John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to email@example.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
To your health
You already know, or should, what they are saying. Proponents of whatever version of President Obama’s proposal turns out to be will offer assurances that everyone will be covered; that, no, you won’t have to pay more; and that, no, never, absolutely not will taxes have to increase. Opponents will continue to scream Socialism! — as they did about Medicare, and Social Security, the forty-hour work week ... **
One would imagine that people can see the realities:
You don’t want your medical care to be determined by some faceless government bureaucrat? For reasons I don’t quite comprehend, you have warm, affectionate feelings for Aetna? For CIGNA? For United Healthcare? You think your insurance company is going to come to your hospital room with a nice little potted plant and sit at your bedside and hold your hand and say, “There, there”? As if it makes a difference whether the cubicle where the faceless bureaucrat sits is in a government building or at an insurance company?
You don’t want rationed care? You’ve already got rationed care. Perhaps you can’t afford medical insurance. Or perhaps you can but have been shut out because you have a pre-existing condition that the insurance company doesn’t like the look of. Either way, you’ll wind up in the emergency room, driving up the costs for everyone.
You understand — right? — that powerful forces are arrayed here. The physicians, the hospitals, the drug companies, and the insurance companies all have an interest in getting hold of the enormous sums we pay for medical care, and they are all jockeying for influence as legislation creeps through Congress. They are understandably looking out for their interests, but not necessarily for yours. (Yeah, they say they have your interests at heart. They say things.) Those interests will be taken into account in the legislation, because politics is all about balancing interests.
But I’d like to think that somewhere in the House or Senate there are a few members thinking about people like the middle-aged man sitting in his basement in Baltimore who has enjoyed reasonably good health for fifty-eight years but who is apprehensive about what will happen to him and how he will be able to afford treatment.
The advertising campaigns are likelier to stir you up than to inform you. So instead of heeding them, perhaps you could go to some calmer, more reputable sources in print or online and lay hold of some dispassionately related facts. And maybe you could also look up your representative’s and your senators’ mailing addresses or e-mail addresses and remind them pointedly that your interests are also supposed to be taken into account.
*It just feels good every time I split an infinitive, a smack in the face of a usage superstition.
**Speaking of screaming, I don’t know whether the people who are shouting down their elected representatives at town hall meetings are members of some secretive scheme or merely hysterical citizens, and I don’t care. Denying people an opportunity to speak is profoundly un-American. It is equally un-American when university students and faculty shut out or shout down a speaker whose views conflict with prevailing campus orthodoxy. If you despise a speaker’s views, you protest — that is assuredly American — but you do not silence him.