Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

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Donna Smith

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

June 6th, 2013 5:43 PM

How Many Precious Gifts, Like Andrea Bocelli's, Murdered for Health Care Profits in America?

Andrea Bocelli, Medicare for all, donna smith, single payer, health system dysfunction

Last evening, I was lucky enough to attend the best concert I have ever seen or heard.  Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli was in Denver for one of his very few North American stops on this tour, and we got our tickets because someone else couldn't go and offered the seats for a reduced rate.  Thank goodness that was before the Aetna folks decided to throw me under the bus by refusing to reinstate my health insurance or we would never have even spent the relatively small amount we did to attend. 

My wonderful son, Daniel, who is an amazing vocalist in his own right and who teaches music in the public schools, pushed us to go when I balked.  He reminded me that life is short and that, "This is your guy, Mom, you have to go. You taught me that."  So, in celebration our 37th wedding anniversary, Larry and I went to see Andrea Bocellii.

It will go down as one of the nights and one of the events that changed my life.  As I listened to him, the world fell away.  The worry about Aetna.  The worry about bankruptcy and about never again having our own home.  The worry about working hard enough to help make the change that will heal our broken health care system.  All I felt was intense joy and intense peace.  Can peace and joy be intense?  Oh, yes.  I think both can be so.

And Bocelli's voice is such an incredible mix on training and emotion that it transports listeners and opens hearts.  Blind since an accident in his adolescence, after being partially blind since birth, Bocelli's musical performance transported me and tens of thousands of others at the concert.

Toward the end of the concert, I began to cry, almost uncontrollably, as something deep inside of me wondered how the loss of one gift in life may sometimes enhance the experience and use of other gifts.  And I wondered about the many potential Andrea Bocelli's and other gifted souls who might be among the 123 health care dead in America today or the many thousands who die needlessly each year. My tears just kept falling as the music filled the arena.  After each of four encores, I said aloud over and over again while crying, "Please, keep singing, please sing."  It felt almost as if I let go of the power and joy of those moments and he appreciation of the music, I might never hear anything so wonderful again -- and the dead, the dead might still be dying.  Please sing, please keep singing.

Then, the lights came on, and he was gone.  The concert was over.  I thought back to a lecture I heard once by John Bradshaw, an educator/counselor who did a great deal of work surrounding dysfunctional families, who once pondered, "How many Mozart's murdered?"  And throughout my wonderful night of music, there were no doubt some wonderful people in America who died because they lacked the financial ability to get care.  Would they have become Mozart or Bocelli?  Perhaps not.  But we will never know that.  The U.S. health care system discarded them before we could fully answer that question.

It hurts so much to think about what we throw away while pursuing the almighty dollar in our dysfunctional, profit-first health care system in America.  We protect profits, and we discard life.  And so long as I have any gifts left to give in terms of spreading the word about what we can do to fix this, I will keep trying.  An improved, expanded Medicare for all for life system wouldn't guarantee America would produce a voice or a talent like Bocelli's, but at least we wouldn't kill our chances to more fully develop our potential by being so devoted to our greed and our ignorance.

Today's update:

2013, to date, U.S. medical-financial-industrial -complex system dead: 19,198

The 2013, to date, U.S. health care system bankrupt: 308,578

** 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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