Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
This morning as I was pulling my Labor Day weekend brain cells back to consciousness with my first morning cup of coffee, I saw the scroll. “Tony Orlando concert postponed in New Jersey amid fears of Hurricane Earl aftermath.” I almost flew out of my chair. I watched for a few more moments to make sure it was real. It was. It scrolled at least five more times across the national news screen giving folks the news we apparently needed to have to begin the weekend.
What did not scroll? What never scrolls? “123 innocents in America died today because they didn’t get the healthcare they needed, and they were very sick.” I have never seen that news reported.
When I was a kid, we used to see the Viet Nam war (it was a war to me, not a conflict) death toll every night at the top of the evening news. Right there behind Chet and David. And seeing that death count made me acutely aware that people were dying. It alerted me to a number that I needed to care about. Though I was young and should have been listening to my transistor radio or my 45s or hanging out with my friends, I watched that news report every night because the insistent dead bothered me.
The insistent dead of our healthcare neglect bother me now. I cannot stop seeing the number as if it were scrolling. I see it and feel it. People die because they couldn’t pay a co-pay soon enough or they didn’t have a job and the money to buy coverage or access to a government plan soon enough to access help. 123 people – at least – dead because they didn’t get the care they needed. Care was available – we just refused to let them have it. We knew they would die. We killed them.
So, I guess I do not understand why the Tony Orlando concert postponement rates the national scroll.
It’s Labor Day weekend. Over these three days, at least 369 Americans will be dead because the barriers to their healthcare needs were too great to overcome. They were killed by greed. They were killed by indifference.
Are we tired of the healthcare debate? It wore us out? Politics needed to shift gears? An election is coming. Taxes are too high for some and not high enough for others. Peace in the Middle East is always on the cusp. War in the Middle East is too. Someone wants to cut Social Security. Someone wants welfare moms to stop being so. America needs reclaiming, say some. The dream still lives, say others.
What dream? What to reclaim? This weekend, 369 dead neighbors and friends, moms and dads, sons and daughters, brothers, sisters. Dead without healthcare in America. Dead without care that was available to others. Dead because we decided by our inaction and ignorance of blame that they should die.
Health insurance is not health care. Health insurance is a financial product marketed and sold to protect health and wealth which may do neither thing very well. I view it as a defective product. Yet, very soon we will be buying more of it and helping more of our fellow Americans buy more of it with the subsidies that support the great health insurance bailout that is being called “patient protection.” What we need is an end to the protection of profits first – we need to provide a progressively financed, single standard of high quality care for all. We need to stop killing patients through our failed policy and protect them with our shared humanity.
But please don’t head to that Tony Orlando concert in Jersey. That would be unpleasant to drive all that way only to find you couldn’t hear, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree,” one more time. Stay home. And if you or someone you love feels sick and can access care, at least spend a moment remembering the 369, OK?
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