Heartbreaking is the story of Nataline Sarkysian, the 17-year-old for whom CIGNA denied payment for a liver transplant, then reversed its decision when it was too late. My intent here is not to focus on this, because it already has been well-diaried, but to bring up a stunning parallel between this human tragedy and what has been happening to New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana.
This is the parallel: the same way CIGNA in effect killed Nataline by neglect, BushCo has been doing the same to Louisiana ever since New Orleans’ levees broke. Thursday’s violent suppression of the protest at City Hall–on which I plan to diary more extensively in the next few days–is only a symptom of this.
Louisiana post-Katrina can be compared to a terminallly-ill patient needing life-saving treatment, and BushCo’s federal government to a mean-spirited, bean-counting insurance company that’s denying payment. Or paying only for Band-Aid remedies. So New Orleans is being allowed to rot and Louisiana is being allowed to die. And I worry that Jan. 21, 2009 (optimistically assuming a Democrat who has the best interests of New Orleans and Louisiana wins) could be too late.
Here’s one example of a Band-Aid remedy: Because Katrina forced many evacuees to relocate in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Lafayette and other cities elsewhere in the state, Louisiana is now in the grip of a painful epidemic of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental and emotional ills. This is statewide because when the evacuees resettled, they brought with them their traumas, losses and other “baggage.” On top of this they’ve had to deal with insurance companies, FEMA, and the Road Home program. All of which is frustrating and exhausting.
So now these agonized evacuees (as well as people now in New Orleans who also are suffering from problems) are seeking treatment for them. But because Katrina destroyed so many mental health facilities and those elsewhere in the state are strained to the breaking point, Louisiana has insufficient resources to ease the pain of the afflicted–waiting lists for mental health services are months long.
And what has BuchCo done? The federal government has been funding Louisiana Spirit, a counseling service. This sounds good, but it is a Band-Aid remedy. According to federal regulations Louisiana Spirit is not allowed to pay doctors–who are the only people who can prescribe medications and other intensive treatments. Louisiana Spirit is beneficial for someone whose issues so far have been minor who merely needs someone to talk to. And counseling can also prevent a minor issue from becoming one severe enough to need mental health treatment. But not for someone already seriously ill. So for Louisiana BushCo’s funding this service has been like giving someone who has cancer only pain-killers–making her feel more comfortable without treating the source of her pain, that is killing her.
As noted–that is but one example–citing them all would make this diary several times as long. It’s time for the Democrats (whether they’re presidential candidates or members of Congress) to stand up for Louisiana and bring her the help she and her people so desperately need–not more Band-Aids from BushCo. And to do this before it’s too late.