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Donna Smith

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

March 22nd, 2010 3:18 PM

SiCKOs Lament: Health Bill Passage

So, it’s a new day in America, the Dem’s leadership proclaims-- I’m to believe that just like the passage of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965, this healthcare bill will bring long-term and profound changes to the broken healthcare system in ways that will make me more able to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Wow. Tall order.

But if I reject that view of the bill and bounce over to the crude and unintelligible ranting coming from the political right, this bill spells the end of American life as we know it. No more mom and apple pie with this bill, the Repubs assert. This is a communist plot and orchestrated by non-white, non-Christian America haters. Equally wow.

I think the truth about this bill’s passage can be more easily measured by looking at some of the patient stories featured in Michael Moore’s documentary, SiCKO, about the healthcare system and seeing how those patients would do under the new law of the land (the Dem’s view) as opposed to how they did and are doing under the current system (the Repub’s preference).

Here’s some examples:

Tracy Pierce, 37 (covered by private health insurance) would still die from his kidney cancer after his insurance company denied his bone marrow transplant.

Mychelle Keys, 2 (covered by private health insurance) would still die when she arrived at an out-of-network hospital where the insurance company would not approve payment for care.

Adrian Campbell, 27 (covered by private health insurance) would still have payment for her cancer surgery denied and would end up with huge debts scarring her credit rating.

Larry and Donna (me) Smith, 65 and 55 (fully insured with health insurance, disability insurance and a small health savings account) would still go bankrupt after deductibles and out-of-pocket costs go unpaid and providers of healthcare turn into brutal collectors.

Reggie Cervantes, Billy Maher and John Graham (all three 9/11 first-responders) would still be sick but would be mandated to purchase private health insurance and because they all have a drastically diminished ability to work or earn much money, the three 9/11 heroes would still be left fighting for a way to get adequate care. (Congress has also been slow to act on legislation to help these brave souls.)

So, were there people in SiCKO who would be helped by passage of this piece of legislation? Absolutely. Remember the brief snippet of Josh Corbin standing near the college football field and sharing how much student loan debt he’ll have after finishing college? Josh would be the one SiCKO helped. First, he’d be able to stay on his parents’ insurance policy. And college students will find it much easier to secure direct student loans rather than being hog-tied to private bankers for their educational debt.

It’s more than a bit ironic that the one SiCKO who would arguably be helped most directly is the one with the fewest health related issues. The dead SiCKOs would still die; the bankrupt and broken would still break; and the ill would still suffer.

Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have yet reached anything close to providing a progressively financed, single-standard of high quality care for all. Not every life is valued by either party no matter what is yelled from either side of the political fence. Not even close.

Someday perhaps I’ll understand why both parties – and lots of people outside of the two-party circle – find it acceptable to leave so many of their neighbors to be harmed. This isn’t about having a tea party or a coffee cloche or about one race or another religious belief – it’s not about John McCain being uncomfortable or even about Ted Kennedy being memorialized adequately.

I do not care which poll shows which party has out-maneuvered or out-smarted the other side.

This is about people. This is about thousands and thousands of people who have died and will die unnecessarily. This is about broken families and broken homes and dreams. I would like to stop seeing more SiCKOs created and more healthcare offered. We knew long ago that we have the money in the system to provide healthcare to all. This is simply a matter of insane and gross power, greed and selfishness run riot in our system. There is nothing patriotic about letting a sick neighbor suffer and die.

Watching this unfold has spoken volumes to me about the nature of political power – no matter the party, no matter the ideology claimed. It has been about money from the start.

Winston Churchill once asked a woman if she would sleep with him for a million pounds and she coyly hesitated and then accepted. He then asked her if she would sleep with him for 5 pounds. She snapped at him, "Certainly not! What kind of woman do you think I am?"__"Madam" he replied, "We've already established what kind of woman you are. Now we're just dickering about the price."

It seems to me we’ve already decided what kind of people we are in terms of providing healthcare to our citizens. All we’re doing is deciding who profits most.

Healthcare is a basic human right and the struggle will continue for many of us. Until the day when we have enough national confidence to assert that right for all, we will continue to see outbursts of hatred and protection of profit confused as cultural and national pride. When we can honestly say that the SiCKOs from SiCKO would have significantly different and more just outcomes, then we’ll be talking and moving together to bend that arc of history toward more justice.

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