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Donna Smith

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

June 23rd, 2013 5:04 PM

To Hell With the U.S. Health Care Dead and Broke, We are Junkies for Celebrity

US Cult of Celebrity and Health Care Justice

Come on, now.  I've tested this out for weeks. We outright kill 123 people every day in America with our health care system greed and neglect, and we bankrupt nearly 2,000 more each day.  In every state in the nation, every city, and every neighborhood we let the sick and the injured suffer if they don't have the cash, the credit or the public or private health insurance coverage to access care that would save their lives.  I haven't seen any other writer or reporter cover this in 2013.

Yet, the essays I write that get the most attention and readership (nearly triple that of any others) are those that in any way feature the name of a celebrity -- any celebrity will do.  Yesterday, for instance, I included Paula Deen's name in the headline of my blog, and the number of readers surged.  When I used Andrea Bocelli's name, the same thing happened.  And, oh my, when I wrote about Angelina Jolie and used her name, people really clicked on the blog sites.  You see, many Americans are so drawn to celebrity that they will read articles on subject matters -- like health care -- that may not even interest them the rest of the time.

The lesson learned from this for me and other advocates of truly universal, improved and expanded Medicare for all for life may be that we need to follow the health travails of America's celebrities and highlight how single-payer reforms would help those people.  Writing and speaking about our own, everyday, average people dying and suffering falls mainly on deaf ears.  More than 21,000 are dead already this year, but few really care much in terms of transforming the health care system to stop the deaths because they are not yet being directly touched themselves.  But if they read about a celebrity they admire or idolize being unable to get care for some reason, perhaps more Americans would engage in the need for change.  And I know there are many, many performers and artists who either have health difficulties themselves or have members of their families who struggle.

That may not be the right lesson, but I know even for myself that my big screen connection to Michael Moore in "SiCKO" made more people care.  It's just a reality for our modern American culture that we are not going to change any time soon. And I was so aware of the benefit that connection offered me that I resolved not to abuse the gift and to treasure that quasi-celebrity status afforded to me that few others get in the ranks of those damaged by the U.S. health care system.   Most of those killed and forced to go broke just become the part of the gruesome tallies

It is sad that we so obviously value some human life over others, but it is a reality.  My life may be as valuable as any movie, television or sports star's is, but their fame makes any calamity that happens to them more widely known and more deeply felt.  So, I'll keep you posted the next time I can work a celebrity issue into the discussion to fix our health care mess.  Maybe, just maybe, a few more people will be educated about the need to fix things and the word will spread until we reach a critical mass of real people suffering real trauma sufficient to equal one celebrity headline and cause an uproar to be heard around the world.

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: 21,289

The 2013, to date, U.S. health care system bankrupt: 342,204

** 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.http://www.healthcareforallcolorado.org/endorse_right_to_health_care

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