The need for Universal Health Insurance

Affordable health care is a problem for many people in America. You would think if a person has a full time job or a professional job that they would be able to afford health care,but for many people the financial costs of visiting the doctor or the emergency room can be just as devastating as the illness or injury.

A Harvard study found that illness and medical bills caused half of the bankruptcies in 2002. Surprisingly most of those people had medical insurance at the onset of their illness. Many small businesses can not afford to offer their employees an adequate health insurance policy. Here in Duluth we debate the city retiree health insurance “problem.” Why are we even in a situation where it is problem to give retirees the best care available?
We are missing the point when we argue over what to do about the city retirees. Americans need to band together and figure out what to do about the cost of health care for everyone.

The costs of health care are crippling America, both in physical and financial terms. In Duluth, Minn. East Hillside Patch, a neighborhood program that is helping low and middle income people access health care and putting together a survey to use to apply pressure to politicians to take action to correct the health care problem.

Another organization, the Minnesota Citizens Federation Northeast had made affordable, universal health care the top priority. Their website states, “This means a public insurance system that treats everyone the same; holds down prices; eliminates paperwork waste and duplication of expensive equipment; and takes decision making out of the hands of private insurance companies. Everyone is covered, regardless of his or her work situation, and families pay less than before.”

As a journalist, I have seen Americans pull together to help each other. I have seen people come together during floods, tornados, fires, illnesses and injuries. It is time we, as a nation, pull together to help ourselves before we become crippled by the debt of health care.
The following is my personal reaction to the documentary by Michael Moore, SiCKO which played in Duluth in July.
A Jaded woman cries: America what have we become?

I think I have become jaded. I sat there watching the movie screen as the camera focused on a young woman with tears streaming down her face. She was a health insurance representative and she listed reasons why people are denied health insurance. She talked about one couple who sat down with her and filled out all their paperwork. The husband would be late for work because of the time it took them to fill out the paperwork, but the wife didn’t care, because now they had health insurance. The couple was so happy to finally get insurance. But this young health insurance representative knew that two weeks later this couple would receive a letter telling them they were denied.

Oh, give me a break, I thought. Is she really crying over that?

Halfway through the movie, we watch the stories of two women who had been dumped off by hospitals because the hospitals could no longer afford to keep them.

A question was asked of America, “What have we become?” I can’t remember the specific words to quote from the movie, but the next scene showed farmers helping each other out during harvest season.

I know those people! I have written stories about these people; stories about farmers banding together to help a neighboring family harvest their crop because the husband had been sick. My mind flashed back to Iowa, 1998. I could smell the soil and freshly cut wheat. I could hear the machinery clanking. I remember the men’s and women’s voices as they took a break for lunch. I remember being teased by a man because I had climbed up on top of a huge stack of bailed hay to get a better photo. I was the reporter with the notebook and the camera, documenting how friendly and neighborly we Americans are. I was the editor who designated a whole page of text and photographs to this story of American will.

Those are Americans. Those are the people I write stories about. We Americans are proud. We Americans are capable. We are good people.
But back to the question, “What have we become?” The juxtaposition of the focus on the face of the woman who was dumped out in the previous scene to the focus of the farmers helping each other out hit me.
Tears welled up in my eyes. In the previous scene a hidden video camera taped a disoriented woman still in her hospital gown dropped off by taxi.

Later as the movie producer’s camera focused on this woman’s face we got a good look at her. The camera forced us to look at her eyes. She was old; she was wrinkled; she had a scratch or some type of mark on her nose. She had been thrown out like so much trash.

My husband and I have our own personal stories. We sat and we watched stories of middle class Americans with consequences far worse than our own.

Twenty minutes later I looked at my husband’s face. He was sitting with his arms crossed over his chest, weeping. I reached over and grabbed his fingers and held on tight.

America, what have we become?