Sep. 7th, 2009

ericcheung: (Default)
When I moved back to Massachusetts in February, one of the things I was interested in was the Massachusetts health care plan through Commonwealth Connector called Commonwealth Care.  I applied for it because I didn't have a job (and I still don't have a steady one).  I looked it over thoroughly before sending it off in the mail, but I must have forgotten to check the box that said I was a citizen of the US.

Several weeks later I got a phone call saying they needed me to fax over my birth certificate.  I felt so presidential.  So, I faxed it and tried to call to confirm that they got it.  Every number I got was a voice mail, so I left a message in the voice mail box of the person who called in the first place.

Several weeks later I got a letter stating that I didn't list my driver's license information on the form.  Having just moved back when I filled it out, I didn't change my license before I mailed out the application.  So, I called to ask if there was a way to confirm that they picked up the fax when I sent it out this time.  They said the only thing to do was to wait until I received another letter in the mail.

A couple of weeks ago I got that letter.  No mention of my license, but they did find out that I was working for a temp agency.  Well, I wasn't working for them so much as I was receiving temp assignments through them.  They would now like a reply explaining why I didn't mention them on my initial application, before I applied to the temp agency of course!

Naturally the reason they want an explanation is to determine whether or not I could get health insurance through them instead of the state.  I called up the temp agency and they told me that health insurance would only be available on the weeks that I actually work for them, so very intermittently.

If the state of Massachusetts isn't satisfied with that answer, or if they aren't satisfied with the fact that I haven't had health insurance all year, because of their shenanigans, then they'll tax me for it.  Part of me suspects that their communication almost exclusively through snail mail has been a deliberate act, not only to avoid giving me health insurance, but to have an excuse to tax me for it.

All this is prologue to my activities of the past week.

For the past several months I've been following this health care debate, just as everyone else has.  I'm having a hard time understanding this incredibly complex issue, and I have some serious concerns about it.  But at least I'm willing to admit that I don't get it, and that I desperately want a sober analysis of these different bills.  What's made me nervous about the general tenor of debate at all, not just on health care reform, is that it's gotten vicious, violent, and downright frothy.  Opponents act as if President Obama is less a man with an idea that may simply be different from theirs and more Frankenstein's monster, deserving of, in their angry mob minds, pitchforks and torches.

As the insanity escalated throughout the summer I've grown more and more nervous that some politician somewhere will get hurt or killed by people brandishing weapons in a reckless conflagration of the First and Second Amendments.

That said, I obviously have a personal stake in what goes on with health care reform.  I can state that my position is only that I am for whatever would get someone in my situation portable health insurance.  I would even like for it to be portable between states, or hell, countries as well.  If a public option is what's necessary to encourage competition and drive down costs then so be it.  But if another solution is equally viable then I'd like to hear that as well.  A public option is exactly that, an option.  So, the vitriol against such a thing confuses me, but if it's not something that could get passed, then I'd be in favor of a trigger option in which public options would be instituted if the private sector fails to lower costs.

So, when I heard about two events over the past week that would allow the public to get involved, I jumped at the chance to participate.  MB and I met at Somerville High School on Wednesday night for a town hall meeting with Mayor Joseph Curtatone, US House Representative Michael Capuano, and headliner, Senator John Kerry.

As we moved along in the line, a gauntlet of petitioners and partiers and sign carriers and a lone Obama as Hitler poster surrounded us.  The Obama poster was made by LaRouche supporters who claimed that "He's changed."  It still seemed mild compared to worst of what I've seen on television.

It was milder still inside the auditorium.  While there were a few hecklers in the balcony, and a couple of others sprinkled throughout, it was mostly a civil affair.  The mayor opened and hosted, with Capuano as a feature and John Kerry headlining.  And you could really tell that that was the hierarchy between the three.  John Kerry was surprisingly impressive.  Though it was the second time I'd ever seen him in person (I saw him vote in 2004 and then was part of a crowd that followed him to The Bell in Hand Tavern).  If I saw him speak with that much passion in person, my reluctant vote for him then would have been an enthusiastic one.

