Expand Obamacare; it’s the right thing to do

Expand Obamacare; it’s the right thing to do

The problem with the Affordable Care Act — ACA or Obamacare — is that it covers too little for too few. It is time to make health care truly universal.

Hey, I'm people too! | Keith Kissel / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: kakissel
Hey, I'm people too! | Keith Kissel / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: kakissel

WASHINGTON, January 25, 2015 – After criticizing the Affordable Care Act for years and deploring the manner in which it was passed, it has become clear to me that not only is it unlikely that the program will ever be meaningfully curtailed by Congress, but that perhaps the best course of action now is to expand it.

This conclusion was driven home by recent medical expenditures. My son’s two-year-old rat, Scraps, was recently diagnosed with a tumor. A Republican acquaintance, with typical, reptilian, Republican coldness, suggested, “feed it to a snake.”

That would be nature’s way of resolving the problem, but the point of civilization is to raise us above brutal nature. I looked into that helpless rat’s innocent eyes and felt my inner conservative melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a liberal. Scraps had to be saved.

We took Scraps back to the vet and said, “damn the cost. Save him.” After delicate surgery ($160) and a course of antibiotics ($40), Scraps is once again a healthy rat, with about six months to a year of normal life expectancy remaining. The cost was well worth it.

But it was a cost, and the costs won’t stop there. There are the costs for our three dogs, two cats, guinea pig, and the other rat. One cat needs her teeth cleaned, which involves general anesthesia, and the other needs his rear end shaved, which will also require anesthesia. A hamster, a cat and two rats have died in the last several months, all of them with end-of-life medical costs.

It’s expensive to care for animals, yet I can’t help but feel that they too have rights, and those rights include decent medical care. And though my wife and I take on responsibility for them voluntarily and choose not to feed them to snakes or the alligator that nests by our boathouse, it seems to me that the costs we incur as civilized human beings should be shared by, well, the rest of our civilization.

Hence it seems that the only reasonable course for a civilized people who have blessed themselves with a civilized government is to expand healthcare benefits to pets. Pets are often the only companions for the elderly who have outlived their friends and whose skin growths – often hairy – repulse their grandchildren, who are anyway forced by our consumerist society to busy themselves working to pay for their Chinese-made flat-screen TVs and can’t possibly visit.

The death of a beloved cat can easily send an old person into fatal decline, and so healthcare for pets is really healthcare for people. An it’s cost effective; your grandma can’t get her hair styled and feet pedicured for the cost of a rat’s cancer surgery.

Pets are a low-cost substitute for friends, children, spouses and psychotherapists. Not only would Obamacare for pets be cheap therapy for grandpa, but it would encourage more people to have pets. It would help empty out animal shelters, which are costly both in terms of money and in terms of the huge share of landfills taken up by animal welfare groups’ non-stop mail solicitations for help.

Critics will argue that Obamacare for animals would be hugely expensive, and that an unfair burden would fall on non-pet owners. I counter that it is obvious that the savings and social benefits would more than offset the costs, hence the program would more than pay for itself. If you demand numbers, let me tell you to look into the eyes of a puppy and then tell me that a price can be put on that kind of unconditional love and cuteness. It would be the crassest, most inhumane, most Republican type of selfishness to reduce warm, furry life to numbers on an accountant’s ledger.

It is time to call on Congress to stop wasting time grandstanding, calling for futile votes to cut back Obamacare, and instead to embrace its logical extension – indeed, an extension so clearly right that it will sweep the land with the inevitability of gay marriage, leaving its opponents looking like the pathetic, animaphobic bigots that they are. Inevitability makes right. Let’s make Obamacare for animals inevitable. Demand action from Congress now.

Now about my CO2 devouring, soul and health-lifting garden …

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Jim Picht
James Picht is the Senior Editor for Communities Politics. He teaches economics and Russian at the Louisiana Scholars' College in Natchitoches, La. After earning his doctorate in economics, he spent several years doing economic development work in Moscow and the new independent states of the former Soviet Union for the U.S. government, the Asian Development Bank, and as a private contractor. He has also worked in Latin America, the former USSR and the Balkans as an educator, teaching courses in economics and law at universities in Ukraine and at finance ministries throughout the region. He has been writing at the Communities since 2009.