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Friday, November 27, 2009

What I'm thankful for today

Yesterday, as we were going around the Thanksgiving day table sharing what each of us was thankful for, after listing friends, family, and a roof over our heads, I had to add that I'm thankful that debate has finally begun on the Senate's health care bill.

It's a long overdue, and incredibly significant step towards the reform we've needed for decades.

Yet, astonishingly, there are still people in this country who don't think we need reform. People who think, or have been convinced, that our health care system is just fine the way it is.

Not too long ago, NPI received an e-mail message from one of these people, a right-winger who asked to remain anonymous. He offered us $100 if we could cite just one example of someone who got sick and died in America due to lack of health care coverage.

As if our motivation for caring about heath care reform was so we could put a few bucks into our coffers. I think the offer shows more about what Mr. Right Winger values than anything else, but regardless, examples are not hard to find.

Indeed, the website offers a place where people can share stories about their loved ones who have, in fact, gotten sick and died because they didn't have sufficient health care coverage.

This, in the richest nation on the planet.

So, Mr. Right Winger, here are just a few people--and not from anywhere in America, but from right here in Washington state--who might not have died had quality health care coverage been available at a price they could afford.

These are people who might have enjoyed a Thanksgiving turkey with their families yesterday and shared their own thanks for having had, in the richest nation on the planet, the best health care anywhere when they needed it the most.

But they couldn't, because they didn't, and so they died.

George Klacsanzky, died age 47. George worked at a hospital, but had no health insurance. When he got sick from a simple virus, a doctor told him to check into a hospital. George didn't, because he knew he couldn't pay for it. He died in his bed that night, two blocks away from the hospital where he worked.

Mike [Last Name Withheld], died age 50. Mike and his wife went for years without health insurance--and without basic medical care and screening--because they couldn't afford it. A year ago, Mike landed a job that offered coverage, so he went to the doctor for an ache in his stomach that had been nagging him for years. His doctor discovered cancer that had spread all over his body, a diagnosis that came much too late for any hope.

Sheryl Everson, died age 55. Sheryl and her co-workers knew they were all going to be laid off from their jobs as school bus drivers, because they company they worked for was being taken over. Sheryl discovered a lump in her breast, but she knew she wouldn't be able to afford COBRA coverage after the layoffs, so she decided to wait until she had a new job with the new bus company before going to the doctor. That way, she wouldn't be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition. She waited seven months before seeing a doctor, and, well, you know the rest. She wouldn't be on this list if breast cancer hadn't killed her.

So there you go, Mr. Right Winger. Not just one example, but three. Not from the whole of America, but from our own backyard. Real, ordinary, every-day people, just like you and me. People who delayed or did not seek medical care because they didn't have insurance, or because they understood how the system is rigged to take your premiums but never pay out.

People for whom quality, affordable insurance could well have made the difference between life and death.

People for whom the Senate's debate, while welcome to the rest of us, came too late.

As for that hundred bucks, Mr. Right Winger, I'll leave it to you and your conscience whether you want to make good on your promise. Like I said, NPI isn't in this for the money.


Blogger Bhalachandra said...

George Klacsanzky was my father. Thank you for bringing to light the terrible circumstances of the health care system. In his circumstance, the most important factor I believe was the lack of care from the staff at the hospital. It is still hard for me to believe that it happened, and that it happens to this day.

December 16, 2009 8:20 PM  

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