Wednesday, May 23, 2012

This Won't Hurt A Bit!

Amber Cooper with her son Jaden

On NPR this morning, an interview with Amber Cooper - a wife, mother, worker and liver transplant recipient - reminded me to get cracking on a healthcare series. 

Amber Cooper had a successful liver transplant when she was ten years old. She grew up, married, had a child, bought a house and holds down a job. She is a great success story for liver transplantation. She is a great success story full stop.
Life-preserving drugs for transplant
patients, as well as for heart disease
and other chronic life-threatening
conditions cost hundreds, even
thousands, per month.

Ms. Cooper requires expensive medications every day of her life to prevent her body from rejecting the transplanted organ that keeps her alive.  Because of her pre-existing condition, health insurance was always going to be a challenge, but Amber had insurance prescription coverage with her employer - until recently. 

At an all-employee meeting, Amber learned that her company was changing their health insurance coverage and the new "coverage" would not cover any of her most urgent healthcare needs.  You can read or listen to the story.

This story is only one of thousands of stories of Americans who literally face life or death decisions every day because they have no access to affordable healthcare services.  Millions of other Americans have no or not enough coverage, and their stories will join these sooner or later. The richest country in the world has made a huge business out of health, life and death. And Republicans fight tooth and nail to preserve it.

I think it is time that people honestly ask themselves: is this morally defensible?

A group called Physicians For a National Health Program put up an excellent webpage with questions and answers that people might have about the relative merits of a single-payer healthcare system compared to the current for-profit system. While I do not agree with everything they have written (more in future posts), overall this page is an excellent source of information to help people form clear and concise responses to the common concerns that many people have about socialized healthcare.

I will end this brief post with one quote from the site linked above, which is, I think, the fundamental reality of our situation in the USA:

"Q. Won’t this result in rationing like in Canada?  A. The U.S. already rations care. Rationing in U.S. health care is based on income: if you can afford care, you get it; if you can’t, you don’t. A recent study found that 45,000 Americans die every year because they don’t have health insurance. Many more skip treatments that their insurance company refuses to cover. That’s rationing. Other countries do not ration in this way." PNHP FAQs.

"If you can afford care, you get it; if you can't, you don't."  Words to ponder.

In a just society, should decent healthcare be a privilege reserved for the wealthy?


  1. What rationing? I live in Canada and there is no rationing at all. Of course our system is not perfect and our conservative government is trying to undermine it constantly. But if you need health care, you get it, and you don't walk out with a bill afterward.

    You know what else is surprising? Our tax rates are not that much higher than yours. Like, within a few percentage points. Plus, we don't have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in insurance premiums every month or copays when we go to the doctor.

    It is a moral issue. It seems to me that there is already enough of a divide between rich and poor in both our countries. To make the poor work extra hard to strive for health insurance or put them in a separate system where they are can't access the system without a struggle is just plain cruel. Even from a conservative point of view it makes sense to invest in health care; healthy people can work and contribute to the economy and unhealthy people are a strain.

    Obviously I don't have intimate knowledge of what goes on in the US, but when I hear of people who have to go back to work 6 weeks after a mastectomy while still on chemo to keep their insurance up, I just wonder why people accept such a system that values their health so little. It's all we have, really.

  2. Hi Rollergiraffe, thank you for your comment! You've given some really helpful feedback.

    The question referring to Canada and "rationing" came directly from the website I linked to, it was not my question. I debated about whether to post the question with the rest of the quote, and decided to do so because it is actually a very common question/concern thrown out in the healthcare debate in the USA, so I hoped that it would speak to my American readers. I thought the response given on the PNHP site brings home the reality better than I could have done by omitting the question.

    In the run-up to the Obamacare vote, there were commercials on US networks (paid for by anti-healthcare reform interest groups) featuring Canadians who claimed they had been harmed by the healthcare system there, usually by long waits which were termed "rationing" by the spinmeisters down here. One of the ways that special interests in the USA hope to kill healthcare reform and also hopes for a universal or socialized healthcare system here is to point to Canada and describe the shortcomings of the socialized healthcare there. As always, the truth is often the victim of that process.

    This is a question I intend to revisit often over the next few months. FYI, I am an expat Canadian. Intimately familiar with the Canadian healthcare system.

    Thank you again for your comment. I really appreciate the feedback!

    1. I didn't realize you were an expat! Ha, sorry. And I do realize that wasn't your quote; it just gets my back up when I hear *some* news sources running down universal health care with misinformation. Last time I traveled to the US, I actually had someone yell at me because she didn't believe that we didn't pay most of our income in taxes to "support our commie health care". I was totally blown away.

      I completely support what you're saying and I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts about it! I also find it interesting that as the US struggles with building a universal system Canada is busy trying to do away with theirs, for no real apparent reason other than keeping the deficit low and profit motive. Universal health care systems are rated as delivering the highest quality of care in the world.. why would anyone want to give that up?

  3. I hear you on being blown away by some misconceptions people seem to have. I've noticed that this is true in many places when considering the systems in place in other countries.

    Thank you for reading my blog! I will endeavor not to disappoint in the future! :D