Hertzbergs: Time for universal health care
special to the daily
This article was written in response to a recent e-mail from the supporters of President Obama’s health care reform efforts, urging us to write about our own family experiences that show the necessity of reforms in the system.
We have had the experience of the death of our second son in 1999 because of his difficulties involved in accessing health care. Eric was fully insured, but he did not know how to access a neurologist. He did not know where one was located and actually did not believe it was worth finding one. For he was a severely disabled man; he had an incurable disease, and none of the numerous efforts to alleviate his condition (mostly brain surgeries) had had much effect on his dystonia musculorum deformans. It continued its progression confining him to a reclining wheel chair in the last ten years of his life. Still he wanted to live independently, with the help of aides, and so he did. If he got sick his solution was to go to the emergency room of a hospital which he got to via an “Access” van. He died… going up in the elevator from the emergency room in Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh PA. Certainly the physicians there did not realize that he had a staphylococcus aureus infection (a treatable infection) when his heart stopped. As his older brother, a physician, said at the time: “The health system failed him”. It surely did.
Then there is the more recent experience of our nephew (May 2009) who suffered a life-threatening stroke. He was admitted to a hospital in Florida where he stayed three days in the Intensive Care Unit. The physicians determined that he was not going to have another stroke, so at the end of the third day he was wheeled to the curb of the hospital and dumped there to await being picked up by his wife. It was at this point, barely able to walk, half blind, that he called us, his aunt and uncle, and asked what he should do now? We told him to wait, and he was picked up off the curb to return to his wife and children. He was and still is uninsured and unemployed. Later his father who lives in Cleveland saw to it that he went to the Cleveland Clinic where he received good care.
The Hertzbergs realized clearly with the occurrence of this incident that our health care system for the uninsured and unemployed in the US does not function effectively for a large fraction of our people. Other civilizations in the Western world take care of their people, no matter what their economic condition. Far from having the best health care in the world we have the 26th best according to statistical studies. Two of our friends who participated in the Courage Classic this past weekend testified that they believed from personal experience that France provided the best health care in the Western World. We can testify to that from the experiences of our step-brother and his family who have lived there for over 35 years. Their system covers all of their citizens and is also effective in treating immigrants (legal and illegal) and tourists who have accidents or become ill while in France. She is indeed true to her ideals: “liberty, equality, fraternity”. The U. S. health care system is fine in some respects, but its lack of universal coverage is a most serious deficiency. There is no reason to boast about its overall record.
Certainly, we can not do “nothing”. We will be bankrupted, and more and more people will be denied care as they lose their increasingly more expensive insurance. Our founding document, the spiritual lifeblood of our nation, defines our first “inalienable right” as “life”. Health care is an essential ingredient for life. It is not a privilege for the wealthy or the well employed, to be doled out by profit-centered Insurance Companies, or Hospital Administrators, or Politicians. Health care is “an inalienable right”, and universal health care is an idea whose time has come for all of us ……..today!……just as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” came for all of us……in 1776 ….at the birth of our new nation.
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