Saturday, October 3, 2009

Yanks should step up on health care

The Yankees have three goals for the last two games of the season: get players tuned up and ready for the playoffs, see how players on the bubble respond to game opportunities and avoid getting anyone hurt. The team has dealt with some recent injuries that have caused concern: Jorge Posada’s neck, Dave Robertson’s arm, etc. Fortunately for these guys, they work for an employer in the New York Yankees that can afford the best health care available. The rest of us are not as lucky.
People are losing their jobs, sometimes illegally, and filing for bankruptcy because of crushing health care bills. Under pressure from the sustained recession, employers are cutting benefits, increasing premiums and laying off workers who cannot afford to pay the full premiums that would allow them to stay with their employer’s health plan. Of course, there are a few bad employers who will take drastic, illegal action. But as a journalist who covered health care issues for a magazine directed toward employers, I know that most of them do want to be able to provide health insurance to their employees. But they want to do it in a way that does not undermine their business and that's what they are struggling with right now.
There will never be a better opportunity for health care reform than now, which is why it’s incredibly frustrating to sit back and watch Congress squander it. Every day legislators continue to bicker about a public plan versus private insurance is a lost chance to stop the bleeding.

I speak to people in Canada and the UK regularly for work and they just can’t grasp what the hell we’re fighting about. For them, the idea that people have to fight to get basic health care is unimaginable. Yes, their systems have problems such as long wait times for certain procedures. But the system is generally there when they need it the most and they don’t have to lay awake every night wondering how they will pay that $100,000 hospital bill while keeping up with their house payments and buying clothes and food for their kids.

The Yankees have done good work in the community on health care issues. Johnny Damon is following in the footsteps of great Yankees like Don Mattingly and Bernie Williams as the ambassador for the Children’s Health Fund, which provides quality health care to low-income and homeless children. David Cone, the current Yankee broadcaster and former Yankee great, and his wife Lynne have been long-time supporters of The Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center, which treats kids with serious illnesses and injuries.

But I’d like to see more athletes and other celebrities stepping up to the plate to lobby Congress to get health care reform done. It amazes me when I see celebrities tirelessly advocate for causes such as greening the environment or saving Darfur, but on the health care issue they are shockingly silent. Whether we like it or not, celebrities get the most attention and have considerable influence just through their routine interactions with policymakers. I challenge the Yankees to use that influence for a good cause and lobby Congress and the administration so that the working class people who make up the bulk of their loyal audience can afford the quality health care that their players are used to.

No comments:

Post a Comment