Here we are at the end of a fairly tumultuous yet hopeful year and the beginning of what I can only anticipate is the year we will all remember as the start of the turn towards better times.
We've been through quite a lot in recent years and I can say without hesitation that I've learned some of the most valuable lessons of my life. We all made mistakes, we put our trust in the wrong people and we were foolish and greedy and unrealistic.
It may have cost us, but we've begun the rebuilding and, in theory, we've come out of it better equipped to handle the future. Though that might just be my New Year optimism talking.
One of the biggest stories of the past year and the past decade (although mathematicians will tell you that the end of the decade does not begin until January 1, 2011, but I think we are all too ready to move on from this past decade to wait another year) was health care reform.
We are so close to making a huge step in the right direction and yet it seems as though every time I turn on the news we are backsliding on the original bill.
In a June 2009 New York Times/CBS poll, 85 percent of respondents said the health care system needed to be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt. After a year's worth of debate and more back and forth than anyone could keep track of it's become exhausting to watch as our politicians argue over the future of our national health care.
Now whether you've been paying attention or not, or have become too frustrated to stomach any more of it, the decisions our leaders are on the brink of making will affect all of us.
Women especially need to be aware of what this reform means, because simply being born with two X chromosomes makes them a liability in the eyes of the health care industry.
Did you know that currently women can legally be charged higher rates for health care or even denied care based on a particular preexisting condition? That "condition" is known as the uterus. Every woman is born with one and the reason you can be charged more for having one is because you may decide to have children one day and therefore the insurance companies believe it's only fair to preemptively "fine" you for the unborn children you may or may not have.
Men are born with a prostate and testicles leaving them with the potential to develop testicular or prostate cancer so shouldn't they be charged more for the cancer they haven't yet developed?
It sounds pretty ludicrous, but it's true.
The disparities don't stop there. A 2008 New York Times article about women and health care stated that "women still pay more than men for insurance that does not cover maternity care. In the individual market, maternity coverage may be offered as an optional benefit, or rider, for a hefty additional premium."
So even if a woman decides never to have her own children or discovers that she is not able to bear children, she will pay more in health insurance than a man for no reason other than she is the proud owner of a pair of ovaries.
If we were talking race discrepancies, people would be up in arms. Another reason women pay more in health insurance is that we actually pay attention to our health and our bodies. "Under the age of 55, women tend to be higher utilizers of health care than men. I am more conscious of my health than my husband, who will avoid going to the doctor at all costs," said Elizabeth J. Leif, a health insurance actuary in Denver.
Women tend to go to the doctor more for their regular check ups. They also tend to use the medications they are prescribed. Men wait until something is wrong and they are not penalized.
In other words, because we are active in our health, we are penalized for it. Women, we should all be mad as hell about this, and guys, if you have a wife, girlfriend, sister, mother, or grandmother, you should be, too.
Our own Declaration of Independence states "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
An All-American Idea: life and the pursuit of happiness! How can you have life or happiness without health, without the right to have healthcare when you are sick?
It seems to me that many of the people fighting against universal health care in the United States are the same people with "What Would Jesus Do?" bumper stickers on their cars.
Well, Jesus was pretty clear about how he felt about helping those who could not help themselves. If I had to take a stab at what Jesus would do, I think he'd likely say, "It's 2010 and you guys STILL haven't figured this out?!"
If you can't find it on CNN or MSNBC, the bible will tell you everything you need to know about health care. Jesus cared for everyone, but he mainly cared for the poor. He ‘healed' the blind and the sick and, forgive me if my memory is foggy, but I don't remember ever reading that he asked to see an insurance card first.
So don't sit there and argue against universal health care behind closed doors and then march your way to church and pretend you care about those less fortunate. Prove it.
Those who don't agree with universal health care do so because they are under the naive impression that they will never be less fortunate than they are right now. They will never experience a serious accident or a terminal illness, they will never have a sick child that they cannot afford to take to the doctor, they will never be turned down for health insurance due to a preexisting condition such as cancer, they will never lose their jobs and they will also never have any of this happen to anyone they care about.
They believe they live in a bubble, in which they deserve health care because thus far they haven't had to choose between food or health, heat and electricity or health, making it to work for a paycheck or health.
Health care is not a privilege, it is a right for all and those who can no longer look at another human being and see a fellow citizen in need are unpatriotic, unethical, immoral and truly have no idea ‘What Jesus Would Do.'
