When I born, doctors discovered that I had a clef palate. But I was fortunate in that I didn’t have the facial deformities that often come along with this abnormality. I did require surgery, as I am told, to repair a small hole in the roof of my mouth which I needed so that I could drink liquids without them seeping through the hole and into and then out of my nose. Doctors also had to clip the underside of my tongue so that it could move properly — an essential for normal speech patterns.
A few years later, when I started school, the speech pathologist was amazed that I was able to pronounce my words with clarity, forming my consonants and word endings like any other child. My mother told the pathologist that she had resolved that I would not have a problem speaking, adding that she had taken me through regular drills that she’d crafted in the form of games intended to strengthen my tongue and help my lips form letters in the right ways. Guess I should add my mother was an elementary education specialist.
I think about that first “encounter” with medical experts, as well as the other childhood illnesses and injuries that I suffered and from which I healed after receiving medical attention: the chicken pox, the measles, a slew of cavities, sports-related cuts and sprains, gashes and deep wounds caused by foolish pranks on bicycles and skates, even several serious car accidents that required hospitalization — I survived them all.
Most amazing to me as I think about those days is the fact that not once did I ever worry about how my parents would pay the bills. I never worried that I would be unable to see a physician whenever I needed. It just never crossed my mind. In fact, I assumed that the options before me were the same in everyone’s home — for all of the children with whom I played and grew up.
Maybe that’s why I am so befuddled, actually angered by the antics of Congress as they go back and forth in their efforts to erase the legacy of President Barack Obama, spending what appears to be every waking moment to find ways to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
I’m fairly confident that not one member of Congress, no matter what their ethnic background, ever had to worry about health insurance during their youth, much less now. I’m sure they never had to use the emergency room as their only source of securing medical attention. Rather, like me, they were fortunate enough to have access to regular eye and dental checkups and annual physicals conducted by a physician of their choice. They were able to weigh the options of getting braces to correct crooked teeth and were able to convince their parents that they were ready for contact lenses so they could get rid of those annoyingly thick eyeglasses that made them look like Mr. Magoo.
Members of Congress, like me, grew up in a different age. But now, we’re living and working longer, We’re facing higher costs of living. We stand on the verge of a medical state of crisis. But why when we know the truth: better care really matters.
We’re seeing senior citizens being forced to choose between paying for medicine or buying food. We’re seeing an increasing number of children falling victim to childhood diseases once announced as “eradicated” because their parents can’t afford vaccinations. And we’re seeing more Americans who, after taking their health plans for granted for years, are struggling to keep up with soaring premiums.
And so, the irony exists that while we’re living longer, it looks like we may be growing sicker along the way. Is this what our president meant when we promised to “make America great again?”