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Donna Smith

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

November 18th, 2009 11:41 AM

Dickens Revisited, Circa 2009, Healthcare USA

Some Americans will schlep into a local theater to check out Disney’s latest 3-D version of “A Christmas Carol.” They’ll gather up the kids and worry about whether or not it’s appropriate viewing or a little too scary for the wee ones.

Other Americans are planning holiday travel and bemoaning the tribulations they’ll face in airports or at shopping centers as they buy their way through the traditions of the season.

For a huge number of people in these United States, there isn’t too much to look forward to this holiday season and beyond. If Dickens were writing today in America, he’d find plenty of souls to take the roles in his classic Christmas tale – plenty of Tiny Tim’s, plenty of ghosts past, present and future, and surely plenty of Marley’s and Scrooges. That’s what makes his tale a classic. It resonates through history, human nature being what it was then, what it is now and what it ever shall be.

But in our society, we kind of like it the Dickens way during Christmas. Doesn’t it make many of us feel superior to throw a tidbit or two to the unfortunates? If only they worked as hard or smart as we do (or as hard as we think they should), our work ethic tells us they would not be in such a state. So we hold back from actually changing the conditions for the long haul. We don’t want to give away through our social policy what we believe we earned by working hard, do we?

With a constant bombardment of marketing images and entrenched value judgments, we’ll leave millions to suffer without housing, food, healthcare and jobs, and we’ll stand smugly by as thousands die wanting for healthcare we could have provided but chose to deny. And then we’ll want elaborate thanks for any meager donations we pinch out during the season.

The UN says our homelessness is mounting. The jobless rate rises. Tens of thousands die without a doctor’s care. Yesterday we read that more children are hungry in America. But, by God, we keep right on judging our fellow citizens and pretending the growing numbers represent some distant threat instead of real people in real pain.

This year, Congress is on the verge of passing a mess of healthcare reform legislation that will continue to leave millions without access but will enrich every single insurance company CEO.

I just wish they’d pass the plan that gives me what I pay for them to have: access to care immediately when they need it without question or pause and protection from going broke in the process of getting that care. Congress and the President have doctors at the ready – doctors I pay for with my hard work and taxes. In the Office of Attending Physician, basic care is readily available to Congressional members with absolutely no need to have any other insurance at all. And we all know the President is well cared for by his medical team. I pay for their health security.

Before we ever have to look at what benefits or health insurance coverage these officials get in the federal benefits plans, we need to know that they already have access to excellent care whenever they need it. And I am glad they do.

How about our veterans? Those who can access the Veterans Administration for care also get what they need when they need it. I am glad for that too.

And those on Medicare? I give thanks that millions of seniors and disabled Americans (and their families who might have been bankrupted trying to help) have been saved from terrible suffering and financial ruin because they have these benefits.

It’s simple stuff. We know that providing care is the just thing to do and the smart thing to do or we would not give it to these groups of our fellow citizens. We know that providing care is right or we’d strip it away from these groups as we sought to save money in tough times.

Sometimes I dislike the signs posted outside churches that give advice or try to compel folks to come inside. Maybe it’s because I feel so caught in an ugly sort of healthcare Christmas present, ala Dickens, that one such message resonated with me last week. I was in St. Louis and saw this message on a Christian church: “There is never a right reason to do the wrong thing.”

Hmm. Never? Seems our Congress thinks the right reason to deny healthcare access to millions is to sell the idea that it might be too expensive to do what is right. They wait for Congressional Budget Office studies to prop up their plans to give more and more wealth to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries while continuing to deny millions any care at all. Seems our elected and well protected officials think it might be too politically expensive with their wealthy friends to provide the basic human right of healthcare to all.

What they do not understand is that doing the right thing in terms of extending healthcare to all would be the richest gift any of them could extend. And it would save billions of dollars for the nation, millions of homes and financial futures, and thousands of lives. Give us what you have. Plain and simple. There is one more chance to let the Senate know they can still do the right thing for the right reasons. Call today. Your U.S. Senators. Both of them. Through the Capital switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Tell them to give us all what we buy for them, for our seniors, our disabled people, our veterans – what we give from our labors on this earth: Access to a doctor and to care when we need it. And protection from financial ruin. All of us. Give us a little peace of mind during this season of peace on earth. It’s a pretty scary version of the classic for all of us right now. And, as Tiny Tim said, God Bless Us Every One.

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