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Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

September 5th, 2013 9:38 PM

Death March Goes On as Many Wait to See How Obamacare Works Out

Wait and See If Obamacare Works Out, Medicare for all for life, single-pater reform

It seems everyone is waiting to see what Obamacare will do for us. Meanwhile, people are dying because their illnesses don't wait to see how Obamacare works out. And the bill collectors don't slow their pursuit of debts because they are waiting to see how Obamacare works out. The dead keep dying. The broke keep going broke.

No one in the health care industry in the U.S. stepped up and protested today that 123 more people died for profit today. And another 1,978 went bankrupt due to medical crisis and debt in the U.S. today, and no one protested their financial demise. It has become so easy to overlook.

Greed and selfishness don't take a break in our system, but it seems the perfect cover for the next several months, if not years, will be: let's wait and see how Obamacare works out.

This wait and see position is at best lazy and at its worst complicit in the suffering and death happening in every community and every state in our nation. If we don't push at least as hard on our "allies" as we do our adversaries to keep the pressure on to advance health care reform under an improved and expanded Medicare for all for life system, then we are guilty of not truly believing in the cause for which we struggle. It's a terribly difficult time for many single-payer advocacy groups to stay afloat. Funds and involvement are needed. Most of us can find a way to give somehow every month -- even if it's a small amount -- to help groups like the national Healthcare-NOW or my state's Health Care for All Colorado Foundation. And most of the groups have a way for donors to pledge to give on a monthly basis. Progressive Democrats of America has a great model for this giving with their "Change Makes Change" program that encourages everyone to give what they are able with the knowledge that many small gifts will amount to a big bit of advocacy work made possible.

My nagging feelings have not changed about how different it could be if we all knew that on January 1, 2014, we'd all have access to an improved and expanded Medicare for all for life system. We'd all have health care. There would be no waiting to see if things work any better under Obamacare. And our conversations with those who are so adamantly opposed to health reform of any kind would be no different except for one large and irrefutable truth. At least we could confidently have said that for the first time in American history everyone would be eligible for care when needed without financial barrier. As things stand now, many of us who support single-payer are being put in the position of either dumping on Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) or finding ways to explain some of the health insurance reforms that are going into effect. The opponents of any change certainly lump us all into one pool of enemies to be challenged from the right, and that makes our efforts more confusing and challenging. Because the right wing propaganda has been so effective as aided by much of the mainstream media, many Americans think Obamacare is the same thing as government run, socialized medicine (even when they haven't a clue what that means).

I can say this with great confidence because I have watched and experienced the changes in audiences over the past five years. Never since the height of the birth of the Tea Party movement have I seen and heard such virulent and cruel opposition to health reform. Yesterday, I heard a college professor say that the U.S. will never stand for socialized medicine. This was actually what she told her class when she heard my position on expanding Medicare to all for life. And the class was a room full of budding health professionals (future nurses to be specific). Did they take comfort in knowing that they'd be able to go for the gold in profits or did some, at least, consider the possibility that having a system like ours that currently kills 123 people every day might need an immediate intervention to at least stop the preventable killings? I suppose I don't get to know the answer to that today.

I won't be waiting to see how Obamacare works out. I want everyone to have access to a single standard of high quality care without financial barrier. We have a lot of work to do to get there no matter how well the current reform proceeds. And to do that work with any sort of energy and engagement as well as better chances of success in the future, we need your support. It's no wonder that the single-payer movement sometimes gets set back for years if most of those who are active during cycles and peaks of high intensity national attention to health care issues suddenly become less committed and involved after there is a major shift like the passage of Obamacare. It is at exactly these times that we should ramp up our effort not shrink from the moment. It's tough, but are you there with us? Then give somehow. Today. Don't be complicit and don't be lazy. That's the easy route left for those who would never care enough to read these words.


September 4, 2013 -- Today's count of the health care dead and broke for profit in the U.S.:

The 2013, to date, U.S. medical-financial-
industrial -complex system dead: 30,391
The 2013, to date, U.S. health care system
bankrupt: 487,571

** These figures are calculated based on the Harvard University studies on excess deaths in the U.S. due to lack of insurance coverage or the ability to pay for needed health care, and the Harvard University study that calculated the high percentage of personal bankruptcies attributable to medical crisis and debt in the U.S. 123 people die daily due to lack of coverage or cash to pay for care; 1,978 go bankrupt every day due to medical crisis and debt though the majority had insurance at the time their illness or injury occurred. This statistic is also based on the 1.2 million bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2012, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and calculating those medically-related bankruptcies from that number.

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