July 30, 2007


We Americans have so much to be afraid of these days. We have become a nation driven by fear. Our children, our spouses, our brothers and sisters, and especially our parents are all at risk. Any misstep can be fatal.

Imagine that you lived in a country where, at any moment:

  1. Your child might be taken hostage held for an enormous ransom.
  2. You had to sell everything you owned in two or three days or they would die.
  3. It's legal, the people who took your child hostage were protected by law.

Would you sell your stuff? Lose your home and your car and your job? Of course you would. Almost anyone would. They're counting on that.

Well, you do live in such a place and any of your children could be admitted to a hospital tonight. If not your child, then your spouse or your mother. If none of them, then you could yourself be held for a ransom that your family would need to pay. And I'm assuming you have health insurance. If you don't have insurance, then the person snatched will usually just die and that's that. In our country your children don't deserve medical care if you're poor. People in prison get better health care than people who work at Walmart.

And why does it take 10 times my annual income to heal my son of a moderately serious illness? It doesn't. It does take that much money to pay fifteen or twenty layers of profit. When essential medication costs me $6,250 but only costs $12 to make, that's profit. The drug company gets some. The drug wholesaler gets some. The drug distributor gets some. The insurance company gets some (several times). The hospital gets some. Every single one of these layers has a lawyer and they get some. It all adds up.

There are some things that you just have to have: there's not any choice in the equation. Clean air and water are not luxuries. Neither are hospitals and fire departments. They are just as essential: you may not always need them, but when you do need them, you must have them or die from the lack of them. This is why medical care is the single largest cause of bankruptcy. If someone died because the fire department refused to show up, there'd be hell to pay, but somehow we think it's alright for needy people to die because hospitals refuse to treat them. The single biggest health risk people face in these United States is death by insurance claim denial.

And we're the only developed nation on Earth that holds its people hostage like this. In no other first world country do people have to live under the constant fear of getting sick. In no other developed country are medical providers, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies allowed to prey on people like that. Hundreds of billions of dollars are made from the misery of millions of people. It is not in the national interest. The profits snatched from millions of desperate people is a modern day sin. We should be ashamed to be the only developed nation on earth that permits this kind of venal sin to continue unabated, year after year. When you're ashamed of your country, you ought to do something about it.

In third world countries they, supposedly, lack our civilized concern for people. There, the poor and the weak just die and the rich and powerful live. America is not supposed to be about survival of the richest. It is supposed to be about egalitarian democracy and the protection of the weak from the predation of the strong.

At least in theory, we live in an enlightened republic that is governed by men and women of conscience who are responsible to the will of the people. Many politicians may be bought, for there are considerable powerful interests out there who will pay to keep us hostage. But we can stand up and refuse to submit to this intolerable state of affairs. We can demand change.

It is our duty. It is our responsibility as citizens of the republic to demand change.This medical profiteering is incompatible with our national ideals of liberty and justice. Our children and our children's children deserve a better future than to live lives of unending fear.

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