Shouldn't each American be eligible for the same benefits as their elected Congressional representitives? How can these politicians stand up and vote against fair, equal and reasonable health care benefits for the very people they were elected to represent. (As a side note, the 'death squads' comment made earlier this year by Sarah Palin was deemed by Politifact.com, an independent political watch group, to be a "pants on fire" lie and her statement is even up for "Lie of the Year" on the same site.
These are the same people that don't want their tax dollars going to helping welfare mothers, but also don't want these women to have readily available birth control or abortions. You cannot have it both ways. I will say that again, you CAN NOT have it both ways.
We live in a country in which it takes horrific acts of terror or natural disaster or diseases of epidemic proportion for us to stand by our fellow Americans. We no longer look at each other as neighbors, brothers in arms or friends, but rather as classes, colors, religions and politics.
The very foundations of our nation, the very qualities we pride ourselves on, what every soldier throughout our history has fought and died for, are crumbling in the face of greed, ignorance and intolerance. We don't want to help those that are less fortunate.
How foolish we are to believe there is a safety net set aside for those of us that have never been poor, jobless, seriously ill yet denied health care. How foolish we are to think that we too will not be cast aside when the well runs dry.
Yes, it takes tragedy for us to see each other as fellow Americans and yet here we stand, ever so slowly recovering from one of the most horrific economic crises in our nation's history and we would still turn our backs on those out of work, unable to buy insurance, refused coverage and deny them one of the most basic rights, the right to at the very least live a healthy life in a country where some get it all while others are left with nothing.
I was denied health insurance after I graduated from college and could no longer be covered under my parent's insurance. I was denied based on what the insurer called a "pre-existing condition" that at the time was in remission and for which I had not seen a specialist in nearly ten years.
It felt like nothing less than a swift kick to the stomach. I was a healthy young woman in my twenties and I was denied health insurance due to something that had happened to me, something I had no control over nearly a decade earlier.
Perhaps that is why I feel the way I do about this topic. I've been there. I know what it feels like to wonder how you will afford or even obtain health care benefits just so you can get a prescription or know that you'll have help if, God forbid, you're in a car accident.
It is a helpless and gut wrenching feeling, and people all across our country go through it day after day while battling cancer, multiple sclerosis and mental illness to name a few.
Over the past ten months the health care bill, which was initially designed around implementing universal health care has been whittled down to something far foggier and less aggressive.
The current bill blocks the re-importation of low-cost drugs into the United States. It should come as no surprise that drug company lobbyists don't want Americans being offered low-cost drugs that in the past they have been successful in blocking.
Initially a public option was a must for many of the Democrats fighting for the reform; however, as we draw closer to the final passing vote a public option has been all but taken off the table completely. Yet, if the current bill is passed it is estimated that 94% of Americans will have health insurance available to them and that is a step in the right direction.
Whether you like it or not, this should not be a Democrat verses Republican issue, it should not be a rich verses poor issue; it should not be a religious issue.
This is an issue of each person coming to the realization that they are not now nor will they ever be better than another simply based on their means.
You do not deserve to be healthy simply because you have the money to stay that way. And if you don't believe me, believe cancer, believe heart disease, believe liver failure, believe childhood leukemia, because none of these diseases cares what you look like, how big your house is, what kind of car you drive, who your parents were or how big your nest egg is. If the past ten years of our country's history didn't knock you off your high horse, maybe a terminal illness will.
It's time that we remember and embrace the founding principals of our nation and we stop turning our backs on those that need our help the most. Those inalienable rights should be for all of us, not based on our color, our creed, our gender, our wealth or our politics.
We need to stop asking ourselves what a life is worth in terms of dollars and see the faces, the families and the stories of real human tragedy taking place on our streets every day.
No, the OnMilwaukee.com sex columnist's real name is not Sarah Foster. (Foster is the model/actress that played an ex-lover of Vincent Chase in the first season of "Entourage.") In reality, our sex columnist is a Wisconsin native with a degree in journalism and a knack for getting people to talk to her.
Sarah never considered herself an "above average" listener. Others, however, seem to think differently. Perhaps she has a sympathetic tone or expression that compels people to share their lives and secrets with her despite how little they know her. Everyone from the girl that does her hair to people in line at the grocery store routinely spill the details of their lives and relationships to Sarah, unprompted but typically not unwanted. It’s strange to her that people would do this, but she doesn’t mind. Sarah likes that she can give advice even if it is to complete strangers.
So why the pseudonym? Simple. People tell Sarah these things because for some reason they trust her. They believe she cares and therefore will keep their secrets in a locked vault the same way a best friend or therapist would. Sarah won't name names, but that vault is now unlocked.