He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."--Mark 12: 41-44
It seems oddly fitting that the Gospel reading from Mark, with the above commentary on the corruption of the Temple leaders, is the reading that is assigned for the Sunday following the vote on the Health Care Reform bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. Lawmakers passed the bill after a day-long debate on a 220-215 vote (one Republican, Rep. Joseph Cao of LA voted with the Democrats). My Congressman, Democrat Allen Boyd, was reportedly among the 39 Democrats who voted against his party's proposal. I attended one of Boyd's town hall meetings, as reported in this post from August, and his statements at that time told me, he wasn't going to vote for a bill that had a public option... or really held private insurance companies accountable to their consumers. So, when he announced today that he wasn't voting for the bill... no big surprise.
But it is supremely disappointing. Because Boyd, like all members of Congress, have excellent health benefits through a federally-subsidized health care plan, the type of insurance somebody like me would love to have; 75-percent paid by the government and that includes prescription drugs. The premiums for the federal health care run from as little as $55-$355 a month. When your salary for the month is $12, 500, these numbers are a drop in the bucket.
But a self-employed person like me, who has seen my business drop off in this shaky economy, I don't have enough money at the end of the month to afford the kind of premiums quoted to me (often between $150-$400... depending on the deductible). And trust me: that lower end figure only helps if I have a catastrophic accident... and the insurance kicks in after I've met the $15, 000 deductible. Anybody want to hold a rock concert to raise that money for me?
I wrote an email letter to Boyd voicing my disappointment in him. And I offered a way for him to make amends for his callous disregard for those of us without health insurance: he could refuse to accept the Federal Employee Health Benefits Package, and go out and purchase private insurance for himself and his family. This would seem to be the only fair thing for those who are able to put large sums into the treasury to do. They should have to negotiate and purchase insurance in the same way I have to do it. And then, that Congressperson had better pray that they or their family never have a serious illness that makes the private insurer say, "Oh: you have cancer? Sorry, but according to the terms of your contract, we don't actually cover potentially fatal diseases which, in all likelihood, was a pre-existing condition."
"Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplace..." could be translated today into "Beware of Democrats who call themselves Blue Dogs, and claim to be fiscally conservative when their decisions lead to more and more stress on hospital emergency rooms, since that is the place most poor people end up and usually when it's too late." Blue Dogs clearly do not care about the poor, the meek or the lowly. Allen Boyd has disappointed me, again.