Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The stupidity of our healthcare system

Yesterday I wasted a small slice of my evening watching the local news at 6:30 PM, and I caught a story about two men (Tony Murphy and John Preston) who had heard a woman screaming for help in front of her burning home because her son was trapped inside. With no other help apparently in sight, these two rushed into the home, risking their lives, and managed to evacuate the son to safety.

They suffered only minor injuries (including smoke inhalation) but were taken to the emergency room as a precaution. Here's the part that makes me angry: that ambulance ride and hospital visit came with a $2,200 bill.

And the kicker:
Because he had just started his job at Precision Door and Cabinet, Tony's health insurance hadn't kicked in.

"He puts his life on the line and now he's having to deal with financial ramifications of that," said former co-worker Patti Olson.

"I didn't get out of the truck and go 'how much money do I have? How much is the hospital?'" said Tony. He was thinking about the man whose life he and John were about to save.
This is the stupidity of our health care system. You can run into a burning house, save someone's life, be a hero - and get stuck with the hospital bill! It's insanely ridiculous! America is the richest country on Earth, but we don't have universal healthcare. We don't have universal coverage.

This situation is a travesty and something needs to be done about it.

I'm tired of hearing these lame excuses from the right wing about healthcare, like the scare phrase socialized medicine - that's just pure nonsense. We've already got socialized firefighters and socialized libraries. If the private sector can do everything, why do we have government?

Oh, that's right...because it can't!

And one of the things the private sector cannot do is provide universal health coverage. Why? Because it's a fundamental human right - and private businesses aren't about protecting human rights, they exist to make money. Insurance companies can't make money protecting every person in America.

Since every person needs healthcare, providing that coverage ought to be the responsibility of government.

A few days ago I was watching an ABC special on Michael Moore's SiCKO, where John Stossel took it upon himself to go talk to the executive of the health insurance industry's association.

I didn't catch the whole interview because my phone rang in the middle of it, but in the first part, this executive was replying to one of Stossel's questions by deriding all the "unnecessary claims" made by patients.

That was the point where I wanted to shout back, slowly and clearly: You...don'!

If I need a procedure done, that decision should be made by me and my doctors. I shouldn't have to get permission from some corporate bureaucrat who is trying to look out for his or her company's bottom line.

Those who are fortunate enough to belong to a union are lucky, they're probably covered. And that's one of the huge benefits of belonging to a union: thanks to the power of collective bargaining, you can actually get decent healthcare insurance. But only a small percentage of America's workforce belongs to a union.

The undeniable truth is that the healthcare system in this country is broken and needs to be fixed. As Democrats across the country begin voting or caucusing to select a presidential nominee, we must ask ourselves: which of the candidates will have the strength to push for the real change that is needed, and not fold to pressure from the right wing, the D.C. establishment, or the corporate cons?

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