Pima: The (Un)Healthiest County

Supervisors Richard Elias and Sharon Bronson [Pima County Facebook photo]

No less than twenty-three people had three minutes each to exhort the Pima County Board of Supervisors to pass two resolutions on Tuesday. That’s over an hour of repeating the same tired tropes over and over again to ask the board to vote for two resolutions supporting things absolutely not under the board’s control:

Opioid addiction and Obamacare (the ACA).

If you think that sounds like a snooze-fest, you’re right.

Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster. And if you listen to the desperate pleas of some of the people who complained to the county about the American Healthcare Act currently in Congress, the situation is dire: Children will begin to die without catheters (yes, that was one speaker’s implication), and–according to failed politician and former State Representative Victoria Steele–Obamacare has done “wonderful things” for women that “men behind closed doors” are working to take away.

If Obamacare was so great, wouldn’t Congress have adopted it for themselves? If Obamacare was so great, wouldn’t insurance companies have been able to remain in business without leaving the exchanges? If Obamacare was so great, wouldn’t we all have been able to keep our doctors as promised? If Obamacare was so great, would we have needed the IRS to force every citizen to buy in?

The resolution Board Chair Sharon Bronson offered notes that “nearly 100,000” residents of the county “could” lose their health insurance. How many hundreds of thousands in Pima County–this author included–effectively lost their insurance because their deductibles increased significantly under Obamacare?

The resolution extols keeping 26-year-olds on mom and dad’s insurance plan–wait for it–as a benefit to all Americans. Why aren’t those grown adults self sufficient and working jobs that pay their fair share of the tax burden, as well as their own insurance? These slugs benefit nobody but themselves.

The resolution laments the possible loss of various services, such as prescription benefits and smoking cessation. How much could Pima County cover for its own residents with, oh, say the $15 million it frittered away on sending eleven secret herbs and spices to near space?

The resolution cites a CBO estimate that Obamacare would cut the deficit. An early Obamacare estimate forecasted some $84 billion in deficit reduction over ten years; a CBO estimate from earlier this year predicted that the Republicans’ plan would cut the deficit by $337 billion over ten years. Why wouldn’t Pima County support the AHCA that should reduce the federal deficit by roughly four times the dollars?

Guess Sharon Bronson didn’t really think through her arguments before she wrote the resolution.

Others present at Tuesday’s call to the audience spoke in favor of another resolution to work with the Governor’s office and the State Legislature on new treatment programs (and funding) for opioid addiction.

So, instead of giving doctors and pharmacists better tools to control for their patients’ potential misuse of these narcotics, instead of attaching stigma and shame to non-prescription opioid abuse, instead of working to heal a culture that tolerates and excuses substance abuse as a “disease” of its own, we’re just going to throw money and more pills at the problem?

Look, I want to live in a society that helps addicts get well; I want to see them become healthy, functional, stable, contributing members of society. I want to see these people believe that they have futures full of promise in (what should still be) the land of opportunity. I want these people to get effective help. I want the stigma lifted from debilitating diseases like fibromyalgia that legitimately warrant opioid prescriptions and transferred to those who willfully abuse pills they do not need.

But our society does not do addicts any favors by absolving substance abusers of any culpability: “It’s a disease; it’s not your fault that you stole and took the pain pills the vet prescribed for the family dog.

One after another, Tuesday’s speakers lamented the societal dysfunction of addiction and begged for ever bigger government to help fight the symptoms. Not one speaker who addressed the Board of Supervisors, not one member of the board itself, not anybody involved proposed an action that would treat the true causes of opioid addiction by addressing the fundamental problems in our culture.

So we continue to expand government, we ignore the root causes of society’s problems, and we present the bill to the taxpayer. On second thought, maybe distorting the central nervous system with narcotic drugs is the only way to make sense of Sharon Bronson’s resolutions.