Jeanette Sekan
Jeanette Sekan
By Jeanette Sekan
The Cody (Wyo.) Enterprise

If you are a regular or semi-regular reader of this column, you know that words matter to me. I think words matter to most people, but as with a lot of things we take them for granted.

Words matter when we deal with our employer, spouse, friend, children. Words chosen, in conjunction with tone and body language, are how we communicate. It is our words that count most.

As I’ve said before, the old adage of “sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt me” isn’t true. It was meant to give us internal courage and strength, but it doesn’t. Most often, it is the words that leave the lasting wounds or can leave the lasting positive impression to guide all we do. Words are powerful.

I’ve been watching with much incredulity the ongoing debacle regarding healthcare. This has been on the front burner for too many years, and not just the last 8-10 years as some would have you think it began with the Affordable Care Act.

Healthcare is a word with huge meaning. It encompasses receiving care if you are sick, how it is delivered, how it is paid for, who can access care when needed, what is the basic care everyone should be allowed to receive, plus so much more. As most of us know if we have paid even the most cursory of attention, the overall healthcare delivery system represents approximately one-sixth of our economy. This is nothing to sneeze at, but it also means there is no silver bullet that will solve all the issues.

With the ACA, some basic tenants of what should be covered and available were defined. What wasn’t addressed is the influence and impact of the insurance industry on every facet of the system. Until we decide to peel that onion, everything else discussed, dismantled, derided or derailed is meaningless.

Weaved into, but cleverly hidden, in today’s wasteful noise about healthcare is a threat to the very foundation of our social contract with each other. In my humble opinion, the greatest achievements on behalf of America citizens in the past 100 years are our Social Security system, Medicare and Medicaid.

This assures the most vulnerable among us are not left literally on the street. Somewhere along the way, the word for these programs was co-opted to mean something other than the true definition. These programs became rights, or entitlements, as was intended. Now the term “entitlement” is perceived as a negative. It’s come to mean something given, not earned, or that recipients are lazy and undeserving.

Social Security and Medicare are funded by workers and employers. We do have skin in the game, as do our employers. Medicaid is the bridge. Without the bridge, we can’t traverse the time between employment or the gaps between insured, uninsured and elder care. Can you afford $5,000-8,000 per month if you or your loved one needs nursing home care? Can you afford the $100,000 hospital stay if you have an accident or illness?

We need to pay closer attention to words and what they really mean.

Editor’s note: Jeanette Sekan is a columnist for the Cody Enterprise in Cody, Wyo. and a former resident of Ohio. The Cody Enterprise, founded by W.F. Buffalo Bill Cody and Col. John Peake in August 1899, celebrated its centennial in 1999. The award-winning newspaper is owned by Sage Publishing Co. of Cody, Wyo. Jeanette’s columns are published in The Highland County Press, courtesy of the author and the Cody Enterprise (