Thursday :: Nov 12, 2009

Because People Are Needlessly Dying


by Turkana

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.

Turkana :: 7:12 AM :: Comments (34) :: Digg It!