Because People Are Needlessly Dying

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A friend of mine works for a right wing idiot. She sometimes shares with me their political correspondence. His politics usually doesn’t get any more sophisticated than generic right wing talking points. The stupid does, indeed, burn. But one recent exchange really distilled it, for me. I had forwarded her the link to my recent post about people who will die, if health care “reform” doesn’t include a public option. Because even if new laws bar private insurers from excluding people with pre-existing conditions, nothing now and nothing in the current proposals prevents private insurers from denying patients expensive life-saving treatments. The newspaper article on which my diary was based referred specifically to Nataline Sarkisyan, the seventeen-year old who died when her private insurer refused to pay for a needed liver transplant. And my friend forwarded back to me her boss’s response. Which was simply to ask how much a public option would cost, along with his typically mind-numbingly inane parrot-point about “unfunded mandates.” It took about a day for it to sink in. What kind of person, when told about a teenager who died because she couldn’t get life-saving medical care, responds by asking about the cost? What does it say about such a person’s basic human values? It’s hard even to respond to such a sick, soulless attitude. This man has daughters. But I guess if he has enough insurance for them, the rest of the world can go ahead and die. He doesn’t care.

I’ve been thinking about this in general terms, as so powerfully articulated by Rep. Alan Grayson; but I’ve also been thinking about it in terms of the schisms now tearing apart the liberal blogosphere. Because we all too often lose track of what really matters. People are dying for lack of health insurance. Nearly 45,000 a year. People are dying for lack of health insurance. One every twelve minutes. There are 46,300,000 uninsured in this country. And because of that, 120 of them are dying, prematurely, needlessly, every single day. And yet people ask how much it will cost to insure them and save them? What is the cost of not insuring and saving them? In financial terms, we spend more on health care, as a percentage of GDP, than anyone in the world; and yet, our health care system is rated only the 37th best in the world. Which sort of sounds like something is seriously wrong with the way our system functions. Or doesn’t function. We spend so much, and get such lousy results. Why? In the wealthiest country in the world, a person dies every twelve minutes due to a lack of access to adequate health care. Why? What is the moral cost? What is the cost to our humanity?

All the arguments about triggers and co-ops and costs and cost controls and whether people would have to wait 5 years or 7 years or 12 years to be able to afford the drugs they need now all completely miss the point. This isn’t an abstract debate about differing linguistic nuances, such as what is and isn’t enough and what is and isn’t enough time to get what is enough to enough people even if we don’t get it soon enough. People are dying! And we are all getting too caught up in a tangle of policy intricacies and arcana, and suddenly we are forgetting why we are in this, in the first place. Unlike my friend’s inhuman boss, we still have our humanity. We care about our fellow humans. For those of us who do have adequate health insurance coverage, that is not enough. Because others don’t. People we love, and people we don’t even know. But many of us don’t have adequate health insurance, and therefore don’t have adequate access to health care. Including some who need it right now! Others may be satisfied if their petty personal needs are met, but we are not. That is one of the prime motivating factors in the very ethos of liberalism. We are one another’s keepers. We are all in this together. Some may rub some the wrong way, in the intensity of their rhetoric, but we must not lose sight of the goal. We must not get too caught up in the wars of personality, or in the questioning of the motives of people who question the motives of people questioning people’s motives. The only question is, and the only question must be: how do we save those nearly 45,000 needlessly prematurely lost lives, each year? All else is eristic self-indulgence.

There is an urgency, because people are dying. There is a desperation, because people are dying. People we love. People we don’t know. People on these very blog threads. My friend’s boss likes to indulge in shallow, insensitive, peripheral questions. My friend’s boss likes to lose himself in self-indulgent distractions. He lacks the basic sense of humanity even to understand why this matters. He doesn’t care! But we need to remain focused. People are dying. Prematurely. Needlessly. And only by mustering an unwavering determination can those of us of good conscience help to save them. Every single one of them.


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    • TMC on November 12, 2009 at 17:14

    trying to convince someone who refuses to hear to what we are saying. I don’t think your friend is going to change her boss’s mind. I have a blue dog Representative who voted against the house bill for all the wrong reasons. I’ve had numerous conversations with him about by not having a public option that is open to ALL and is affordable, that people continue will die. That we need to put the medical decisions back in the hands of the doctor and patient not the penny pinching bean counters. It falls on deaf ears, as he focuses on the overall cost to tax payers but he votes to fund the killing in Iraq ans Afghanistan,

       That this bill does not go far enough. It is leaving people behind and throwing others under the bus. It even prohibits states from creating their own single payer safety net. We will fund death and killing in Iraq and Afghanistan but refuse to save lives at home by providing access to health care and affordable medicines.

