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Health care that doesn't care

Just a thought

January 23, 2008
My daughter and son-in-law who live in Oregon are home for several days. Last night, they decided to run up to Blockbuster and pick up a movie. The movie they chose was "Sicko" by Michael Moore. I started watching the documentary with little in the way of expectations. By the time it ended, I had a lump in my throat, and a disbelief at how far we've traveled on the wrong road — in the wrong direction.

The film made me ashamed of the healthcare industry in this country. It made me ashamed of the way the people we elect turn on us to feed their own greed. It made me ashamed of how the rest of the civilized world is watching in horror while the richest and most powerful country on earth treats its poor, sick and elderly in such a callused and even hateful way.

Something is dreadfully wrong here, folks — and we all know it. But we're either too self-centered to care or too willing to let the huge insurance companies and politicians lead us down that wrong road — in the wrong direction. And for what? Because the right road leads to less profits for billionaires and billionaire-wannabes.

But when are we going to take a stand? When are we going to question the propaganda that is poured on us day after day by those with barrels full of the stuff and very little compassion for their fellow countrymen? When are we going to recognize the fact that "Corporate America" does not look out for us?

We make choices not to be informed. While things that are meaningful and important to us are being stripped away, we're all busy watching sports and "Entertainment Tonight." We often take the sides of issues that cut our own throats, so we shouldn't be surprised that this country is ranked 37th, just above Slovenia, when it comes to health care.

There's people like Al Gore, Michael Moore and many others who are trying to tell us, but we've got our heads in the san, and we'll allow it to continue until it affects our children and grandchildren, and even our great-grandchildren, all in the name of a healthy economy. Why can't Americans, like so many other countries, have healthy citizens as well as healthy economies? France, Britain, Australia, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Sweden, New Zealand and many, many others have universal health care systems, and none of them are going bankrupt. And we wouldn't either. So, are we going to listen to what the rest of the world is telling us, or are we going to listen to the huge insurance companies in this country that, every year, bilk us of enough profits to more than fund a working universal health care system?

A few days ago, all the morning news programs reported that a celebrity, Glenn Beck, had gotten such horrible care at a hospital when he had a simple operation that he was in tears on national television. Isn't it odd how it suddenly matters, and is newsworthy, now that someone rich and famous has experienced what millions of Americans go through every day at hospitals all over the country? It's almost as if it's OK for most working Americans to suffer at the hands of an uncaring heath care system, but let Britney Spears or Paris Hilton feel a little discomfort and, by golly, something has to be done.

The film "Sicko" also points out things that our news programs never mention. Like how several hospitals in California have actually been filmed putting people into taxi cabs, taking them to another part of town and dumping them out like stray dogs, some with IVs still in their arms. All because they can't pay for their medical care. Am I the only one who finds that disgusting?

And why is our health care hooked into our place of employment? Why do we all have different insurance and, therefore, different policies and different care once we become ill? If someone working at Ford has a better health care policy than someone working at General Electric, the person at Ford gets better health care. Is that acceptable? Is it fair? Why do we, the people, allow this to continue?

We may be the only country in the world that resents what it gives to the poor and elderly. On a regular basis, I hear people say, "Those people are just taking advantage of the system," and "There's generations of those on welfare and they're never going to get a job." And that's probably true. There's those that take advantage of every system, but is that a reason to not have the system? Should we do away with a system that helps millions of our poor, disabled, orphaned, sick and mentally ill, just because a few abuse it? Let's get real here. Should we not have universal health care just because a few rich people and members of Congress and the Senate can afford to not have it? And why are we more upset that a few people take advantage of a system than when the big insurance companies take advantage of us all?

I heard someone say recently, "If we had a universal health care system, every time someone gets a little cut on their finger, they'll run to the doctor to get it fixed." What's wrong with that? A cut finger deserves treatment. And how much would tending to a cut finger actually cost? Not much. But isn't that much better than being afraid to go to the doctor with that cut finger because you can't afford to pay the bill and having an infection set in that could lead to serious problems? That is known all over the world as "preventive care." Don't Americans deserve that, too? Every other western country acknowledges how important preventative care is. Why don't we?

Why do we harbor such resentment for someone who attempts to prevent a small injury from leading to a bigger problem? Health insurance companies have no investment in preventive care, because a person may not always stay with that insurance company, or they may reach the age that they can go on Medicare. But with universal health care, a person will be with them for the rest of their lives, so it will be beneficial for that system to practice preventive care. And that will benefit all of us.

I've also heard people say that they don't want our government making decisions about the health care they receive. The way I see it, if our government is that incompetent, we need a better government and should elect better people to represent us. I find it hard to believe that there's people out there who actually believe that some big insurance company will make good decisions about our health care. Come on, give me a break.

Insurance companies would still have our cars, homes, boats, personal belongings, businesses and even our lives that they can insure. That should be enough business and profits for any industry. Why should they also have control over our health? It just doesn't make any sense, except to them and those who their deep pockets influence — like politicians.

Do yourself and your family a favor. Check out "Sicko." Then, come back and read this column again. You'll know exactly where I'm coming from. Or, you could just turn on the TV and catch up on what's going on with Britney Spears this week.

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