Thus far in my short stint as a columnist, I have really tried to avoid talking about the Affordable Care Act.
One reason is I have much better things to do than read 500,000 hate messages in my UT email account. But I also haven't come to a conclusion on how I feel about it just yet.
Truth be told, all the controversy surrounding the ACA overwhelms me, and after the disastrous roll out in October I found myself even more confused. I
am a little envious of people who have solid, concrete ideas about it, because for me it represents a huge grey area.
Anyone who reads this column knows I am very liberal when it comes to social issues. Something you might not know about me, however, is when it comes to fiscal policy I tend to be much more conservative.
The problem I run into with these ideals is there are very few politicians out there today who I can really relate to.
I often find myself compromising one ideal for another simply because party polarization has pulled our delegates so far apart; I'm afraid the ability to act as a "moderate" (whatever that even means nowadays) is deteriorating all together.
All the discussion about the Affordable Care Act has really forced me to think about what's important to me not only as a society member and voter, but also simply what is important to me as a person and contributing member to society.
One of the single most important things I have learned in my time as a student at UT is how important it is to truly be an advocate for other people. Call me a cheesy idealist, but being immersed in a campus spirit based on volunteerism and service has had a strong effect on me. When I first stepped onto this campus in 2011, my primary interests were making as many friends as possible and possibly learning how to do a keg stand (just kidding – sort of).
This year, I'm leading a group of students on an Alternative Spring Break trip to work with children living in poverty and interning in the office of a U.S. Senator. My primary role in this job is helping constituents navigate the never-ending bureaucracies of Social Security, disability and unemployment.
Tedious as it may be, I get to help people and I think it's awesome. Being a student here has helped me realize how much I value such experiences.
Remembering advocacy is what I think is getting lost in all this debate over the ACA. I'm certainly not suggesting the plan is perfect or the best thing for our economy. I can't say I'm OK with an individual mandate, or that I think people who don't even try to be healthy should get help from those who do. Sorry to be harsh, but not everyone deserves it, and I know that.
But what I adamantly refuse to accept is the fact that even though we are the richest country in the world, a totally ordinary, hardworking, middle class person can become bankrupt and end up homeless because their spouse gets cancer or they fall victim to some other extreme circumstance.
I refuse to accept that some people can't have health insurance simply because they have a preexisting condition. In my eyes, this resembles social Darwinism just as much as the individual mandate seems like socialism to some people.
Government-run healthcare without a doubt needs to be more efficient and flexible. I know just as well as anyone the administration dropped the ball on the roll out. What they haven't dropped the ball on is remembering to advocate for people who society wants to leave behind.
We have dropped that ball, and it has never been so evident to me as it is now as I observe the Obamacare saga unfold.
I can understand why many are opposed to this plan and I don't blame them. I just wish people wouldn't let the debate bring out such an ugly side of humanity.
We need to remember we can be economists as well as advocates; we don't have to sacrifice one ideal for another simply because it's too hard to find a middle ground.
It's out there somewhere, we just have to work a little harder to reach it.
Katie Dean is a junior in political science. She can be reached at email@example.com.