FLINT - After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act (critics call it "Obamacare," which is incorrect since the law is 100 years and a thousand authors in the making, one of them being Mitt Romney himself), the comedian Paula Poundstone wrote on Twitter, "Can I get sick now?"
That sums it up perfectly for me.
Most people remain focused on the tiresome politics of the thing. Not me. To me it's always been about the 30 million Americans - the unemployed, the underemployed, those with pre-existing conditions who couldn't get coverage before - who will now have health insurance.
Can you imagine the difference this will make in their lives? Hearts will be tended, backs will be mended. Chronic disease will be attacked. Rotted teeth will be pulled. What everyone misses amid all the shouting is that we're about to become a much, much healthier nation.
That's no small thing. Healthy people, think more, care more, dream more, do more. And, yes, they ultimately pay more in taxes. Sick people don't. It's as simple as that.
As a nation, we seem to have lost sight of the fact that this is likely to be a very, very good thing for just about everyone, in much the same way that Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare benefit everyone, either directly or indirectly. More people will be healthier. Costs will ultimately be lower. People won't be using the emergency room as a doctor's office as often. People will feel more secure knowing they're not a bad break from disaster.
How are these bad things?
The answer is they're not. And yet - have you noticed? - we seem incapable as a nation of focusing on any of the good that can come from widely available health care because we're so busy dreading the potential negatives.
Yes, politics is partly to blame. The right has people convinced that health care reform is part of a secret socialist plot to undermine the nation. The left has others convinced that any and all objections to the law are part of conservative conspiracy against poor people. The media, meanwhile, has been only too happy to focus on the fuss rather than bother to tell anyone much about what the law will and won't do. No wonder no one seems sure if the ruling was a good thing or not.
I also think there's a bit of human nature at work here. People fear and dislike change, even good change. They tend to focus so much on what could go wrong that they lose sight of what they could gain. When my kids do it, I call it "awfulizing." That's what we're doing as a nation. We're awfulizing.
We should stop it. As Mark Twain is said to have said, "I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."
I suspect that will be the case with the Affordable Care Act once we've lived with it awhile. We'll find that most of our fears were unfounded, and those that weren't we'll address.
Someday, we may even look back on the Supreme Court ruling as a good day, one on which the question, "Can I get sick now?" was asked by millions and our nation's answer was, at long last, yes.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller.