Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Musings

I learned today that David Axelrod, President Obama's closest advisor and longtime political strategist is on his way back to Chicago, where he will be "cranking up" Obama's re-election campaign. I was always interested and excited that Axelrod was so close to the President, namely because he has a daughter with a severe seizure disorder and because his wife, Susan Axelrod, has been instrumental in raising awareness of epilepsy through her formidable non-profit foundation called CURE. I think that the last few years has brought much more publicity to the general cause, including several segments with the Axelrods on 60 Minutes and an entire issue of Newsweek Magazine in 2009. Among the many informative articles in that issue was one about the Axelrods' personal struggle with their daughter Lauren's seizure disorder.

As I read the article in The Los Angeles Times newspaper today about Axelrod's tenure at the White House, I was struck by his answer to the reporter's question regarding healthcare reform:

Reporter: You played a big role in passing "Obamacare."

Axelrod: I came at the healthcare law from a very personal place, because I have a daughter with a chronic disease. I was a young reporter at the Tribune when she started seizing, when she was 7 months old. We were in an HMO. They didn't cover her drugs, which were running $8,000 to $10,000 a year. They were talking about brain surgery. I was making $45,000 a year. We almost went broke...The night that the bill [healthcare] passed, the president was in there with the staff watching the vote, and I slipped out and came in here and closed the door. I was overcome.

That statement obviously resonates with me on many levels -- both intellectually and emotionally. I am confused, overall, about healthcare reform, grateful that it passed, however flawed, but frustrated by its huge limitations and its cut-off reach. At this point, I'm not sure how one goes about making it better without resorting to resignation, disappointment, ranting and raving. The collision of those who believe in the efficacy of government with those who believe it to be intrusive and even evil pales in comparison to the collision between the rights and needs of individuals and those of big business. I lose hope, often, that we will ever be a society, a country that values our children over our "way of life" and the almighty dollar.


  1. I love David Alexrod and I didn't know that about his family. It is somewhat hopeful and at the same time a little disappointing, isn't it, to find that the folks in the inner circle have such a personal experience with disease and yet, cannot move the mountain far enough or fast enough. Thanks for posting.

  2. I think it's going to take a lot of genius - I mean that - within our children's generation (ours seems a bit stuck right now) to create legislation that is wise, compassionate, practical and do-able, and then to work out how to live with it. Not just regarding health care, but also re: education, economics, international policy, etc. I have great hope for the next generation, and I think part of our job is to prepare them to do what has clearly been beyond our crowd. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's the Monday Musing here.

  3. I don't think the government could do any worse than the huge insurance companies. What's the difference? They're both bureaucracies, except a government run program would cover everyone. Government run health care does not mean the government is in your business, it means coverage for all.

  4. I'm betting that a well-timed letter to Mr. Axelrod might stir up some additional help for many people. And I'm betting you are the person to write it. Can't hurt.

  5. I ALWAYS learn something from you. Every day. Today was no exception.
    I want there to be hope for all of us, but somehow, I want it for your daughter the most.

  6. The federal government is already running a fine healthcare program. It runs smoothly and efficiently and is cost effective. It's called the Veterans Administration Health Services.


  7. I think that the main problem continues to reside in "us against them" no matter which side we are on. We must remember that being "set" in one's way is the first obstacle. Those of us who fought in our youth about the intrusions of the government, the always unnecessary wars, the need to protect the poor and the elders, who believe women have rights over their bodies and so on, would not accept the idea that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the like are "luxuries" we afford with our taxes to those who need it.

    To me the paradoxical attitude dressed in the most "in your face" type of hypocrisy was revealed by all those who voted against the health reform - their leader Ayn Rand set the example by seeking and using the benefits of Social Security and Medicare that she so ranted against for most of her life - and refused to give the same benefits of Universal Health Care to others with the "we are entitled" refrain because of "our job", are the immovable object that meets the irresistible force daily of those of us who believe that a country that can afford to support dictatorships to the tune of several billions of dollars a year, can most certainly afford to use that same money to protect its citizens at home from illness and poverty.

    I agree with Karen, the next generation hopefully will break the standoff by simply acting according to reason and not to politics. We can only hope.

  8. there will be major shake ups in numerous agencies that are mostly funded by federal and state re-distributions. I cannot see leaders letting our country crash and burn over foolish matters such as pride and greed.

    I am just hoping they cannot see, what I cannot see, sooner, rather than later.

  9. My issue with health care reform has less to do with an intrusive government and more to do with the fact that we are all sorts of broke. We can't afford our spending as it is. How do we think we're going to help people take physical care of themselves.

    Then there is the greater issue of why so much of our money is going to fight a WAR in a place where we probably don't belong. But now we're there, and we have to finish the job.

    It seems so overwhelming to me. So complicated. And I so small in the equation.

    It's easy for me to talk about self-reliance since my husband has a good job and we have health insurance (that we pay over $37,000 a year for out of pocket). Which, in our case, is worth it considering...the insurance companies pay SIGNIFICANTLY more to our providers for our family's care per year.

    Anyway. I don't know. I think this is a complex problem with no simple solution that doesn't infringe upon someone's rights (on either side) somewhere.

    This is why I choose mostly, except obviously on this comment, to disengage.

  10. i cried when i read david axelrod's comments, though i did know about his daughter's seizure disorder. i lose hope sometimes too, elizabeth, but the fact that there are people like you and david on the front lines makes me want to soldier on. thank you for this thoughtful post. you make clearer the connections we often miss.

  11. I saw David Axelrod and his wife on 60 minutes a year or so ago. Their commitment to their daughter is something many of us parents can relate to. But their commitment to curing epilepsy is phenomenal. Now they are in a position to really make a difference, but the commitment started way back when.

    Also, feel free to link my Jerry Brown post. The cuts are coming. I wold love if people could stop and think how some cuts cross cross life lines for the most vulnerable.

  12. I have a friend who is a Mayo physician; he hates Obama, and don't even get him started on "Obamacare" . Last October, we were seated next to each other at an Octoberfest celebration and somehow we started discussing the book, Mountains Beyond Mountains - about Paul Farmer and his work to bring healthcare to the poor in Haiti. The discussion then evolved into the current state of healthcare system in the U.S. We were downing our steins of beer and shouting our opinions over the music of the band. We have been friends for years and have a basic level of affection and respect for each other so we truly listen to each other but often agree to disagree. Then the most surprising thing happened, a couple hours after our discussion ended, he leaned close - to be heard over the blare of the music and the dueling conversations at the table - and said, You know, you are right about universal healthcare and I shouldn't worry so much about my salary.

    And that is why I have hope.



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