Am I my brother’s keeper?


August 19, 2009 by 8junebugs

Dr. Hibbert from The Simpsons, courtesy VirginmediaFlip-Flop Amy got me started on it, so this 1,000-plus-word rant is brought to you by the letters S, T, and J.

I’m pleased to see that Remote Area Medical (RAM) is getting a fair bit of press this week for its work in Inglewood. You know where organizations like RAM are supposed to operate, though? Guatemala. Haiti. East Africa. Places with a lot less money and resources than the United States. Yet 60% of its programs are directed domestic need, because our neighbors can’t afford regular dental care, to say nothing of root canals.*

Is this what you want and expect from the United States? People who, no matter how hard they work at how many jobs, can’t afford to get their teeth cleaned or get glasses for their kids? What do you think extra root canals and kids who can’t see the board do to our economy in the long run?

Wake up, neighbors. It’s Morning After in America.

The only reason my mom was able to go from diagnosis to radiation to surgery to chemo and back again is because she was a Vermonter, and Vermonters decided years ago that medical care is a basic human right regardless of income, health, or lifestyle. As a Vermonter, she received the best care possible given the diagnosis, and her costs were minimal. Thanks to universal health care at the state level, she could go to the doctor without worrying about whether she would have to choose between medicine and a mortgage payment.

Shouldn’t everyone be able to do that? If you think otherwise, please tell me why, because I honestly can’t imagine being willing to say, “No, you can’t go to the doctor. You are not rich enough to afford the right to get well.”

It started with former Governor Howard Dean, now best known for roaring on national television and scaring grown adults away from progressive change (can you imagine where we’d be today if we were open to change in 2004 instead of the same old lesser-of-two-evils options? Le sigh…). To Vermonters, though, he’s best known for Dr. Dynasaur, the program that began ensuring health care coverage for children and pregnant women. It was a start, a strong start, and it led to the plethora of programs available in Vermont today in just about every circumstance: Unemployed, underemployed, or out of college and too old for Mom and Dad’s insurance? Whatever your situation, Vermont believes you have the right to medical attention. They believe you have a right to life, even if you have already exited the womb and left behind the protection of the traditional right-to-life crowd.

Dean is also known for balancing Vermont’s budget at the same time, even though Vermont’s constitution didn’t require it. Somehow? Covering medical care for more people didn’t bankrupt the state. Go figure.

(Oh, and he headed the pack on civil union legislation back in 2000. Is it any wonder I think he should’ve been president? Sure, it spawned the “Take Back Vermont” campaign that made me glad to leave Vermont again, but let’s not focus on that bit…)

Anyway, don’t give me that “death panel” crap, Senator Grassley et al. I refer you again to the level of care my mother received as a resident of a state with near-universal health care coverage. A lifelong smoker addicted to bologna sandwiches with a history of beers by the pool and a couple of years of hard drinking? Stage 4 lung cancer with absolutely no hope of recovery? Zero intentional cardio workouts in 50+ years? No one said she couldn’t be treated. No one turned her away because she was broke. No one told her no, and she had some hope in the face of a death sentence. She had a chance to live a little longer…she had time — and the people around her had time — to adjust to the reality and say goodbye as best they could. (Whether she or they did is beside the point. Nobody’s perfect.)

“Death panels” are a red fucking herring. No plan on the table would allow a panel of administrators or legislators to decide whether “grandma” lives or dies. Legislators (and agenda-setting news outlets) need to stop propagating falsehoods to inflame uninformed voters. (For you “heartland” conservatives, that’s the 9th commandment you’re breaking. In case you’re keeping track.)

By the way, Senator Grassley et al., my grandma died in the night from…well, possibly from the same aggressive lung cancer that killed my mom in the end. We don’t know, though. She couldn’t afford to go to the doctor.

I’m not a Bible scholar, but I chose the title of this post and hauled out a commandment up there because it GALLS me to listen to capital-C, Bible-thumping Christian senators and House members fighting this effort to find a way to care for their fellow human beings. Where in their hearts is the kind of compassion, understanding, and sacrifice Jesus embodied? Do they sit in church every Sunday and balance their checkbooks? Or are they still convinced, even in today’s economy, that the really poor just need to get a job and the working poor aren’t working hard enough?

WWJD, indeed.

I could not be more grateful to the state of Vermont. They treated Mom’s illness and eased her pain as much as she would let them, and they did it without prejudice or exorbitant cost. If Congress cares about the citizens of this country, perhaps they should spend their time studying the health care systems that work (get over it — France is far superior to us on this issue, and not because they eat fewer Freedom Fries) instead of throwing out inaccurate accusations and delaying the work this nation so desperately needs.

Voters, please…for the love of God and country, get the facts. Do your research and demand that your elected officials do theirs. Do not fall back on stereotypes, epithets, and fear — think about whether you want America to need volunteer medical services more than third-world nations, and do something about it.



*RAM, by the way, could have seen many more patients in need during the L.A. “tour,” but California only allows doctors licensed in California to practice in California (teachers, lawyers, and hairdressers, too). RAM had to turn away qualified, experienced out-of-state doctors because California would not waive the requirement that they be licensed by the state medical board of California (this was in an NPR broadcast that made me cry, but I haven’t snagged the podcast yet). So, if you waited for hours and didn’t get your antibiotics, you have the folks in Sacramento to thank for it.


3 thoughts on “Am I my brother’s keeper?

  1. Gllroia Manchester says:

    Nicely written, miss.

  2. 8junebugs says:

    Thanks, Nurse G. I’m thankful there are pundits out there making many of these points for me, but seriously? I cannot believe some of the Congressional shenanigans and willful ignorance taking over the nation right now.

    • Gloria Manchester says:

      Disingenious doesn’t even come close to explaining the depths that are being plumbed – it is quite shameful actually. The sleight of hand that is occuring (Look!! Over here! Death panels!) and the way it is dominating the conversation is disheartening.

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