Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More talk about health care

I stated before that I have no interest talking about health care until we get to the point where we can have a genuine discussion about our current system and what the future of that system should be in this country.

I have yet to see those hopes come to fruition, but I must admit I’m a bit excited to hear what the President has to say in his speech tonight.

I have no idea what direction Obama’s going to take, but I hope he finds a way to remind people that we’re talking about people here. Millions of people. Not insurance companies or death panels, but regular people who suffer, and will suffer, because of our inanity to face the fear of change.

I read a great article by Barton Kunstler over at the Huffington Post that reminds us what we’re really fighting for in all this (I know it's a tad long to post here, but I think it's worth it):
Last Wednesday night I attended one of the 3,000 vigils called by MoveOn to show support for health care reform. About 60 people showed up in our town, holding candles, and - as was planned for all the vigils -- taking turns reading 11 pages of one-sentence descriptions of MoveOn members "who are suffering under our broken health care system", as MoveOn's introduction stated. Some of the cases hit me like a punch in the stomach and I -- along with others -- audibly gasped. Others gave me a sinking feeling, a sense of hopelessness.

As the reading went on, I felt a growing outrage and, from what I gathered talking with others afterward, this was widely shared. Not the sort of outrage that would lead me to draw little mustaches on posters of Blue Dog Democrats or John McCain. But pretty pissed off nonetheless.

The vigil's organizer said that it was a fair guess most of us in attendance did have some sort of health care. Later, though, I happened to be standing nearby when a woman told him that she owed $125,00 in medical bills and had been forced to leave her home for subsidized housing. The stories on MoveOn's list are everywhere -- they are our neighbors' stories, family members' stories, the stories of other people just like us, trying to survive and flourish in an America that -- according to our national myths - should be compassionate towards and protective of its citizens.

Whom did we hear about as we read the list of people screwed over by our current health care system? "Samantha has been denied coverage since being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 3." "Tracy lost her leg to cancer, and is now getting dropped from Medicaid." "Christine's out-of-pocket expenses are forcing her to live in poverty while dying from kidney cancer." "Malyn died of cancer at age 63 because she couldn't afford health care and her employer didn't provide any." The term "because of a prior condition" appeared often. This is flagrant abuse - insurance companies, among the most cash-rich corporations in the world, can refuse to insure you if you have "a prior condition". That is, if you have colitis, as does one of the people on the list whom insurers would not cover, they won't cover you for anything. What if you get hit by a car, which has nothing to do with colitis? No health insurance -- because you have colitis.

"Ian is 20, has Type 1 diabetes, and has been denied health insurance by Medicaid, insurance companies, and Medicare/Social Security." "Michelle has breast cancer and her insurance will run out on October 9th of this year." "Jack's company forced its retirees out of its health insurance program by raising the premiums from $47.93 to over $600 per month." "Kerry is battling stage III breast cancer that went undiagnosed for too long because she had no insurance to cover routine health screenings." Another common term is "lost their home". Medical expenses are a leading cause of foreclosure and eviction, so the sicker you get, the more likely you'll get thrown out onto the streets.

On it goes. The real list is millions of names long. So where is the outrage? Where are the Democratic politicians telling these stories to their constituents, their colleagues, and to the nation as proof that the current system is failing so many? Why are Republicans and Blue Dogs playing low-life political tricks just to defend insurance companies (heavy campaign donors) and peddling a perverted version of an America where the government aiding its citizens is treated like a heinous act of treason?

Why has the media ignored the real outrage - not that of the fanatics who think the health plan will lead to a totalitarian state, but the outrage over the millions of people falling through the cracks...Excuse me, was I about to say "cracks" in the system? Let's change that to "widening crevices" in our health care system.

"Jackie has MS and no health insurance." Seven words that speak to an individual's courage and pain, to social injustice, and the chance for rescue and redemption, rescue for "Jackie" and redemption for a nation that must do a much better job of serving its people.

Fingers crossed that tonight's speech might make a dent in the hearts and minds of some people.

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