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Time to call it what it is, and to demand it become what we were promised

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Headlined to H3 11/9/09

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Time to call it what it is, and to demand it become what we were promised

Government run health care systems are an unmitigated disaster. I should know. One hundred percent of mine is via the VA. Take, for example: On October 29th, that was on the last Thursday of the month, after suffering mild but nonetheless all-day-all-night-for-at-least-three-weeks-no-matter-whether-I-was-standing-or-sitting-or walking-or-laying-down lower back pain, I called the clinic in Palm Desert, nine miles from my home in Palm Springs. The WAIT!!! for an appointment: ridiculous; utterly ridiculous. The first convenient -- and I cannot emphasize "convenient" (I wanted an afternoon slot, as I had plans for the morning) enough -- appointment I could get was 1:00 PM, Monday, the 2d of November.

I decided to leave for the clinic a half-hour early, as I'd gotten lost previously. The result was I arrived at the clinic at 12:45. And again: The WAIT!!! Although my appointment was for 1:00, I was made to wait in the chair facing the very lovely Tracie who worked the phones behind the glass partition, until 12:52. Then, after visiting with the doctor, who devoted only 20 minutes to me (She went over every possible health issue I might have, including a review of my medications; all available to her perusal on the computer monitor -- no paper records here.) I was sent to have my back X-rayed at a nearby imaging center at 2:30.

Oh, you bet your sweet bippie, I just wished I'd had private health insurance, the system that conservative Democrats and all Republicans applaud as the "best on earth." Geez . . . I am sooo envious of those folks with United or Anthem or Aetna, and the co-pays and deductibles and EOBs that tell the subscriber what the sums are that remain owed and that may catapult them into personal bankruptcy, and the ever escalating premiums that I have no personal experience with!

Dropping the oozing sarcasm, this past summer, around five in the evening, I began to experience unwell symptoms. I called the VA Care-nurse, who then advised me to get to the nearest hospital, which in my case was Eisenhower Med Center in Rancho Mirage, also one of the country's most highly esteemed. (It was the one President Gerald Ford accessed.) Whatever the cost might become, I was assured the VA would cover it. As follow-up to my atrial fibrillation episode, the VA provided to me free of any charge(s) a new Life-Source "Easy One Step" blood pressure monitor, model UA-767V and a renewable 90-day supply of Diltiazem 180 mg capsules.

However, this is purely anecdotal, and one should never, ever pretend there is much evidentiary value to anecdotal evidence, additionally I have conversed with numerous other veterans who rely on the VA for their medical care. Not a single one has reported anything but glowingly on the level of the care they receive, or has reported being denied the care or the therapies their physicians recommend. No "death panels" or "plugs being pulled."

On the other hand, I had a 25-year-old niece who was suffering Ewing's sarcoma. The team of oncologists treating her recommended a full blood transplant. Her health insurance company said "No, they wouldn't pay for it," and her parents were months later presented with her MBA from Colorado . . . posthumously.


Where I reside during the winter months is a 55+ mobile home park. Approximately half of the 250 units are owned by Canadians who spend a few weeks to a number of months here, while it's too inclement for their bones up north. Not a one has expressed the first whisper of desire to switch the Canadian health care system for the one we have here in the States. Indeed, many ponder the manifest insanity and ignorance of Americans, for putting up with what we're burdened with. In fact a few have suggested -- suggestions that seem to be borne out with evidence -- that our expensive health care system, with the load it puts on the back of US industry, is one of the reasons that most Fords are now made in Canada.

In Thursday's New York Times, op-ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristoff, in "Unhealthy America," (click here;emc=th) reintroduces several statistical facts that should energize everyone's synapses. Statistics like, according to the World Health Organization, the US reaches no higher than 37th in infant mortality, which begs the query: Where the hell are all the shouting and screaming right to lifers? Other stats observe that Irish women perish in childbirth at a rate that is 1/11th that of American mothers-who-would-otherwise-be. While Alabama's Republican US Senator Richard Shelby has called the US system the "best in the world," when it comes to preventing preventable deaths, in a Robert Wood Foundation study of the world's leading 19 industrialized societies, the US led by being the "worst of the worst." The rousing chants -- USA! USA! USA! -- just ring in my ears; stirs that ol' patriotic fervor . . . all the way to tepid. Also noted was the forecast that Hondurans have a more lengthy life expectancy than African-Americans. Kristoff's column includes an apology to Slovenia. He raised the fact that an American child is twice as likely as a Slovenian child to die in its first year of life, and evidently the Slovenians took umbrage that he would use their country to compare it with ours in the same sentence.

Oh . . . yeah, I almost forgot: Kristoff does point out how, in every category, Americans actually do fare better than folks in any other country on earth . . . once they reach 65 and are on Medicare!

I STRONGLY urge all to read the op-ed piece.

(As a personal note, I am very grateful that a grateful nation is remembering the service I rendered to it from June 22, 1964 through to June 21, 1967. But, in my opinion, that military service I provided should in no way be the determining factor, whether I receive excellent medical care and someone else receives either the barest of bare-bones attention, or none.

A few days ago the country was fêted with a local election feast. Pundits have and are having their say as to what the results all meant. The governor races that went to the Republican candidates in New Jersey and Virginia showed some clear indications that the progressives in those two states stayed home, with the results being precisely what took place. I've posited earlier and frequently that that was what was going to happen, unless the Dems steered a fearless and fearsome tack on the issues that progressives take issue with: genuine health care reform that would include -- as a minimum -- a strong "public option" that would be accessible by all under 65 Americans, the ushering of corporate interests out of the bill making process, paying more interest to the interests of Main Street than Wall Street, etc. As this epistle isn't focusing on anything but health care reform, those other salient issues will obtain no further note here.

John Donne answered Cain's question, "Am I my brother's keeper" with "No man is an island." I have wonderful health care, and hopefully so do you. But there are scores of millions of Americans who have none, some number times that who are without adequate and reliable care, and nearly an entire nation with care that costs multiples of what it should [costs that can be trimmed by billions], and yet get far less in return than every other industrialized country on earth. This is not the time to sit on our hands, hoping someone else will engage the fight for what is fiscally prudent and morally right. The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee [phone numbers: 202-224-2447 and 202-863-1500 respectively], the former under the chairmanship of US Senator Bob Menendez [ph: 202-224-4774] and the latter under US Representative Chris Van Hollen [ph: 202-225-5341] must be sternly advised that not a single dime from the progressives who put them into the majority will be forthcoming in lieu of the progress and change they ran on, that, furthermore, we fully expect that any Senate or House Democrat who in any manner works to impede a full and robust "public option" will lose whatever committee chairmanships (and Joe Lieberman absolutely!) they may hold, and that, additionally, enthusiastic progressive support will be to a primary challenger in their next reelection bid.)

Not some, or a few, but ALL who are in opposition to the health care reform measures that include the "public option"and who are arguing against it fall somewhere on the Stupid-as-a-rotting-tree-stump/morally-corrupt-as-Bernie-Madoff continuum. They're stupid and/or they're lying. No exceptions! No other possible diagnosis! Period! (I know, that was an exclamation point.)


-- Ed Tubbs
Palm Springs


 

An "Old Army Vet" and liberal, qua liberal, with a passion for open inquiry in a neverending quest for truth unpoisoned by religious superstitions. Per Voltaire: "He who can lead you to believe an absurdity can lead you to commit an atrocity."
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