Since last night, I've been repeatedly watching President Barack Obama's health care reform speech to the recent joint session of congress. Although I know that charisma can be deceptive and politics remain to be the bottomline of everything those in power do, I would like to believe that this man was sincere in his desire to bring quality health care to all Americans.
While Americans grapple with increasing health care budget deficits, we Filipinos are fighting our own battles too. President Obama mentioned that no democracy on earth should deprive adequate health care from a huge bulk of its population. In our own country, 60% of Filipinos die without having seen a doctor. What are we, then?
The dismal state of our country's health care system has reached incredulously pathetic proportions. Every year, 200,000 families, roughly equivalent to 1 million people, are being pushed into the brink of poverty due to catastrophic health care expenditures. Another 500,000 Filipinos convert from poor and getting by to simply dirt poor because of health expenses.
The system will always have flaws. No matter what sort of reforms will be made, or whoever will initiate them, they will always be subject to extensive debates, and there will always be opposition. We will never have a perfect health care program that will satisfy everyone. A nation dies when opposition dies. Debate about policy is a sign of a healthy government and a discerning people. But as Obama said, this is no longer about politics and policy. Health care is above all, a moral issue. It's about the fundamental principles of equity and social justice. It's about having your fill while your neighbor is tugging at your expensive trousers, begging you for scraps, not of your caviar, but stale dry bread will do just fine. It's about the character of our nation.
We are a country richly blessed with intelligent, creative, and talented people, a nation who claims to be a democracy built on the basic values of Christianity. But while our leaders dine on $2000 wine and sleep in $50,000/night suites in Waldorf Astoria, 20% of our population are struggling to get through everyday, around 40% barely get by, and the rest - well, do they even count for our leaders anymore? What is the character of our nation, then?
Obama insisted in his speech that "No American should become poor because he is sick". When will our president finally come to her senses and realize that no Filipino should become sick because he is poor?