Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
The budget crisis in Arizona means the Republican Governor Jan Brewer and her Republican legislature have decided some death is preferable to more debt. Human life has a very measureable price in Arizona, and those who look the other way as folks who might be saved die in Arizona can expect the same to come to their states sometime soon.
Many Republicans like to frame themselves as the party that protects human life from the moment of conception, no matter what. Many Democrats like to frame themselves as the party that protects the downtrodden and the working class folks.
So, where are any of these people when the sick in Arizona are preparing to die?
Here's one take on the news stories of recent days:
On Oct. 1, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System stopped paying for seven types of transplants that the state's GOP governor, Jan Brewer, and GOP-led legislature said they could no longer afford. The state faces a projected $1 billion program deficit by July 2011.
They eliminated heart transplants for non-ischemic cardiomyopathy, lung transplants, pancreatic transplants, some bone marrow transplants, and liver transplants for patients infected with hepatitis C. Arizona also restricted coverage of prosthetics, eliminated podiatric services, preventive dental services, and wellness and physical exams for adult Medicaid enrollees"
So, we've decided in Arizona that the expendables are to be defined as adult Medicaid enrollees. The poor, often the working poor, are our expendables.
I didn't hear anyone cry for them. I didn't hear anyone cry out for them. Two are dead already as they were denied transplants and 96 more are in the queue. And it does not lead the news even among those who advocate for universal healthcare or the public option or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or repeal or replace or whatever. The dead are expendable to all of us.
We fought immigration discrimination in Arizona, but dead poor people are acceptable? Where are the protests? There are no protests today in Arizona because no one we care about is dead yet.
If your liver stops working tomorrow, God forbid, do you think your own life is worth saving? Your child's? Your neighbor's? How about a little cancer that needs bone marrow treatment?
If we had a progressively financed, single standard of care for all in this nation -- the kind of government protected care that, say, Senator John McCain of Arizona has enjoyed for all but four years of his life, it isn't that every treatment would automatically be covered and appropriate. But those kinds of choices would be determined based on medical necessity and effectiveness rather than being automatically not available to one group of adults -- like these adult Medicaid enrollees in Arizona.
This is a travesty and a horror all at once playing out in Arizona. The only question we need ask ourselves is how many dead poor people are acceptable to us? We've finally gotten to the point of watching a bi-partisan killing field played out in full public view, and I don't know if we care enough to act. How many activists have booked their travel for Arizona to hold rallies and chain themselves to the governor's mansion gates or the hospital entrances where the dying have been given their death sentences? How many of Arizona's leaders will step up? Any national leaders?
This doesn't bode well for our future ability to transform our healthcare system from one that values money over human life. If we cannot even gather our collective voice and courage to this trauma, we are more desperately selfish and greedy than we have accused those on Wall Street of so boldly displaying. We're just playing at healthcare justice.
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