DEAD AMERICANS WALKING
With credit, gratitude and admiration for Sr. Helen Prejean, author of the book Dead Man Walking,
I am using her title, slightly altered. Sr. Helen would not mind since she has devoted her entire life to serving human beings. And I am using her title for the same purpose and ends.
So what do I mean by dead Americans walking? Allow me to elaborate as I have been silently seething for years over lack of health care in our country. Much of that is a mixture of fret and fear for myself in all the years I have lacked health care. Now, with sacrifice and near desperation over a dearth of employment options, my dear husband is employed and I am finally “covered”. But now my primary haunting is a mix of worry and growing outrage, concerning friends and family who could be walking dead Americans for lack of health care. And I do mean health CARE not insurance.
How often though, do you hear that major distinction mentioned in our national debate over the huge difference between the health care or the health insurance of Americans. I can barely recall one. The argument has been framed by the current powers that be in health care for our country, the insurance industry, pharmaceutical giants and the politicians they have purchased. Why are we not talking about CARE rather than the capitalistic venture of insurance or the cost and profits of Big Pharma? From my own experience, and I would bet on behalf of many, many others, direct or frequent contacts with an insurance company usually means trouble. No surprise since policy and coverage can take a mathematical genius and a fortune teller to decipher. It is all intentional. In the defense of the industry, they exist to make a profit. Lest we forgot that this is the one and only one purpose of a capitalistic enterprise; which we tend to do. As a business with their goal of increasing the bottom line, they are doing nothing wrong, they do not err when they deny someone life saving care. But as a nation, can we not question the humanity and decency of allowing profit to be the primary goal and sole objective in the health, sickness or death of any human being?? It is time we reframe this national debate. This in part, is what brings forth my rage.
Another part of my fury is the cacophony of voices that are waging a verbal and legislative war via two major factions; “Pro-life” and “Pro-choice”. It boils down to debating the rights and health of women and children, intentionally misidentified as the ‘murder of babies’ and the protection of human life. This rage makes it way from the core of gut like horrible heartburn rising up to nearly choke me when I hear pro-life folk heralding the sanctity of life invoking their righteous savior status of the unborn yet not giving one damn about dead Americans walking. There are many examples if one cares to know them. Allow me to cite one reported by Rachel Maddow taking place in the state of Mississippi, a state with the highest infant mortality rates in the nation, worse than some developing nations. When the current republican Governor did the right thing to say it was time to address this desperate health care need of women and children by appointing a highly qualified physician charged with changing these numbers, a congressman promptly fired him for very vague and tangential connections to Planned Parenthood. Who and what is this legislator trying to protect?
Another current issue of our national debate, unrelated to health care that nevertheless bears mention, centers squarely around the issue of gay rights. While not unimportant, does the right to marry take precedent over the right to health care for Americans who may be ill and would choose to go on living, if they could afford choice?
How do we allow these debates to draw our energy and dialogue from coast to coast away from truly critical issues in favor of arguments that do not constitute the medical emergency that is reality for so many? All the while, dead Americans keep walking or crawling on. Again, who is framing the debate and establishing this agenda?
In case you think that my worry and fear is overblown, consider the ones whom I am considering among beloved family and friends...
One who needs very expensive drugs to maintain a reasonable quality of life and keep pain at a tolerable level but has quickly reached the ‘donut hole’ and therefore cannot afford something necessary to breath. Hold your breath, and ponder that one. How shallow can you breath to lessen chronic pain? Remember, this is WITH coverage.
Or, someone who bleeds profusely at certain times and suffers excruciating pain that cannot be treated for lack of funds. Only affordable part of this is the likely diagnosis. Definitive diagnosis is way too costly. Forget actual treatment.
How about medical professionals, despite their expertise and compassion, bill their services at $500 per hour but will not accept any insurance. Feel free to insert the word “audacity” somewhere in this example.
How many Americans can you imagine could even consider negotiating a rate of this sort for ‘expert opinion” or a tiny scrap of signed paper with scribbles on it that you dash to a pharmacy to fill, where you are met by a non-negotiable price that is higher than anywhere else in the world?
I could list more examples, but all you need do in case you think my argument and opinion is, well, opinionated, ask a few in your extended family or perhaps your neighbors who lack that golden fleece of insurance (there are a reported 45 million who die annually due to lack of health care). What nightmare does a lack of diagnosis, doctors, medication or treatment of any kind conjure for them?
My guess is, and sadly believe, the truth will bear this out, you will find far too many dead Americans walking among us……….