My original idea for a Sunday column was to talk to the uninsured, those left dangling in the wind while the politicians and protestors and TV commentators beat the various health care proposals into smithereens. I intended to juxtapose, lunatics screaming lies about euthanasia, against someone who would face a real-life economic catastrophe from even a middling health crisis.
It was easy enough to find uninsured folks, especially in Fort Lauderdale, a center of tourism, an industry famously skimpy on employee benefits. Besides, with 47 million uninsured Americans, it’s like searching for a rare species. I talked to waiters, waitresses, a bartender, a couple store clerks – none of whom had any protection against serious illness or injury other than their youthful optimism.
But the column busted. It’s hard to build a narrative around quotes like, “Well. I haven’t really paid any attention.”
Or, “Didn’t I see something on television with people yelling or something.”
Or, “I don’t follow the news. It depresses me.”
My little survey coincided nicely with findings by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, which found that the very citizens with the most at stake in the health care debate were the segment paying the least attention.
Only 37 percent of Americans 18-39 years old, the age segment among adults least likely to be insured, said they followed the health care debate. Among those with only a high school education or less, only 35 percent were tuned in. With some college, but no degree, it was just 45 percent. Blacks, wildly disproportionate among the uninsured, were less attentive than whites. Democrats and Independents, less so, by a substantial margin, than Republicans. Only 32 percent of folks making less than 30,000, only 47 percent of those making $30,000 to $75,000 paid close attention to what could be the most important economic issue in their lives.
If those loud and disruptive protestors we see on TV and YouTube hijack the health care debate, it’s undoubtedly because Americans most in need of health care were too busy updating their FaceBook page.