‘Tis the holiday season, but the Scrooges and Grinches of the health industry and their political minions are doing their best to ensure the less fortunate get nothing but stockings of coal. It never ceases to amaze how positively Dickensian our healthcare system has become.
The latest example comes from Arizona, where the state legislature cut Medicaid funding for people needing certain kinds of transplants, cuts that would save about $4.5 million a year. Arizona legislators based their decision on false information given to them by guess who? – a couple of insurance companies. Unfortunately, Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, is refusing use her power to call a special session to reverse the cuts, and the state legislature doesn’t plan to revisit the issue until January. MSNBC host Keith Olbermann reported on these real “death panels” and interviewed two families affected by the cuts:
Arizona isn’t the only state turning its back on the most vulnerable. Texas is considering opting out of Medicaid entirely. One Texas congressman, Jim Pitts, was especially candid about the consequences of that while addressing a group of Tea Party supporters. The following appeared in the Houston Chronicle:
Pitts didn’t advocate the change in health care for the poor at a meeting of the Ellis County Tea Party, just noted that it will be discussed by lawmakers.
But unlike others who have painted a rosy picture of a potential health-care restructuring without filling in the details, Pitts gave a stark answer when an audience member asked about an ill friend who is on Medicaid.
The questioner reacted with concern when Pitts said the state is looking at getting out of the program. What will my friend do then? Will you throw him out in the street?
“If we did exactly what we’re doing today, we wouldn’t be throwing him out in the street. But if we have any savings in getting out of Medicaid, we will have to throw some people out in the street,” said Pitts, R-Waxahachie. He noted, “I’m not telling you that your friend would be.”
Classy. So, this is what we’ve come to. Our fellow citizens are abandoned in their time of greatest need and a member of our government describes the fate of those citizens in such cold and clinical terms.
Meanwhile, researchers release more evidence that many Americans continue to suffer from a healthcare system that looks more 19th century than 21st. Filmmaker Michael Moore wrote in his blog just before Thanksgiving that corporations are “pushing us all off a cliff,” with their attacks on the environment, the economy and the health of our citizens. Is the healthcare system their cynical way of thinning the herd, of getting rid of the weak in favor of the powerful? This idea is known as social Darwinism, the belief that social elites (the rich and powerful) are superior and therefore more deserving of survival.
The world in which Charles Dickens wrote his yuletide classic, A Christmas Carol, was that of Industrial-era England of the mid-1800s, where workers had no rights and the upper classes owned most of the wealth. If you were poor, you had no access to health care. That was the harsh reality of Ebenezer Scrooge’s put-upon employee, Bob Cratchit, and Crachit’s sickly son, Tiny Tim. At least Scrooge eventually saw the error of his greedy ways and the story has a happy ending for the Crachit family. But if Dickens got in a time machine and traveled to 21st century America, he would be saddened to see that some of the social ills he wrote about haven’t changed. There are still millions of families like the Crachits struggling to survive, and still a lot of corporate Scrooges who could use a good Christmas haunting.