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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

 

Rubbing their noses in humanity

by Tom Sullivan


Healthcare "lines" is political rhetoric. Here's one for real Americans who have none. Wise, VA in 2016.

Health care is personal. Intensely personal. That for perverse reasons – money primarily and ideology secondarily – health care is a political football in this country is not just a tragedy. It is an atrocity. Perceive a threat to national security and our leaders stand at attention, salute the flag, and, without blinking, fire off a check for a trillion dollars for taking lives in foreign countries. But ask them in state capitols and in the nation's capitol to see to it that, like citizens of more civilized world powers, Americans can get the health care they need to preserve their own lives and their loved ones'? It's time to review donor lists, call think-tanks for talking points, lecture us on personal responsibility and "choice," drone on about freedom, and publicly wring their hands about how to pay for it. Moral hazard? I got your moral hazard right here, pal. Look in the damned mirror.

Without going into a lot of detail, news of several friends' life-threatening medical conditions all hit this week. Here's just one that surfaced late in my Twitter feed:

Word got out yesterday morning that the man with the veto pen is dissatisfied with the Republican Affordable Care Act repeal bill now in the U.S. Senate:

President Donald Trump told Republican senators Tuesday that the House-passed health care bill he helped revive is "mean" and urged them to craft a version that is "more generous," congressional sources said.

Trump's remarks were a surprising slap at a Republican-written House measure that was shepherded by Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and whose passage the president lobbied for and praised. At a Rose Garden ceremony minutes after the bill's narrow House passage on May 4, Trump called it "a great plan."

The president's criticism, at a White House lunch with 15 GOP senators, also came as Senate Republican leaders' attempts to write their own health care package have been slowed by disagreements between their party's conservatives and moderates.
But not slowed so much that Republicans won't ram through a secretive bill for taking health care coverage from 13 to 23 million Americans before the July 4 recess with less public debate than they afford a trillion-dollar foreign war. "Mean" or not, if the AHCA gets to the president's desk, he will sign it with a flourish, hold a victory party, and move on to securing tax cuts for the richest one percent. That's all his associates really want anyway. Cutting off millions of Americans' health insurance is a bump in the road.

The disparity in healthcare coverage and availability in this country in an international embarrassment. Another friend had cancer surgery at Duke Medical this week. He's expected to recover, mostly. His insurance is probably state-funded and he can afford to travel to the best hospitals. Yet another friend announced last night he has pancreatic cancer. Without Medicare (backed up by his spouse's federal insurance), he says, he would be dead already.

Speaking of dead already, one of the fiercest healthcare advocates I know shared on Facebook yesterday her latest letter to NC Sen. Thom Tillis about her dead son. Her name is Leslie. Don't mess with her. His name was Mike.
Senator Tillis,

I think you probably know who I am. I am the mother of a young man who died because he lacked access to health care. You had me arrested for trying to speak to you when you were Speaker of the House in North Carolina about the importance of access to health care. You were one of the leaders in the fight to withhold Medicaid from a half million people in this state, sentencing some 2,000 of them to death every year.

The ACA would have saved my son’s life because it forces insurance companies to not punish people who have pre-existing conditions.

My son had a birth defect. Like many young people, he decided to take a year off college when he was 19. Little did we know this common decision would be a fatal one for him. He was booted off my policy and then discovered he couldn’t buy insurance at any price because a birth defect is a pre-existing condition – as though he had decided as a zygote to have a birth defect.

This birth defect left him extremely vulnerable to an aggressive form of colon cancer, and he needed a colonoscopy every year. When he lived in New York, he had a doctor who would allow him to pay for his colonoscopies in monthly installments. By age 25, he had already had pre-cancerous polyps removed, so he had a near certainty of developing cancer if he couldn’t get his annual colonoscopies. But when he moved so he and his wife could go back to college, he discovered he could not get a colonoscopy unless he paid $2,300 in cash up front. No credit cards, no checks, no installments, nothing.

When he got sick he went to the ER three times and came away with three wrong diagnoses, three wrong medications and three large bills. You see – and I’m sure you know this – the emergency room only has to stabilize you; it does not have to look for the cause of your problem.

By the time anyone did anything, my son had stage 3 cancer. It was too late to save his life.

My son was a student, he worked 30 hours a week and he was a volunteer. He was an extraordinary young man.

But none of that mattered. He was sentenced to death – a slow and excruciating death – for having a birth defect. He had to leave his wife to get Medicaid and although he had applied for disability when he first became sick, his approval took 37 months and he was dead nine days before his first check arrived.

I tell you this story because, at the time he died, 45,000 Americans were dying every year from lack of access to health care, according to a study by Harvard Medical School that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The ACA has saved more than half of those lives. The uninsured rate in this country right now is at an historic low. The law is saving tens of thousands of lives every year, and to repeal it is tantamount to murder.

No, that statement is not overstating things. You are working on killing more than 25,000 innocent Americans every year. Those are human beings, Senator, and their lives matter a whole lot to me and to all the people who love them.

I have to face every damn day without my beloved son. I get up every morning longing to hear his voice again, devastated that I will never laugh at another one of his outrageous jokes or taste his cooking or have another late-night conversation about philosophy with him. I will never hear him tease me about being a Red Sox fan, or look for my chocolate stash only to discover he found it and left me just one little piece.

Perhaps it’s time to turn your back on your corporate overlords and become truly pro-life. Vote no on repealing the ACA. Vote to save the lives of the people who will die without insurance.

You have to know what you’re about to do is wrong.

If you go ahead with this, I hope and pray that you will burn in hell.

Leslie Boyd
Candler, NC
Yeah, healthcare is pretty damned personal. It is pretty damned personal to the thousands of citizens who sleep in their cars for a chance at treatment each year in Wise, Virginia (population 3,286). They get triage in animal stalls at the county fairgrounds. Most of the care there is dental. Dental school volunteers pull hundreds of bad teeth. Because while coverage for cancer and broken bones comes standard for those who can afford insurance, dental infections that can get into the brain and kill you are luxury coverage. Congress should take a field trip on July 21 instead of rushing to repeal the ACA before July 4th.


Remote Area Medical free clinic. Wise, VA in 2016.

And then there is mental health care, always under-resourced and stigmatized. We were at a local clinic for a routine procedure yesterday morning when the phone rang. A friend with severe depression committed suicide by jumping off the roof. If only. If only.

Senators, state electeds, must we rub your noses in humanity for you to show some?

The ACA has flaws. They don't need replacing with worse ones. They need fixing. Better still, Medicare for all would save more American lives than all the freedom-crushing, counterterrorism fever dreams you would rather pass without regard to cost. Get off your assets and make America great in a way Americans can feel in their daily lives. And so you can feel human again.