Thursday, July 23, 2009

OPINION: The Great Health-Care Debate Circus And Side Shows

By Don Wiltshire

The Great Health Care Debate Circus is in full swing, going on in more rings than you could ever imagine. The slick TV ads, dreamed up by the health-insurance industry and paid for by your health-care dollars, warn us of the horrors of government-run clinics. That nice lady from Canada, who would not have been treated for a life-threatening illness for another year-and-a-half because of her country’s government-run system, had to come to our wonderful country to get treatment. The talking heads blather on about how unaffordable universal health coverage would be.
House Resolution 676 has been languishing in Congress since February 2005. It also is called the “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.” It is currently sponsored by 87 congressmen, including Sen. Tom Udall and supported by 70 percent of the American people. It would not affect your choice of health-care providers. It would not affect the health-care industry. It would, however, divert some of the $800 billion of our health-care dollars (fully one-third of the $2.4 trillion we spend on health care in the United States) from the Mighty Health Insurance Industry’s coffers. Find out more and how you can help online at
Here are our stories and why we both support this resolution:
Private insurance’s giant loopholes, Donald’s tale:
Working the scenic shops in Orlando, Fla., was like a periodic stampede. One shop would pick up a big contract from Universal Studios or Disney and we would all sign on, work like crazy, finish the job in less than six months and get laid off, never qualifying for the company’s health-insurance program. One shop I worked for was fortunate enough to pick up several lucrative contracts in a row. I became a “regular” and signed up for their health-insurance program.
Treating myself to a much-needed eye exam, I discovered I had an advanced case of glaucoma, a condition that causes excess pressure in the eye and slowly erodes the optic nerve. Medicated eye drops, which would have been frightfully expensive without insurance, were tried but did not bring down the pressure. Operations were scheduled for both eyes. I was laid off the next day. The insurance company magnanimously agreed to spring for the operations.
The end result? I’m now “legally blind,” kind of like looking at a “low-resolution” screen rather than one of those high-definition sets. Enough eyesight to get around but not much use to a “real” company. Had universal health coverage been available, this condition would have been detected early. Who knows how life might have been different?
Government-run health care, Margaret’s tale:
As a child, before the Korean Military Action (war), I was seen by both private dentists and at least one private doctor about my mouth. Age 3 and I had lost most of my bottom “baby” teeth. My adult teeth weren’t coming in. Fine, fine, everyone said, don’t worry.
When this Korean action (war) started, my dad returned to the Air Force. At 5, I had my tonsils out at the base hospital in Texas. During my time there, a well-developed tumor (no, not cancer) was discovered under my tongue. My adult teeth were floating in it.
Arrangements were made, and I was sent to another base hospital in Alabama. It seems they had one of the best dental surgeons in the country there. He removed the tumor. My jaw bone was paper thin.
In my life, government-run health care was more than all right. As a dairy farmer, my family would not have been able to get such help or afford it. I don’t know what life would have been like without a jaw. If I had survived, there would have been no corn on the cob, that’s for sure.
For years, we were assured our president would be well cared for at Bethesda Naval Hospital. I was always told it was one of the best in the country.
If your government wanted to run health care, it could do a great job. What they want are “stimulus” payments from the health-care industry. You put them in office, but they know where the money is. It’s your money, but you don’t package it for them like the lobbyists do.
We call a cop “dirty” if he or she accepts gifts or money and is “influenced” by the giver. What do we call a senator or congressman who does the same thing? Getting our government back will take work. We need to make some really big noise.

Don Wiltshire lives in Magdalena and shares this column with his wife, Margaret. The views of Mr. and Mrs. Wiltshire do not necessarily represent the Mountain Mail.

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