Deviating from his prepared remarks for his "State of the University" speech to the Boise State University community, BSU president Bob Kustra, a former Republican lieutenant governor in Illinois, made a personal and powerful plea for reforming health care through his support for the public option.[read complete story and listen to the audio in the Boise Weekly]
Dr. Kustra's son, Stephen (age 37), recently lost his battle with cancer, and Dr. Kustra shared why he believes the insurance industry should not be a for-profit venture. He then relates this personal story with how the part-time employees of the university are the most vulnerable to the changes being made by the state of Idaho.
Kustra's remarks, I think, demonstrate how NOT difficult it should be to explain and to illustrate why the public option and health care reform matter.
In a moving passage, Kustra begins with the personal
Over the course of the last fifteen months that we fought this battle, we saw close up what's at stake in the current health care reform debate. We are living proof of how for-profit insurance companies and HMOs target people who are sick and who are ill and raise their premiums and raise their premiums until they can effectively kick them off the rolls.
That's what happened to Steve after his first bout with cancer and after he was supposedly cured. The premiums kept going up, he was young, he thought he was going to live forever at that point, so why bother telling his parents about this dilemma of paying those rates, so he did the worst possible thing he could do - he dropped his coverage. In so doing, he created a problem in that he had no doctor to see when symptoms returned. We'll never know what would have happened, but we certainly have recognized the fact that when we hear the 'public option,' and we hear the president thinking about dropping it from the plan, it worries me greatly that we would leave health care to the profit motive in America.
Kustra then connects his personal story to the way the State of Idaho is going to change its health care policies, and when enacted how those policies would affect the most vulnerable of the campus community, namely the part-time employees.
If you work as a part-time employee under 27 hours, your rates are going to increase 40%...If you work 27-36 hours, they'll increase by 20%. I don't get it... It doesn’t make any sense that this Faustian bargain that seems to have gone awry should land in the laps of our most vulnerable citizens. Because those part-timers [applause] They're our custodians. They're our lab technicians. They're our office specialists. Those are the folks we're talking about here. Those are the folks that are going to get hurt. I know that I’m supposed to be skilled at politics, and knowing what to say and when to say it, but there’s no way that anyone should remain silent in the face of this injustice and it is clear to me we have to do all that we have to do to fight this...
He then moves to what became the sound bite...
It's so ironic in this world in which we live that these folks who make these decisions dress up in blue and orange and come to seven football games a year and spend two and three months asking me as I travel down the street "Oh, how's things going with the team? Are we going to beat Oregon?" I wish just once somebody would say, "How’s the lab technician going to handle the 40 percent increase? How’s the custodian going to handle the 40 percent increase? Will he drop his coverage, will he simply fail to pay?" Believe me, those are the important questions we ought to be asking around this place, not how the football team’s going to be doing. I don’t know how else to put it. [applause]
Applause indeed for Dr. Kustra.