Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Far End of Obamacare

After 80, we all become MDs with one patient. Most waking hours are spent on medical appointments, taking pills, checking out symptoms—-in short, maintaining bodies morphing from a two-way connection with the real world into what Paul Ryan would call, in the words of his former mentor Ayn Rand, “takers.”

As one of those aged, I sympathize with Ryan and his Tea Party colleagues in their unhappiness over such dependence; I deplore it in myself and am shamed, after a lifetime of caring for others, to need so much assistance in just staying alive. Should it really take an MD to cut our toenails?

But short of setting up Sarah Palin death panels (it was never clear whether she was accusing Democrats of planning them or advocating them herself), what are we as a “Christian,” humane society to do with people who paid their dues and unexpectedly outlived everybody’s expectations, including their own?

From this pain-filled old age that movie star icon Bette Davis characterized as “not for sissies,” a more mentally than physically competent nonagenarian would suggest that younger generations, now that Obamacare is legal and more or less in effect across the country, come to terms with what they consider its unfairness: that the young grit their teeth and deal with it, not only because it protects them against the unlikely chance that they will be stricken but because, imperfect as it is, it is their turn to pay a toll on the long road toward a fair life in a just society.

In an America that became the most powerful nation in the world by, however slowly and grudgingly, recognizing that race and gender should not overwhelm empathy, it would be foolhardy to sells others (and ourselves) short by not looking far enough ahead.

Sooner or later, if we live long enough, we all become physically dependent. It would be a shame if we couldn’t find some morally just ways to live with that inevitability. 

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