the 2008 presidential campaign?

The enthusiasm gap between progressives and conservatives is evident on comment boards, with many potential voters expressing their discontent for the Obama Administration coming up short on health care reform, financial reform and other legislation. Progressives’ grumblings are not analogous to the over hyped “civil war” of our conservative friends. These progressives are threatening not to vote, to sit on the sidelines.

Progressives or conservatives aching for change can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. And, with one in seven Americans living in poverty, chances are that person aching for change is you or someone you know.

Thanks to many of you, health insurance companies can no longer drop you from your policy without proving fraud. Parents can no longer feel the sting of health insurance companies denying coverage to their children because of a pre-existing condition. Young adults can stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until they are 26. And millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions can finally receive health care with a state or federal high risk insurance pool.

Health reform is not perfect. Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna and other health insurance companies announced their plans to drop child-only insurance policies in several states. Americans stand to lose more (not to mention the opportunity to fight back) if sideliners don’t vote.

Who do progressives punish when they don’t vote? It is not politicians with their secured retirement. Perhaps these sideliners can afford to sit this election out because their lives are perfect. At least 40 million Americans’ lives are not.

Civil rights leaders did not brave the movement because they were presented with the perfect politicians, conditions and laws. They challenged an imperfect system, and made it better. I did not embark on the MoveOn-Stand with Dawn campaign for the “you go girls” and external support that would disappear as quickly as my health insurance. I participated to discuss the health care crisis with stories behind the statistics. I did not anticipate that my own symptoms would worsen in the following months. It takes courage to do your part, no matter how small, to perfect a union, and this courage does not come from political parties, PACs or presidents.

Am I encouraging sideliners to vote to toe the line? No.

Don’t vote to align yourself with progressives or conservatives. Vote because of the social issues or financial concerns that keep you awake at night. Vote in the spirit of civil rights leaders who never waited on the sidelines. They knew every vote and every action had the potential to inch this country toward a more perfect union. Every vote and every action was a message with weight.

Who Needs Civility in the Health Care Debate?

Civility in Health care Reform

Beltway Insiders fling political jargon such as “dead on arrival” with ease. When applied to the health care reform debate, benign jargon and posturing can sting those with the greatest stake in the fight.

“Dead on arrival,” has its role in political theater. Important voices are upstaged by congressmen hoisting plump babies to make a point, lawmakers congratulating themselves for winning one round and conservative and progressive organizations parading human cause célèbres before the public. In the wings, doctors, nurses, patients and caregivers wait to be heard.

Hard-working public servants and public figures, please consider this plea for civility. For some of us, this is not just a campaign or an opportunity to make history.

Perhaps it’s the recognition of these high stakes that allows my conservative and progressive family and friends to have conversations about health care reform that do not erupt into three ring circuses. Our passions run deep and the chasm between our views is wide. Every conversation is free of sound bite worthy catchphrases. We always both walk away smarter, and with an appreciation of the other side’s point of view.

I wish Beltway Insiders would adopt the same mentality because demonizing the right or the left will not get us the health care reform we seek. And, while seemingly benign, “dead on arrival” is political jargon that is too painful to hear.