Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

How about health care for Thanksgiving?

By Bob Greene
updated 10:49 AM EST, Thu November 28, 2013
Bob Greene says Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on families who believed it when they were told they would get access health care.
Bob Greene says Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on families who believed it when they were told they would get access health care.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bob Greene: In politics, to take something on faith is to believe it is "on the legit"
  • It's another way of saying: Suckers. People thought health reform was on the legit, he says
  • He says at Thanksgiving, politicians should recall who gets left out in health care bickering
  • Greene: It's the people who can't afford health care, but believed things would change for better

Editor's note: CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a bestselling author whose 25 books include "Late Edition: A Love Story"; "Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War"; and "Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen."

(CNN) -- There is a phrase that has long been used in certain big-city political circles.

It has always been said with an implied -- and sometimes literal -- sneer:

"They think it's on the legit."

It refers to people who are trusting by nature -- occasionally novice political adversaries, often the general public -- and who make the mistake of actually believing a proposal that is being presented to them. People who, hearing a promise, take it on faith.

"They think it's on the legit."

Meaning:

Bob Greene
Bob Greene

"Suckers."

This is Thanksgiving week. For all the heated talk about, and blame-placing over, the deeply troubled federal health care initiative -- for those who blame President Barack Obama and the Democrats for the screwed-up rollout, for those who blame the Republicans for their longstanding opposition to the White House plan and their determination to combat it at every turn, for those who are furious that the early pledge about being able to keep current insurance was not real, for those who take delight that the website has been a disaster because it makes one side come off as incompetent -- this may be a good moment to step back and think, with real-life compassion, about what sometimes gets lost in the partisan back-and-forth.

To think about the people who don't care much about Beltway haggling, but who desperately need dependable health care for their families, and who were hoping against hope that readily available medical care was at last going to be theirs. The people who heard the promises.

They thought it was on the legit.

At base, this isn't -- or should not be -- a matter of politics, of Washington winners and losers. The families to whom reliable health care has been an unattainable dream don't care which party finds a way to that health care for them. And both parties, at least in their public statements, agree that while they might not concur at all on the method of getting there, they concur on the goal. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida: "As policymakers, we must focus on making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans."

Let the ideologues on both ends of the right-left continuum make a game of this, if they wish. But do you think, when a person with a sick child finds a doctor who will help and who will bring peace of mind, the parent cares whether the physician is a Republican or a Democrat? The same goes for how a person in such need would feel about a member of Congress who helped him or her find a path to decent care.

For those among us fortunate enough to have doctors we can go to, and the means to pay for them, this Thanksgiving week is a time to remind ourselves how grateful we should feel to be in such a position. Because it is only when you're not in that position -- when you are sick and have nowhere to turn, or, worse, when it is your son or daughter who is sick and you have to explain that you have nowhere to turn -- that you fully understand the fear and helplessness that kicks in in the middle of the night.

Come October 1, the people who yearned for a way to take care of their families' health were told, such a way will be yours.

Well-to-do people are always going to have more options for finding the best health care for their families. That is a fact of life.

But -- and here is where political leaders of both parties, whatever their differences, should find common ground -- access to health care shouldn't be a luxury. Health care is not a Mercedes, or a mansion on a hill. A family should not be deprived of it merely because they lack wealth, or have lost employment. Republicans and Democrats, Americans all, should acknowledge that health care is not a diamond bracelet to be gazed at with longing through a store window.

It's time to cool down the rhetoric and the finger-pointing. Before we get any deeper into the recriminations about rollouts and delays and extensions and penalties and startovers and repeals, we might want to pause, this Thanksgiving week, to put ourselves in the shoes of the people to whom the promise was profound and real.

There but for the grace. . . .

The people who need health care and who wait for this mess to be cleaned up are the people who have always been asked to wait. They will wait again, because they have little choice.

For the rest of us, perhaps this is a week not only for prayers of thanksgiving for what we have, but also a week for thoughts of those families who believed it when they were told that things were going to change for the better.

Who thought it was on the legit.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bob Greene

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT