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Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

September 23rd, 2013 5:37 PM

It's Just a Mattress and Medicare for All for Life, Huh?

So, a mattress?  A wet mattress?  And what in the world does that have to do with Medicare for all for life and fixing the dysfunctional US health care system?  So the floods came in Colorado, and so my living quarters were flooded and now have a smell somewhere between a dead skunk and a muddy field.  What does that have to do with stopping the killing for profit in the US health care system or the pushing people into bankruptcy that happens so often in our health care system?

Well, for millions of working class people like me, the damages that come from economic hits like illness, injury, floods, fires, and other life events that seem inevitable often become insurmountable or at least more devastating than the same economic hits delivered to those with more resources with which to respond.  A few hundred dollars can be the difference between life and death, sleep and insomnia, hunger and a full belly, or health and long-term, chronic illness.

Five years ago when I went to work for the California Nurses Association in the months after SICKO (Michael Moore's 2007 documentary in which we appeared) was released, the very first purchase Larry and I made with my first paycheck was a nice, new mattress.  We had never had one before in our more than 30 years of marriage.  We had slept on every manner of  lousy, back-breaking mattress, and when this one was delivered to our modest apartment in Chicago, it was the biggest gift we had ever given one another.  Many people buy mattresses that cost thousands.  Ours was just $850, but it was and has been wonderful for us.  Our backs are so much better, and the mattress was the reason for that. 

So when that wonderful mattress -- now moved six more times since it was purchased in 2008 --  got wet in the flood with the stinky, dirty water that soaked the carpets, many of our clothes and lots of other stuff, I was heartbroken.  The mattress and box spring are now leaning out in my daughter's garage drying out where the smell of the lawnmower and gasoline are still pretty strong but at least better than the yucky flood water.  I do not know if the mattress can be saved.  I do know we cannot afford to replace it now.  And I also know this wouldn't be a heart-breaker for many people or something they'd even worry about too much.  Many people would just put a new mattress on a credit card or buy a new one.  We cannot, nor can many other working class people.  We will either use the stained one when it dries or get another lousy used one somewhere.

And I know there are thousands of other working class people and renters  here in Colorado experiencing the same sorts of things since the floods.

And so it is with health care too for a large number of working class people in America.  When we get sick or hurt, we do the best we can with what we have.  And when the money or insurance coverage runs out, we do what is necessary and possible, not necessarily what is best for the long run or for our long-term health.  This has tremendous consequences in our society. 

If we had an improved and expanded Medicare for all for life health care system, we would be better able to make health care decisions based on what was best for our health rather than trying to save money or do without needed care.  More Americans, working class and not, would be able to care for themselves more appropriately and in a timely way that would ultimately help us all be healthier and more secure. No more health care dead or health care broke in the US if we had such a system-- and maybe even many millions more people able to get a few more nights of restful sleep. .  Sort of like having a nice, comfortable, clean and decent mattress upon which to sleep. 


September 19, 2013 --  Today's count of the health care dead and broke for profit in the U.S.:

The 2013, to date, U.S. medical-financial-
industrial -complex system dead: 32,613
The 2013, to date, U.S. health care system bankrupt: 513,348


** These figures are calculated based on the Harvard University studies on excess deaths in the U.S. due to lack of insurance coverage or the ability to pay for needed health care, and the Harvard University study that calculated the high percentage of personal bankruptcies attributable to medical crisis and debt in the U.S. 123 people die daily due to lack of coverage or cash to pay for care; 1,978 go bankrupt every day due to medical crisis and debt though the majority had insurance at the time their illness or injury occurred. This statistic is also based on the 1.2 million bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2012, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and calculating those medically-related bankruptcies from that number.

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