By Donna Smith –
We’ve learned some remarkable things over the past few weeks about healthcare reform in these United States. Remarkable, tragic, sad, disgusting and unacceptable truths about what we’ve put up with for decades and what we are about to see written into law unless we rise up.
It was Jesus Christ who is credited with saying, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” We’ll see about that really soon. Our elected officials aren’t really too partial to that comment by J.C.
Here are some truths we’ve learned:
Those who are protecting the profit-takers in healthcare will say or do anything. You know, the old saw, “Don’t let the government get between you and your healthcare,” they threaten as ammunition to scare you away from progressively financed, guaranteed healthcare for all – like those scary Canadians or Scandinavians have. But do you know what the reality is in Canada and many of the nations where healthcare is actually valued as a human right? In Canada, it is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison for a government bureaucrat to interfere in any way in a patient care issue or decision.
While here in the United States, we let insurance companies not only get in between our doctors and patients but actually block them ever seeing one another. This week we heard testimony in a Congressional committee that the insurance companies our President and Congress want so desperately to protect have no intention of stopping the practice of policy rescissions. Rescissions happen when you get sick, file an insurance claim and then the insurance company searches your records to find reasons they would have denied you coverage before your illness and then retroactively drops your coverage. And their favorite targets? The committee found, according to the Los Angeles Times, “WellPoint’s Blue Cross targeted individuals with more than 1,400 conditions, including breast cancer, lymphoma, pregnancy and high blood pressure.” Ugly stuff. And talk about getting between you and your doctor…
And while we’re looking to enhance these companies by awarding them the business of every American by forcing purchase of their products as mandated in law, take note that women are still targets. Last month in a Senate hearing, the insurance industry said if all of us have to buy insurance they’ll stop discriminating against women in the charging of premiums and the determinations of claims payment and pre-existing conditions. Wow. They’ll stop killing and injuring women if they get their way and 47 million new customers forced to pay up.
In the bill released by the Senate HELP committee last week, I noted that the Indian Health Service will be exempted from the new law proposed. Really? Guess we just have to make sure those lousy, sickly Native Americans don’t actually end up in someone’s healthcare insurance pool using benefits to get care for chronic diseases when we can just more easily keep them covered by the seriously underfunded Indian Health Service. Horrible stuff.
And in Senator Baucus’ committee, Senate Finance, they’ll be OK with it if insurance companies only charge up to five times as much for age-related rating of premiums. Wow. That’s shocking, and I’ll bet most older people don’t even know that their Congressional members are considering allowing that to be done to them. Fives times as much to be paid by older people for health insurance – and no promises about denial of claims or policy rescission. Sweet deals are being made all over the place for everyone but you and me and our neighbors and friends.
It’s healthcare, human rights hell, and it going to get worse unless and until we stand up more loudly and clearly for what most of us were taught by our parents about what is decent and what is right. This Congress cannot act on our behalf as decent Americans – apparently – without our righteous demands on behalf of one another.
Step up. Stand up. Speak up. People with cancer, women, and minorities… are you feeling lucky you aren’t in one of those groups? Watch out. Tomorrow could be the day you need care and your newly empowered insurance company says, “Go to hell.” And your emboldened elected officials who failed to act say, “Sorry, we couldn’t pass real reform. Maybe next time.”
The time is drawing closer when the Rose Garden ceremony will only feature those who built this purgatory for so many of us and aim to take it a few levels deeper.
Donna Smith is a community organizer for the California Nurses Association and National Co-Chair for the Progressive Democrats of America Healthcare Not Warfare campaign.