"A Note to My Teenaged Nephew" by Nancy Turnbull

This article is more than 14 years old.

Yo Jack,

Great to see you at the family dinner last week. I loved hearing your band’s new song, Naked on the Inside, particularly now that I understand that it’s not a tale of adolescent angst and the search for connection, but just about sex.

So, you had a lot of good questions about the state’s new health insurance law.

I agree, it’s weird that the state called its new health plans “Commonwealth Choice” when lots of people won’t have a choice about whether or not to buy them. I’ll pass that comment along to the people who make up the names. I can also understand why you think it’s age discrimination that the plans don’t cover the costs of tattoos, piercings, and herbal medicine.

And you have a point that it’s not fair that you and other vegans have to help pay for costs of the heart disease of all of us gross meat eaters. I do think our age difference is more likely to explain our relative risk for cardiovascular problems than our eating habits (particularly since you did eat at least five servings of ice cream cake for dessert—I’m so happy you liked it so much). Plus, you’ve never heard me complain about the fact that my insurance premiums help to finance your trips to the emergency department for all of your skateboard and snowboarding injuries. Or that my car insurance costs more because I help to pay for the accidents of teenaged drivers like you. (Your mom will get over the dent and the smashed up fence—take it from me, she wasn’t such a good driver when she was learning either.)

I know you think it’s an infringement on individual rights that the state is telling people that they have to buy health insurance. That type of attitude comes from your father’s side of the family—he hates wearing his seatbelt too. And I do worry, like you, that we’re about to tell lots of people that they have to buy health insurance that has worse coverage and costs more than the insurance that most of the rest of us have. So please keep on fighting for the revolution—I’d love for us all to live in a country that has a progressively financed, safe, high quality, affordable and equitable health care system, without having to move away from the United States. Maybe we can finance it with some of that peace dividend you’re also working on.

Lots of love,

Aunt Nancy

P.S. You still can’t borrow my car.

Nancy Turnbull, Harvard School of Public Health

This program aired on April 30, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.