Recently, I have realized yet again that we hold government to a standard we do not extend to private business. Some wish to cut Medicare and Social Security to the bone, but they would not be so obsessed with this shortsighted agenda if they did not perceive their expectations to be noble. I wonder why the private sector doesn’t have this degree of scrutiny and why we do not cry bloody murder if it fails us? Perhaps this is because no one ever stated, with great solemnity, that corporations for the people, by the people, and of the people should not perish from the face of the earth. Nothing gets people riled up more than corruption in government, but when the private sector nearly tanks our entire economy due to its own malfeasance, our responses are more measured and not as vituperative.
As I’ve written about before, I’m officially disabled. Due to the presence of two or three concurrent chronic illnesses, I regularly see doctors and specialists. Medicare is my primary insurance carrier and my prescriptions are covered by a Medicare Part D plan. Usually, I don’t have too much of an issue in ensuring that prescriptions are covered, but every now and then nagging problems arise. These coverage gaps were never present when I had private insurance. My co-pays might have been higher, but I was never told that the medication prescribed to me was simply not covered, or that the prescribing doctor needed to fill out additional paperwork before coverage would be granted.
Many people with bipolar disorder also suffer from severe insomnia. The last time I met with my psychiatrist, he informed me that it’s highly unlikely I will ever be able to attain natural sleep for the rest of my life. And because of this, I take prescription drugs to sedate me thoroughly enough to achieve a full night’s rest. I was first prescribed a medication, Restoril, that falls into a class of sedatives that almost every private plan covers. Not so with Medicare. After I arrived at the pharmacy to find I was required to pay the cost completely out of pocket, I called the insurance company to seek answers. I was told that controlled substances like my prescribed medication were simply not covered.
Drugs like these can be easily abused, yes. But the hypocrisy of that statement reveals the double standard in place. In other words, so long as you are covered under private insurance, you can be a drug addict, but Medicare/the government will not subsidize anyone’s addiction. Many people would pitch a fit if it were ever revealed that their tax dollars funded someone’s chemical dependency, but it’s just as shortsighted to stop here. Private insurance plans have long fueled the self-destructive tendencies of many, especially those who’ve legally attained oft-abused drugs like Oxycontin. Our indignation doesn’t need to stop at government, nor our scrutiny.
As citizens, we believe we have some degree of influence on government. We can vote certain people in and vote certain people out. Popular opinion dictates its function, to some degree. But we need not feel powerless to effect change within business. While it’s true that we do not cast our ballot to determine anyone’s board of directors, we vote with our pocketbooks. And we also vote when we monitor closely how the private sector conducts itself. Regulation is only one way to do so, and it ought not be the only way. But when we take a hands off approach to business, we shirk our responsibilities as responsible citizens just as surely as if we turn a blind eye to government. Focusing on one alone is like participating in a fight with one arm tied behind one’s back. We owe it to ourselves to do better.