The Horror and the Hope

by HELEN REDMOND

First the horror, lest any believe there is not a massive and continuous health care catastrophe in this country that kills and forces people to live lives full of preventable pain and disfigurement.

A short article with haunting photos in the New York Times by Sara Corbett titled "Patients Without Borders" spoke heartbreaking volumes about the state of health care in the rural areas of the United States of A lot of uninsured. Yes, hundreds of thousand of people still live far outside urban centers and if you think health care is hard to obtain and the wait is long in major cities full of hospitals and clinics, try getting medical care in small towns. Managed care/competition – the Clintons answer to the health care crisis in the 90’s – never made it to small-town America.

Most summers the residents of Wise County, Virginia are visited by volunteer doctors who work for an organization called Remote Area Medical (RAM). The organization also provides free medical services to poor countries with little to no health care infrastructure like Haiti and Guyana South America. Wise County has much in common with the aforementioned countries. When the fairgrounds opened at 5:30 am of the first day 800 people were standing in line. By midmorning 1,200 were waiting. Over 3 days 2,500 were seen but hundreds had to be turned away. An array of medical personnel went to work to provide basic health care to the poor and uninsured. And 78 dentists extracted more than 3,700 teeth. One patient had 12 teeth pulled out. A doctor quoted in Corbett’s article said "If you spend a day here you see there’s something wrong with health care in this country." Something is indeed wrong, criminal even. Here’s another number: rationed care is responsible for nearly 100,000 deaths every year.

I want every presidential candidate both Republican and Democrat, every politician who voted against SCHIP, every person in power who doesn’t believe that health care is a human right, or is against single-payer, to stand in line in the rain for hours to see a doctor. To receive health care only once a year in a fairground that must be bleached clean of horse manure before health care providers can work, to register in a barn, to be examined and treated in an animal stall – feet sinking into wet hay and mud – or in a musty old, threadbare tent that offers no privacy. To have 12 rotting teeth pulled out in one day! And then goddammit tell me the private, for-profit health care system works.

Now the hope. At the Midway Airport Marriott Hotel in Chicago on November 10th and 11th, a highly motivated and committed collection of people from all walks of life, and all ages gathered for a national conference organized by Marilyn Clement and sponsored by the organization Healthcare-NOW! Leading members from the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC), the California Nurses Association (CNA), Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), the labor unions IBEW, UE, UAW, and dozens of lesser known but just as important grassroots organizations from 30 states were represented. Donna Smith, whose story was featured in Michael Moore’s Sicko, Congressman John Conyers from Michigan (he has sponsored federal single-payer legislation, HR 676), and Mary Flowers an Illinois State Representative (her single-payer bill is HB 311), also attended.

Two ideas/themes were central to the conference: health care is a human right, and an uncompromising pledge to fight for single-payer (no support for useless, incremental reforms.) And the fight has already begun. The opening session was a series of reports on actions across the country and the effects of the crisis. The range of activities, the depth of understanding of the issue, the creativity, was astonishing. A member of the Women’s Economic Agenda Project in California talked about health care as a social justice issue and the planning of "Truth Commissions" where people tell their health care horror stories. In Florida members of the Alachua County Labor Party held a meeting and invited politicians to come and listen – they weren’t allowed to speak. The Chicago Single-Payer Action Network held a protest in front of the Blue Cross insurance building. A family from Dallas, Texas, inspired by Sicko, formed a single-payer organization called Protest Now. The Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Single-Payer printed fake 500,000 bills with Congressman Jim Smith’s face in the middle that asked Who Does He Work For Anyway? Like many politicians Mr. Smith accepts generous campaign contributions from health care corporations.

Throughout the weekend the anger, outrage, and commitment to fight was palpable. Strong words like vilify, call-out, throw-out, expose, bird-dog, defeat, and shame were widely used.

We made ambitious plans for the upcoming year. We are organizing a national day of action against the health insurance industry. We are going to show a powerful, new DVD that explains HR 676 – the national single-payer bill – to groups all around the country. We are traveling to Boston, Massachusetts to expose the fraud and failure of the individual mandate approach to health care. Watch out Mitt Romney, there is going to be another Boston Tea Party but this time instead of tea, your effigy is going into the harbor!

Hallelujah! A new civil rights movement has been born and our eyes are on the prize. We are going to end the horror of the for-profit health care system and put the humanity back in.

Join us!

For more information on meetings and actions contact:

www.healthcare-now.org
www.guaranteedhealthcare.org
www.pnhp.org
www.chispan.org
www.justhealthcare.org

To get a free copy of the DVD email Healthcare-NOW! or call 1 800 453 1350.

HELEN REDMOND is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a member of Chicago Single-Payer Action Network (CSPAN) She can be reached at: redmondmadrid@yahoo.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”