Friday, September 4, 2009

Saint Agatha and Health Care

St. Agatha Mixed Media Shrine

St. Agatha is the patron saint of nurses and bakers, and is invoked against fire and diseases of the breast. She is also the patron saint of people who have or have survived breast cancer. I have her on my mind a lot lately as the debate over health care reform in the United States rages on. A really good friend of mine was just diagnosed with a malignant lump in her breast. One of my first thoughts was, "Shit. I hope her insurance company doesn't try to screw her out of her coverage."

The fact that that there are wealthy companies lobbying elected officials (who are supposed to be looking out for our best interests) has filled me with cynicism. I have, quite frankly, a complete lack of faith in the honesty of our senators and congress people, and in a system of government that has allowed this state of affairs to even exist. We are at the mercy of the health insurance companies who employ practices like rescission, purposefully cutting sick people off from their insurance and denying them health care, often at the time they need it the most. Why? To save money. In June the LA Times covered a congressional hearing on the practice or rescission. Rep. Bart Stupak said, "...some insurance companies use a technicality to justify breaking its promise, at a time when most patients are too weak to fight back."

Act 3 of Episode 386 of This American Life is dedicated to rescission. One of the most heartbreaking stories comes from a woman who was denied coverage at a time when she needed an immediate double mastectomy to combat the aggressive cancer growing inside of her. Blue Cross notified her the Friday before she was to have her surgery that her chart had been red flagged due to an unrelated past dermatologist visit. The insurance company insinuated that she had hidden her past visit from them. Her dermatologist assured them that the skin condition was unrelated to her cancer and pleaded with Blue Cross to allow her to have her surgery, but they denied her. Why? They did this all to save some money. Sadly stories like her are all to common in our country.

We are being terrorized by big business piracy and many elected officials are being bought and sold. Their greed has wormed its way into our relationships with our doctors, has turned our most personal situations into a corporate balance sheet, has violated our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and has given strangers the decision over whether we live, die, or face financial ruin.

Access to quality health care for everyone should be first amongst our priorities, along with food and shelter. Isn't human life too precious to put a price tag on? Do we really want to live in a society where who lives and who dies is based on what is in your bank account?

The United States finally has a president who speaks frankly about the problems our country faces. I would have preferred to see universal health care on the table, but I am pleased that the president is even willing to undertake the arduous process of taking steps to keep the health insurance industry honest.
"I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year."
– President Barack Obama, February 24, 2009

I am deeply disgusted by the partisan bickering and reactionary carrying on over the president's proposed changes. Shame on any elected official who is not supporting reform and regulation of the health insurance industry. This is a humanitarian issue, this has to do with compassion, ultimately. This is a class issue as well. The rich—politician and CEO alike—are jockeying desperately to protect their financial interests, employing scare tactics and lies. In the meantime there are sick people waiting, their conditions are worsening, people are dying, because of the greed and self interest of these few-all of whom can afford quality health care.

Check out act 3 of this episode of This American Life, about the health care industry's practice of rescission:

Michael Moore's Sicko website:

President Obama's Health Care web page:

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