Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
Since I was a little child huddled in the elementary school hallway for the bomb drills to the present day when I listen to the reasons my nation must spend more on foreign military actions, the means of securing public support for war in this nation seems to have centered on one word. Terror.
We used to be terrified that the Communists from the Soviet Union were coming with their bombs, so we built shelters and indoctrinated our kids to understand our Red fear. Bombs could be launched without warning or even immediate provocation, so making us all fearful wasn’t too hard. Cold War terror lasted a good, long time and helped a lot of people get very rich. We entered many “conflicts” using the fear of a Communist spread. No Commie bomb ever fell, and many still argue that’s because we built more bombs and were much more terrifying as we won that face off with all those evil folks across the globe.
In the past couple of decades we’ve talked a lot about terrorists. Terrorists sometimes have affiliations with individual countries or groups of countries, and sometimes terrorists act in cells and networks independent of such national affiliations. Terrorists also attack without warning and often without seeming to have provocation. Bombs go off in civilian areas; people die in countries around the world, and here in the United States at the hands of domestic and foreign terror groups. Building public support for a war on terror only requires occasional reinforcement of the random senselessness of terror attacks.
So what qualifies as terror to our media? Our government? Our own sensibilities? It must not be simply the randomness or lack of direct target justification that creates terror we must ever war against. For if that were the case, surely the terror felt by millions of us as we stand largely unprotected from physical and financial collapse at the hands of the healthcare system in the U.S. would qualify as a war we should fight with due diligence.
If death – unexpected and untimely – of our fellow Americans was the measure of terror we ought to fight boldly and directly, then the 45,000 dead Americans who simply lacked access to healthcare would surely warrant a bold and immediate response from our commander-in-chief and our Congress. Daily death toll in the United States from a lack of access to healthcare: 124. Hourly death toll: 5-6. Yet no terror alert is raised and no breaking news scrolls across the bottom of the television screen.
Are the deaths from healthcare terror any less terrifying? They are preventable, we’re told. They are not predictable. Folks with private health insurance can be at as much risk as those without private health insurance. Old folks. Young people. Kids. Babies. We just don’t line them up against the bomb shelter walls anymore, do we? No, we don’t warn them of the impending doom, rather we lead them to believe they are safe in what some can access easily and then claim as the best healthcare in the world.
One might argue that if the death toll were made more public from the Healthcare Terror War in the United States, we might act with more urgency to remedy the killings and stop the random acts of violence among us. Just as we used to tick off the numbers of those killed in the Vietnam “conflict,” perhaps someone – even one bold progressive or liberal website or think tank or political caucus – should run a daily tab for us. Once in a while they might feature an in depth look at one or two of the lost to bring the point home that 124 Americans die every day simply because the Democrats and the Republicans won’t fix the problem.
Flesh and blood. Our fellow citizens. 124 died today in a terror-filled war of healthcare want.
This healthcare war is stoppable. This healthcare war is winnable. It is not a matter of political will that stops us from fixing it. It is blatant greed and self-will run riot of those who have no fear of such terror in their own lives at the hands of the healthcare terrorists.
I am terrified. Patients are terrified. American patients and American families of patients are terrified. Going to the doctor for care is not a given when sick in this nation. Having a source of funding to pay for your care is closer to being a way to be less terrified but only randomly in many cases. Out of the blue an insurance company is allowed to deny payment for care and then providers deny access to care. Out of the blue an illness can strike, like a bomb in a duffle bag left next to you in the train station or a bomb strapped in an air traveler’s underwear. Illness is like that. And our U.S. healthcare system compounds the terrorism by failing to protect us.
We might get care; we might not get care. We might get medicine; we might not. Yet we hear that the way some want to fix the mess is to hand over total control of the battle to the private insurance industry warlords who have so skillfully waged battle on so many innocents.
I went to a couple of wonderful political gatherings in New Jersey and Pennsylvania this past weekend. Many of those present are supporters of Medicare for all, single-payer healthcare reform for this nation. Many are also very active in the anti-war effort. Many of us are involved in a shared national campaign called “Healthcare Not Warfare,” with the Progressive Democrats of America. Yet the elected officials who attended don’t seem to yet internalize the struggle of the healthcare war in their districts or across the nation. They do not feel our pain, else they would act.
They are still waging a political battle while we are fighting for our lives.
We apparently have failed to make the case so far about how many decent people in this nation live scared every single day that the next symptom or the next family illness will not be cared for, that the next medication will not be paid for or affordable, that the next cancer or heart attack will kill a loved one who couldn’t win a battle fought with an insurance company, that the next phone call will be a collection agency acting for a hospital or doctor’s office threatening to attach our wages or sue us in court, that the next medical visit will be canceled because a deductible was not met, that the next fever will go undiagnosed because there was no way to see a doctor, that the next injury will have to be suffered as there was not a way to pay for an X-ray or physical therapy, that the next increase in insurance premiums will be too much for our family or our employers will not want to keep employees who are sick or who have health needs.
The list of battlefronts is very long. The potential points of terror are very real. The randomness and senselessness every bit as troubling as the Communist threat of the Cold War or the fear of the next 9-11.
This is a war. It is terror. The death panels operate with abandon, and the suffering adds up. 45,000 Americans dead every year in a preventable attack waged from within their own communities, states and nation. 124 Americans dead every day.
This isn’t about health insurance reform. This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats with hurt political agendas. This isn’t about filibusters or 60-vote majorities. This isn’t about election-year statistics and polls or about candidates with pick-up trucks that have more than 200,000 miles on the odometer.
The healthcare war in this nation is about the 45,000 dead Americans who need not have died and it is about the American citizen every 12 seconds who declares bankruptcy due to medical crisis. The healthcare war is about the citizens who must hold accountable all of their elected officials who have failed to end our terror and this war. Let’s at least be honest about the healthcare war dead numbers in comparison to those dying on foreign soil. Why would any of us allow our own lives and that of our children to be so expendable as to not demand an immediate withdrawal from this healthcare war and an extension of healthcare to all? What is it that we are waiting for?
Let’s extend Medicare to all. It works. It ends the terror for millions and millions of people. Medicare isn’t about being Republican or Democrat. Medicare for all equals an end to a war that has claimed so many good people and gentle souls.
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