Street corner panhandling has become epidemic in our area since right around Thanksgiving. There are certain shopping centers where every stopping point has a stop sign and a peddler, and I've been noticing them hanging out on more and more islands at busy intersections.
It has been my understanding that this type of peddling was illegal in our area and I'm not sure what's behind this sudden explosion*. It's not just street corner peddling that's become out of control, however, it's people coming up to you in parking lots begging for change for whatever reason.
Even though I probably qualify as a fully bleeding heart liberal, it is extraordinarily rare for me to hand cash over to someone begging on the street**.
Let's discuss buying power.
I can give Mr. "Homeless" $5 and he could maybe eat some fast food crap for a day, if he was careful. That's really not going to get him very far or help him very much. It's also not going to help the guy 100 feet later at the next stop sign.
Instead, if I give my $5 to Loaves and Fishes or Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, they can combine my donation with the donations of other people and use their resources and buying power to help more people for longer than my $5 could ever do by itself in the hands of me or Mr. "Homeless".
I've started listening NPR during the morning drive to drop MonkeySee off at school*** and yesterday morning they were discussing Health Care Reform and President Obama's plan.
I want to stop right here and let you know that I have done no independent research and I'm basing this entirely on what was discussed during the radio spot. If I'm getting anything incorrect, please let me know.
What they were discussing was the requirement that just about everyone should carry health insurance, that people with lower income levels will be able to get subsidised health care and that Medicaid will be available to more people.
Which got me thinking.
What if, instead of having to purchase health insurance, you paid a tax. You paid a tax based on, say, your income level and your employer paid a tax instead of paying for their portion of your insurance and in return for all of this tax paying, we all got health insurance. Only not health insurance like we have now where our coverage is this giant hodge podge mess where I can go to the emergency room for $50, but WineDog would have to all but leave a kidney to go to the Emergency Room and SweetPea would get out without a bill at all. Instead of this mess, we get universal, complete, comprehensive health coverage.
What I mean when I say "universal, complete, comprehensive health coverage" is that we all get the same coverage for things like regular checkups and the routine maintenance appointments we're all supposed to be going to. Not just that, though, but we also get coverage for all walks of women's health issues, including birth control, abortion, childbirth, mammograms and pap smears. Because all of women's health issues will be covered, I'd be ok with covering medications for erectile dysfunction. There would be complete and comprehensive mental health coverage. You could not be denied coverage as a whole or of a condition, disease, disability. If a treatment has been approved by the FDA, you would be able to use it.
Potentially, things like cosmetic surgeries or "vanity medicine" would not be covered and maybe some insurance companies would step up to provide vanity insurance for people who feel like they need it.
Also? This fabulous coverage you're getting can be taken to the doctor of your choice. Prefer Kaiser? Go for it. Sutter? Sure thing. No worries about whether the office will take your insurance because it's the only game in town - what else are they going to do?
People who are currently on federal or state health insurance would get the same coverage as everyone else, the only difference would be that these individuals would not have to pay the same tax as everyone else. Their insurance would still be funded by "taxpayer dollars", it would just be the same coverage everyone else has instead of "special" coverage.
Once all health care in the United States is being paid for by a sole provider, just think of the buying power! The cost of medical care could be more closely monitored because, let's face it, the government is just plain going to tell you what they're paying you.
I'm pretty sure that those insane health insurance company profits are good indicators that we could pull this off and probably have money to spare.
It all makes perfect sense and seems perfectly reasonable to me.
Am I wrong?
Am I missing something? Well, something other than that there probably isn't a politician who would go for this and I'd bet health care lobbyists would all over this.
But what if, for once, we took the reasonable, rational path instead of the politically popular one?
Imagine what we could do.
*The increase of this in the last few months is incredible. It used to be rare to see anyone in our area who looked like they were homeless, and now I'm seeing these guys just about everywhere you might have to stop your car.
**Unless they're teenagers or firemen. I have a complete weak spot for homeless teens and the Fill the Boot event is one of my favorite weekends ever. They just had this Valentine's weekend and, at one point, I had to drive through the intersection three times before it was a red light so I could hand over cash. And it was my second time doing it that weekend.
***I really should not listen to the news in the morning. It gets me fired up.