The above video, made by Chelle Denise (@purplegimp on twitter) is heartbreaking. I challenge you to watch it all the way through without crying. She tells us of the realities of living and dying in the US health care system.
A couple of weeks ago there was a debate held by CNN and the Tea Party for Republican party presidential candidates. Ron Paul was asked if a person without health insurance should be left to die if he needed intensive care. He replied “That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to take care of everybody…” That reply received rapturous applause from the audience. The audience were actually applauding the idea of leaving someone to die. (See the video here.)
Chelle desperately needs reconstructive surgery and bone grafts to remove infection caused by Sjorgen’s disease in her jaw and keep her alive. She cannot take the drugs that would treat her lupus and rheumatoid arthritus until having the surgery, as the other drugs would destroy her immune system and allow the bone infection to kill her. And yet, her insurance provider have refused to cover her surgery.
Just think about that. She HAS health insurance, but this company have made a decision to deny her vital surgery to fix something which threatens her life.
In her video Chelle also talked about her friend Jennifer who died recently from cancer. Jennifer was taking an expensive cocktail of medicines to control her pain, paid for by social security disability benefits. When she was admitted to a hospice they did not want to pay for the expensive pain medication upfront even though it would be reimbursed to them and so they switched her from drugs worth $500 a day to methadone which costs merely $8 a time. Methadone (Synthetic heroin) brings with it a range of horrible side effects and it left Jennifer exhausted by causing her to vomit continuously for several days. Even though the methadone was stopped and the previous medications reinstated as soon as the switch was discovered, it was too much for her and she died soon after.
These two stories are a clear example of what happens when healthcare and health insurance are run for profit. Insurance companies don’t care if someone will die because of their choices. All they care about is keeping the costs down and getting out of making payments. They look for loopholes and tiny mistakes just so they can squeeze a bit more profit from their customers. And even when they do pay up, you see choices like that made for Jennifer, where a business operating medical facilities can decide that they don’t like the negative effect on their cash flow of paying for proper medicines that prolong life, even when they would get it back. It’s not just that they are stingy with their money to maximise profits, they won’t even pay to save life now and get the money back later.
Another hearbreaking story in Chelle’s video is that of Steph. (@Steph_in_NC on twitter) Steph is seriously ill with Lupus and Celiac disease. She should not be working, but she does work even though it is hurting her because her family need the income. In theory she could stop work and claim social security benefits but in the US it takes between one and a half and three years to process a permanent disability claim. Steph and her family might be homeless and starving before support is given. I don’t know the reasons for that, but it is indicative of a country where care for each other is horribly absent.
This lack of care and support is obvious when you look at the lengths that Republican politicians have gone to to oppose president Obama’s health care reforms. The idea of everyone contributing to health care insurance and everyone benefiting equally seems to terrify the rich and those who want to be rich. After all, if money can’t buy you some inequality, what is the point of it? I wonder if those Tea Party supporters that applauded the death of those without health insurance would also cheer the death of people who do have cover? I suspect that some are just stupid – supporting the Tea Party as a poor person in the vague hope of becoming a rich person who will benefit from that has to indicate a lack of thinking – but perhaps the richer supporters are happy for those with health insurance to die anyway. It means more money for the shareholders of those health insurance companies.
The ideas of the Republicans and the Tea Party might fit the ideals of Ayn Rand’s objectivism, so influential on US politics in the last few decades, but they are inhuman and cruel. (And also completely out of step with the claims of most supporters of those two groups to be Christians. The bible is pretty big on social justice and caring, but they obviously read a different bible.) The state of health and welfare in the US is shocking and outrageous. Health care and support for sick and disabled people and those without employment is well within the means of the nation as a whole. Instead the wealth, and therefore healthcare, is hoarded by the rich just so that they can feel better than everyone else as they watch the poor die in the street.
This must not be allowed to continue in America, or in any country. This is why I – we – fight so hard in the UK to prevent the Tories from opening up the National Health Service to competition from private companies. This is why we fight to block the government’s efforts to cut the income of sick and disabled people so ruthlessly. For everyone’s sake we must fight this abuse, in the UK, the US, and all over the world.