If you were following coverage of Sandy last night, you may have seen photos of nurses and firemen transporting babies from the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at NYU’s hospital. If you didn’t, you might consider looking them up. They’re very moving. They show courageous emergency and medical personnel doing what they do best, and it’s beautiful. I was in a NICU recently visiting friends’ new twins who came out too early and needed some extra professional TLC before they could venture out into the wider world. As these little nuggets lay in their incubators, tiny and pink, I felt like I was looking into the womb. I essentially was, since modern medicine does a remarkable job recreating a womb-like atmosphere to keep the newest members of our race safe. My wife was standing next to me, pregnant with our second baby, who’s about two thirds of its way through development inside her growing tummy.
As I looked at these pictures of the babies being evacuated, I had a depressing thought. What are the financial situations of these babies’ parents? Are they poor? Do they have insurance? Are they on Medicaid? Medicaid is a health program that pays for medical services for those who cannot afford them. It is jointly funded by the federal and state governments. In some ways, I’d be happy if you were learning this information for the first time right now; the reason being that you don’t have to rely on Medicaid. Regardless, I suspect that if you had some “Medicaid” in your pocket last night, you’d have gladly given it to these precious babies to ensure their health and safety. It’s a good thing. If one of those babies were poor, I don’t suspect you’d want to punish her because her dad got laid off from his manufacturing job or because leukemia killed her older brother and bankrupted her parents just in time for her birth. If you don’t like these examples, tough shit; they’re how people get poor in the United States of America in 2012. I don’t want you to like them.
I’d also ask that you think about those babies when you vote next week. Or think about your own baby, or maybe a baby you know or perhaps work with. (Wouldn’t it be cool to work with a baby?)
Here’s why: According to the Congressional Budget Office, which provides nonpartisan analysis of the federal budget for Congress, if we adopted vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s proposed budget, “federal spending for Medicaid would be 35 percent lower in 2022 and 49 percent lower in 2030 than currently projected federal spending.” This is a reduction of $810 billion over ten years. This concerns me, as I suspect incubators aren’t cheap, even if it’s a poor baby you’ll be putting in one.
If you’re worried about our nation’s debt, present and future, I have good news: that same Congressional Budget Office, again a nonpartisan organization, has shown - again and again - that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, will reduce the deficit.
I am of the opinion, as a dad, a husband (of a woman with reproductive organs), a tax payer, a voter and an American living inside a human body, that improving the mechanisms for delivering health care in this nation is as high a priority as we will ever have. Why? When you unshackle good, hard-working, kind, enterprising Americans from the fear that health care costs could bankrupt them, you will unleash an intellectual and economic force that will knock your socks right off your feet, whether you bought them at Brooks Brothers or Goodwill.
Please volunteer to help out in New York.