       The Stupak amendment was the deal breaker for my support of this bill. Along with the give aways to insurance industry and the pharmaceutical companies, this is a bad bill. The hopes that it will be fixed in conference committee are nil. The argument that we must pass HCR no matter how bad the bill is and it can be fixed later has a hollow ring. Look how well that went with FISA and the Patriot Act. I hope Sen. Sanders does filibuster, it will at least be for the RIGHT reason, a robust public option.  

  1. to have the din from the Fox News Channel and the Republican Party constantly clouding and obfuscating the issues. The one-liner mottos they incessantly throw out are an effective propaganda technique that allows the dittoheads to shut off their lizard brains from any critical thinking. As per your essay, asking about HC reform and getting “unfunded mandates” for an answer is a perfect example of this. One doesn’t have to think much when your whole world view is guided by a few polysyllabic phrases.

    Big money is so entrenched in all of this issue, that a knife won’t cut through it, we need a laser.

    This essay is an effective way to remind people of the truth , now if we could only get the MSM to parrot it.

    • Edger on November 12, 2009 at 18:29

    This man has daughters. But I guess if he has enough insurance for them, the rest of the world can go ahead and die. He doesn’t care.

    He’ll care when one of his daughters grows up, leaves home, loses a job, and suddenly finds she cannot afford the health insurance that he now thinks allows him not to care.

    Ask him if he’ll care then…

  2. Its getting to where I feel like there’s only a handful of people who actually give a shit.

    • Joy B. on November 12, 2009 at 20:04

    non-reform is almost designed not to deal with those 45,000 people who die every year because they can’t access the health care system. But no one should be fooled into thinking even a best case scenario (like single-payer) would begin to address what’s wrong with the health care system itself or our #37 ranking in outcomes, bottom of the list of first/second world countries.

    Fact is, at least 195,000 people a year die of our health care system – medical errors, prescription errors, iatrogenic disease and pure negligence/malpractice. That’s 534.2 people per day, 22.26 people per hour, or just over one death every three minutes. People who would have lived longer if they’d stayed away from doctors and hospitals.

    Medical Care is now the official third leading cause of death in the U.S., just behind heart disease and cancer. There is way, way more wrong with our system than just the death by spreadsheet crowd. Congress’ main focus on this shameful situation is to exempt the health care delivery system from liability for being the third leading cause of death by removing people’s standing to sue.

    • Inky99 on November 12, 2009 at 20:47

    should simply be overruled by a majority.

    But they  aren’t.

    We have minority rule now.

    81% of Americans were opposed to the “bailouts”.   Didn’t matter.

    A majority are for a public option.   Doesn’t matter.

    The bottom line is that we need to take back Democracy itself in this country before we can really start talking about the details.

    The details don’t matter one bit, doesn’t matter if we’re talking about health care, or war in Afghanistan, or abortion ….

    Right now we have the minority dictating policy to us.

    Isn’t that a classic definition of “dictatorship?”    Being “dictated to”?

    Well there ya go.

    Let’s take back Democracy, then we can talk about these things.    

    It’s like the old Jesus saying about taking the beam out of your own eye before you can take the splinter out of your friend’s.   (something to that affect)

  3. I think the people want to see moral leadership. At the very beginning of the healthcare discussion, I thought we were going to pay for most of it with progressive taxation.

    I thought it was the obvious way to go. I don’t think the majority of Americans would oppose that at all, in fact I think it would be strongly supported. But the few loud voices of greed seem to drown out the moral arguments through their manipulation of public opinion.

    It takes moral courage to fight for your beliefs, moral courage to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, moral courage to sustain a Democracy and moral courage to risk losing a House or Senate seat by speaking from the heart.

    We were shocked and outraged during the Vietnam war seeing women and children killed in their villages. And we were shocked and outraged at Jim Crow. And we should be shocked and outraged that fellow Americans die for want of care,

    when it is right around the corner.

    • dkmich on November 13, 2009 at 12:01

    how much a public option would cost, along with his typically mind-numbingly inane parrot-point about “unfunded mandates.”

    It is impossible to defend the health care reform that the Democrats are giving us.  Right wing talking points do apply.  Mandating people buy shitty insurance is an unfunded mandate.  Mandating that everyone go into Medicare and pay reconfigured Medicare premiums is a (partially) funded mandate.  Threatening people with jail and fines is government running our lives.   What the Democrats are doing can’t be defended.  

  4. You mean to tell me I have to pay for something I won’t use?

    They said this was the best one.

  5. Your point is so “dead on.”

    Everything, but everything in this country winds up being a “debate,” rather than dealing with the very core of the issue.  Same like, how long have the merits of torture been discussed, what’s torture?, how much good does it do? endlessly.  The core issue lost — TORTURE is illegal, nationally and internationally, and immoral!

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