NATIONAL HEALTHCARE….The LA Times has a story today about Emanuel Wilson, a school bus driver who lost his job in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Wilson has gotten both cash aid and food stamps from the federal government over the past few weeks, but he’s been unable to get the one kind of help he really needs:

What Wilson needs is chemotherapy, and that is something the government seems unable to help him with. Wilson was being treated with monthly chemo injections for his intestinal cancer before the hurricane.

….Under the present rules for Katrina victims, if you are destitute, the government will pay your medical bills. Ditto if you are severely disabled or have children. But if you’re an adult who had a job that included health benefits and you lost that job because of the storm, the government can’t seem to help.

This is the best argument there is for adopting some kind of national healthcare plan. It’s not that a good plan could rein in skyrocketing costs, although it could. It’s not that it would cover more people, although it would do that too. And it’s not that it would save immense amounts of money in waste and administrative costs, although that would indeed be yet another benefit.

Those are all good reasons, but the best and most fundamental reason for national healthcare is that nobody should have to fear that what’s happened to Wilson might happen to them. They shouldn’t have to worry that if their company changes healthcare providers they’ll lose benefits they once had or be unable to continue seeing their current doctor. They shouldn’t have to worry that if they get laid off they’ll lose their coverage entirely. They shouldn’t have to worry that when they take a new job, they ? or their kids ? won’t be covered for a preexisting condition.

And they shouldn’t have to worry that their chemotherapy will be cut off for any reason. People who make six-figure incomes generally don’t have to be very concerned about this stuff, but for the middle class, the working class, and the poor, this kind of uncertainty is a gnawing, everpresent concern. Could this happen to me, they wonder?

That’s why we need a good national healthcare plan. So it doesn’t.

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