There are two devastating and harrowing healthcare stories you really need to know about.
A warning: though these stories are commonplace in the United States of America, they will undoubtedly frighten everyone who dares to read them. Today you're a bystander, you're just reading about our morally bankrupt healthcare system. Tomorrow, you could be the next victim. Never forget that this is about all of us, sooner or later, the system will destroy you or someone you love.
One essay in The Nation, A System From Hell , is from Kate Michelman. Kate, you will undoubtedly remember was the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America from 1985 to 2004. The illness of her husband, and a catastophic accident suffered by her daughter, brought kate face-to-face with the grim reality that all but the richest Americans are one accident, illness or lost job away from financial ruin or bankruptcy.
And even the rich are frightened by the U.S. healthcare system.
A System From Hell
. . .I do not tell this story because it is unique. On the contrary, the point is precisely that countless people across the country are living it. And millions more are a crisis away from joining them--one lost job, a diagnosis, an accident. Most people do not have the luxury of being able to call, as I do, on powerful friends for help. Not even these friends, of course, can change the predicament my husband and I face. Nor will the situation change for anyone until political leaders get serious about comprehensive healthcare reform.
By "comprehensive," I mean that piecemeal approaches will not work--not economically, not morally. The healthcare crisis is not a series of isolated problems. The problem is not just the uninsured. It is not only the underinsured. It is not the young or the old. My husband had excellent health coverage; our daughter had none. He faces chronic illness in the twilight of life; she suffered a terrible injury just as her adult life was beginning. Between them, they span the complete spectrum of healthcare economics in America, but when crisis struck, they found themselves in the same place.
Our story also illustrates the unique challenges women face in the healthcare system, as in the economy at large. Women are paid less and given benefits less frequently--yet they are the ones on whom the responsibility of caretaking disproportionately falls. In addition, women disproportionately, but hardly exclusively, understand the perverse economic choices the healthcare system imposes. In my case, I had to quit working to care for my husband, only to arrive at a point at which he needs care I can afford only if I can find a job. The bills, meanwhile, are often inexplicable, sometimes contain mistakes and are always impossible to resolve without encountering a thicket of red tape.
Even on the other side of that thicket, the insurance companies cannot answer the most vexing question my husband and I--and so many others--ask: if "health insurance" does not pay for healthcare when people need it, then what exactly do those words mean? And all this says nothing about the fact that my husband had the foresight to purchase long-term-care coverage. The problem is that it nominally covers long-term care but does not cover its actual cost
And The New York Times has a front page story today about what happens when you lose your job and your employer provided health benefits. What you are about to read is barbaric and ghastly, but it's the reality we face as American citizens.
With Son in Remission, Family Looks for Coverage
When Danna Walker left the second-floor conference room and returned tearily to her desk — where someone had already deposited a packing box for her belongings — her first thought was not of the 14 years she had worked for DHL or the loss of her $37,000-a-year salary.
It was of Jake. In three months, once her benefits ran out, how in the world would she provide health insurance for Jake, her mountainous, red-headed 21-year-old son, who had learned three years earlier that he had metastatic testicular cancer?
Since the day she was laid off in October, Ms. Walker and her husband, Russ, co-owner of a struggling feed store here on the outskirts of Houston, have mounted a largely fruitless quest to find affordable coverage for Jake’s pre-existing condition. Their odyssey has become all too familiar to millions of newly uninsured Americans who suddenly find themselves one diagnosis away from medical and financial devastation.
The Walkers, both 46, are among nine million people who have lost employer-sponsored insurance since December 2007, according to projections by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Some have qualified for government insurance, and others have bought individual policies. But an estimated four million have joined the ranks of the uninsured, heightening the urgency in Washington to close the coverage gaps in American health care.
Senators Baucus and Kennedy have said over the last day or so that they will have health bills on the Senate floor in June. We don't know the specifics. If the bills do not have a strong and robust public option, it will mean that the special interests and lobbyists have won, and once again,
as usual the American people are the losers.
Senators Set Timetable for Health Care Bills
The chairmen of two Senate committees told President Obama today that by early June they would finish writing legislation on health care to "provide coverage to all Americans."
The commitment came from Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who is chairman of the Finance Committee, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
If a strong public option mysteriously disappears from the bills we will shortly see, we will have no alternative but to tell those we elect to do our business, to pack their bags, that their days in Washington have ended.
Senator Baucus and Senator Kennedy be well advised: WE DON'T WANT "COVERAGE", WE DEMAND GUARANTEED AND AFFORDABLE CRADLE TO GRAVE HEALTHCARE.