Sunday August 5, 2012

Before the Aurora, Colorado massacre slips from the public consciousness, to be revived briefly on the occasion of the next, inevitable gun slaughter, a few words on laws, both related to guns and health care.

It’s shameful that so many ostensibly anti-government Republican governors and legislatures have been busily passing and signing laws to stamp out non-existent voter fraud when they refuse to enact tough laws addressing the very real, tangible problem of gun violence. Politics explains this contradiction, as it does so many. The voter ID laws are tailored to discourage young people and minorities, groups that tend to vote Democratic, from getting to the polls. Weak or non-existent state gun laws, as well as the disappearance of the federal law restricting access to automatic weapons, are the result of political fealty to the deep-pocketed National Rifle Association, whose response to every gun massacre is advocacy for more guns. Perhaps the answer to the summer droughts ravaging much of the nation is more global warming.

During the U.S. Supreme Court debate over the Affordable Care Act (Obama care), Justice Antonin Scalia declared that among the reasons that the health care mandate was unfair was because young people were required to buy something they don’t need. This fallacy is being proven dramatically wrong in Aurora, where many of those injured in the shooting during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" last month are young, in dire need of health care and are frantically trying to find ways to pay for it.

Either because they didn’t think they needed it or because they couldn’t afford it, many of the injured in Aurora were either uninsured or had insurance inadequate to the care they need now and will require for months or years. Nearly one in three Coloradans, about 1.5 million, have no or limited health insurance according to a 2011 report by the Colorado Trust, a health care advocacy group, and the highest uninsured rate is among those between the ages of 18 and 34. Colorado hospitals are now providing some of the injured with free care, which ultimately will be paid for one way or another by those with health insurance, but that immediate care won’t cover long-term costs. Many of the injured are appealing for donations over the Internet, and while people are responding generously the Catch-22 is these donations could jeopardize government financial assistance the injured may otherwise be eligible to receive.

What about those injured and crippled daily by gun violence who were not hurt in a high-profile slaughter and aren’t able to generate funds over the Internet to pay for their care? Ron Paul supporters might de clare that they should be allowed to die, as happened during a Republican debate on health care, but Americans are better than that as a people. Just not as a government.

The deplorable financial nightmare confronting the injured in Aurora could not happen in most civilized nations -- like Israel, whose universal, government-run system of health care was praised last week by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Health care there is a right, as it should be here, and Israelis are not reduced to begging, pleading or selling their homes to pay for that care when they find themselves lying in hospital beds.