Where Are the Horror Stories? Critics of the current healthcare system of the United States have shown that thousands of Americans die each year for not having health insurance, or having their health insurance ended because they got too sick. These critics also point out that a very large proportion of foreclosures on people's homes and of personal bankruptcies are the result of healthcare costs to individuals. Why is the public not hearing about such cases, in specific, human terms, relating to people in their own communities?
The only people who are telling the horror stories to try to wake people up are unelected citizens like Bill Moyers and Michael Moore. What they say doesn't make the nitely news. But if the President, Senators, and Congressmen make these points, especially with guests in the audience whose true-life stories are told, those stories will make the news, and the lie that everything is just fine with our healthcare system will go down in flames — and tears of guilt. Absent clear and chilling exposition of the nitemare our healthcare system has become, Democrats are never going to show the backbone to defy the liars and con artists of the Far Right. With such horror stories constantly in mind, however, because their colleagues keep dredging them up — and there are plenty to go around, without repeating a single one — we might actually end the disgrace of letting the Radical Right claim that this country they are so fond of bragging is the greatest and richest country in the history of the world, is too poor to provide universal health services that countries not nearly as rich as we are, manage to afford easily.
Every advocate of healthcare reform in Congress should be out in their home district (or State, in the case of the Senate) reminding people of why we are trying to reform health coverage in this country. Here's the kind of thing they should be saying.
Is that so hard to say?
Mary Williams, of Centerville, was denied a bone-marrow transplant for a life-threatening condition. The healthcare company said that altho a bone-marrow transplant was a well-established procedure for certain conditions, it was only an "experimental" procedure for treating her particular condition, and denied her that transplant. She died. Mary Williams was 16 years old.
Dave Edwards, of Springfield, got pancreatic cancer. His health insurer applied a rigid maximum payout to his case, and not only did he die prematurely, but his family was left with $59,000 in medical bills, in addition to a $6,000 funeral. They had already exhausted their life savings. Their kids, Sarah and Dave Jr., had to drop out of college long before graduation, which stuck them with tens of thousands of dollars in debt for student loans they will have to repay, even tho they didn't get a degree. The family had to sell their house, at a loss in a down market. Tammy Edwards, the widow, had already sold one car (Dave's, which he wouldn't need anymore), plus all her jewelry, including her engagement ring, wedding ring, and family heirlooms passed down thru four generations on her mother's side, and still couldn't pay the mortgage, so lost the house.
This is Edgardo Molina. His wife Luisa got breast cancer because they didn't have health insurance, and couldn't afford the regular mammograms that might have detected her cancer early. Luisa had to have a double-mastectomy, or she would surely die. They couldn't afford the surgery, so didn't have it done. Luisa died, leaving three small children motherless. As it is, the hospital bills for her last few days before death came to $24,000, and Edgardo had to liquidate the family's mom-and-pop business, a gardening service, to try to pay off that debt. Without Luisa as bookkeeper and sales agent, the business wouldn't have been able to continue anyway. Two part-time helpers lost their jobs in that liquidation, spreading the economic misery from the Molinas to the Johnstons and Nakamuras. At this point it looks as tho there is no way in the world Maria, Juan, and Billy Molina will be able to go to college.
Over in the McKinney Gardens townhouse project right here in Adams, we have the case of Theresa Heilbronner. She was driving her son and five of his friends home from a church picnic just before dusk when a drunk driver crossed over the line and hit her SUV head-on. Four of the kids, including her son Tommy, were killed instantly, and she was trapped in the car for over an hour until "the jaws of life" could free her. The remaining two kids were critically injured, barely clinging to life. Two days later, one died, with his parents by his side. On the third day, the other died. His father couldn't even be there because he was serving in a remote outpost in Afghanistan and couldn't make it home until five hours after his son died. Theresa suffered two broken arms, one broken leg, a severe brain concussion, and serious internal injuries. Her spleen had to be removed.
You all saw this story in the papers or on TV. What you might not have seen is the total cost to the families of this tragedy: $197,000 in expenses not covered by insurance. That doesn't even speak to the cost of funerals for six kids and rehabilitation expenses for Theresa that are expected to exceed $150,000 beyond what insurance will pay.
This is happening right here, ladies and gentlemen, not just out there somewhere else in the country. Our neighbors are being killed and ruined by the present healthcare mess. These things are happening all over the Nation, in town after town, neighborhood after neighborhood. Will it happen to you? Theresa Heilbronner didn't think it could happen to her. One minute she was driving home at the end of a great day, the next she was trapped in twisted metal and her son and his friends were dead or dying. Could it happen to you? Couldn't it happen to you?
We can't do anything about sudden, unpredictable accidents, but we can do something about the costs to repair the damage done by them, or by grave illness and long-term care. We can extend healthcare assurance to everyone, so that when bad things happen, we don't let health insurance megacorporations make them worse.
If you don't think there's anything wrong with a system that produces hundreds of thousands of horror stories like this EVERY YEAR, and you work to stop us from ending the conditions that produce such stories, then you share the guilt of the insurance companies. You are attacking your neighbors and causing them pain.
All we want is for everybody to be secure from economic devastation following health devastation. As a Nation, we enacted Social Security in the 1930s, and Medicare for the elderly in the 1960s. Now it's time to step up and provide Health Security in 2009. We can do it. We should do it. We must do it. It's time.
(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 4,333 — for Israel.)
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