But I wanted my question answered.  I wrote about my saga and I closed it by asking what could be done about the communication and the taxation system.  In a survey of the audience, Kerry asked everyone about their insurance.  I felt left out because I couldn't raise my hand at any point, since I don't even have insurance.  Through my question I wanted to make sure that a national plan wouldn't have the same issues as the Massachusetts one.  During the town hall meeting, I jotted down a condensed versionAlas, I didn't get to ask it.  Despite the libertarians directly behind me who bitched about everything, simply for the sake of bitching, we had a fun and informative night.

Today, I went to a rally on the Boston Common for health care reform.  I took the Red Line to Park Street and snuck into my old dorm building to use the bathroom.  When I got back to the gazebo someone saw my Obama shirt underneath my blazer and quickly recruited me to hand out signs.  After a while another staff person asked if I'd rather do "visibility," so I asked what that was.  Soon I was walking up towards the State House with someone's home made sign which read "HEALTH CARE REFORM RALLY @ Boston Common."  The marker smelled of headache.

I was a tourist attraction.

Since the corner of Park Street and Beacon Street are right where the State House, Shaw Memorial, and Freedom Trail converge, it's along the path of tourists on foot and tourists riding any number of tour buses and trolleys and amphibious vehicles.  With my Lennon-esque shades, mop-top, blazer, and rally paraphernalia, I was an odd little sight.  So, instead of screaming for people to go to the rally, I decided to be a little more subtle and simply help people who looked like they needed help on the Freedom Trail.

I had a Mr. Rosso moment when one college kid saw me and said "Right on dude" like I was wearing beads and smelt of pot.  There was one truck with a guy in the passenger seat who was trying to crack on me by saying that he didn't want the government to pull the plug on him at sixty, he wanted to live to be eighty.

As if a synthesis of all that, I saw a particular panhandler I've recognized for the past ten years.  He's distinctive for his voice that loudly elongates each syllable of the inquiry "GOOOT ANYYY SPAAARE CHAAANGGGE?"  Well today he asked for cigarettes as well.  He would ask little children if they smoked and their nervous parents yanked their children away as they admonished him for smoking too.  Trying to divert him away from my mission of providing visibility for the health care rally I suggested that I saw some smokers behind the State House, or at Fanueil Hall.  "I don't go there," he tossed off, barely noticing me as he continued his pacing.  It was about this time that my shift was done.  I shrugged my shoulders and exaggerated stepping backwards for the amusement of the tourists in the parked tourbus and then turned and walked toward the rally, draping the posterboard sign on my back.

When I got there I couldn't hear the public speakers.  The PA system left much to be desired, but a bigger problem was that the crowd was talking amongst itself in normal outdoor conversational volume.  Throughout the rally I wasn't all that crazy about the crowd's actions.  Representative Stephen Lynch was booed off the stage as a Blue Dog Democrat.  I support a public option, but if someone takes the time to come to your rally, then they deserve to be heard respectfully.

Eventually, the rally ended and we all started marching.  I was lucky to be near the front of the crowd as we cut towards the corner of Boylston and Charles Street behind the Boston Common cemetery.  One of the staffers from SEIU handed out chant sheets so that we don't need to write them in our heads spontaneously.  But the crowd didn't need to anyway, as bullhorn-armed SEIU representatives chanted to the beat of The Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band.  We followed that band along the left side of Boylston to the end of Copley Plaza before circling around to the front of Trinity Church where the event ended after they played a few more songs.  Still wearing my OFA-MA badge, I asked my fellow State House sign-holder if he thought there was anything we had to do, and he said he didn't think so. 

Still, I walked back to the Common to help put away some stuff and turn in my badge.  I kept my sign as a souvenir.  I may regret it as the marker smelled of headache.

I wish I had health insurance.

September 2012

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