Socialized Medicine

It’s time. This is one of those issues where Americans are way, way ahead of the politicians. If you don’t want to talk about how it’s necessary from a moral standpoint, well, then, it’s just good business.

It’s time.

Young, Ill and Uninsured
by Bob Herbert

Fourteen-year-old Devante Johnson deserved better. He was a sweet kid, an honor student and athlete who should be enjoying music and sports and skylarking with his friends at school. Instead he’s buried in Houston’s Paradise North Cemetery.

Devante died of kidney cancer in March. His mother, Tamika Scott, believes he would still be alive if bureaucrats in Texas hadn’t fouled up so badly that his health coverage was allowed to lapse and his cancer treatment had to be interrupted.

Ms. Scott, who has multiple sclerosis, understood the grave danger her son would be in if he were somehow to be left without the Medicaid coverage that paid for his chemotherapy, radiation and other treatment. She submitted the required paperwork to renew the coverage two months before the deadline.

“I was so anxious to get it processed,” she said, “so we wouldn’t have a lapse of coverage.”

In Texas, as in many other states, there is a concerted effort to undermine programs that bring government-sponsored health care to poor and working-class children. It is not an environment in which bureaucrats are encouraged to be helpful, not even when lives are at stake.

“They kept losing the paperwork,” Ms. Scott told me, her voice quivering with grief. She submitted new applications, made dozens of phone calls and sent off a blizzard of faxes. Despite her frantic efforts, the coverage was dropped.

When the coverage lapsed, the treatment Devante had been receiving ceased. “They put us on clinical trials,” Ms. Scott said. “They changed his medicine, and he started getting sicker and sicker. After awhile it was like his body was so frail and he was so weak he could barely walk on his own.”

Four months after the Medicaid coverage lapsed, the mistakes were finally corrected and the coverage was reinstated. By then, there was no chance to save Devante.

“I believe he would be with me now if they hadn’t let his insurance lapse,” said Ms. Scott.

Across America children by the millions are being denied the health care they need and deserve — and some are dying — because the U.S. has no coherent system of health coverage for children.

Stories like Devante Johnson’s are not unusual. Three months ago a homeless seventh grader in Prince George’s County, Maryland, died because his mother could not find a dentist who would do an $80 tooth extraction. Deamonte Driver, 12, eventually was given medicine at a hospital emergency room for headaches, sinusitis and a dental abscess.

The child was sent home, but his distress only grew. It turned out that bacteria from the abscessed tooth had spread to his brain. A pair of operations and eight subsequent weeks of treatment, which cost more than a quarter of a million dollars, could not save him. He died on Feb. 25.

There’s a presidential election under way and one of the key issues should be how to provide comprehensive health coverage for all of the nation’s children, which would be the logical next step on the road to coverage for everyone.

That an American child could die because his mother couldn’t afford to have a diseased tooth extracted sounds like a horror story from some rural outpost in the Great Depression. It’s the kind of gruesomely tragic absurdity you’d expect from Faulkner. But these things are happening now.

“People don’t understand the amount of time and stress parents are going through as they try to get their children the coverage they need, in many cases just to stay alive,” said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund and a tireless advocate of expanding health coverage to the millions of American children who are uninsured or underinsured.

Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program provide crucially important coverage, but the eligibility requirements can be daunting, budget constraints in many jurisdictions have led to tragic reductions in coverage, and millions of youngsters simply fall through the cracks in the system, receiving no coverage at all.

It is time for all that to end. American children should be guaranteed nothing less than comprehensive health coverage from birth through age 18. This can be achieved if an effort is mounted that is comparable to that which led to the first moon shot, or the Marshall Plan, or the postwar G.I. bill.

Keeping American children alive and healthy should be at least as important as any of those worthy projects.

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About the other scott peterson

Writer of comics and books and stuff.
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2 Responses to Socialized Medicine

  1. scott says:

    From the Los Angeles Times:

    In the emergency room at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, Edith Isabel Rodriguez was seen as a complainer.
    “Thanks a lot, officers,” an emergency room nurse told Los Angeles County police who brought in Rodriguez early May 9 after finding her in front of the Willowbrook hospital yelling for help. “This is her third time here.”
    The 43-year-old mother of three had been released from the emergency room hours earlier, her third visit in three days for abdominal pain. She’d been given prescription medication and a doctor’s appointment.
    Turning to Rodriguez, the nurse said, “You have already been seen, and there is nothing we can do,” according to a report by the county office of public safety, which provides security at the hospital.
    Parked in the emergency room lobby in a wheelchair after police left, she fell to the floor. She lay on the linoleum, writhing in pain, for 45 minutes, as staffers worked at their desks and numerous patients looked on.
    Aside from one patient who briefly checked on her condition, no one helped her. A janitor cleaned the floor around her as if she were a piece of furniture. A closed-circuit camera captured everyone’s apparent indifference.
    Arriving to find Rodriguez on the floor, her boyfriend unsuccessfully tried to enlist help from the medical staff and county police — even a 911 dispatcher, who balked at sending rescuers to a hospital.
    Alerted to the “disturbance” in the lobby, police stepped in — by running Rodriguez’s record. They found an outstanding warrant and prepared to take her to jail. She died before she could be put into a squad car.

    The story of Rodriguez’s demise began at 12:34 a.m. when two county police officers received a radio call of a “female down” and yelling for help near the front entrance of King-Harbor, according to the police report.
    When they approached Rodriguez to ask what was wrong, she responded in a “loud and belligerent voice that her stomach was hurting,” the report states. She said she had 10 gallstones and that one of them had burst.
    A staff member summoned by the police arrived with a wheelchair and rolled her into the emergency room. Among her belongings, one officer found her latest discharge slip from the hospital, which instructed her to “return to ER if nausea, vomit, more pain or any worse.”
    When the officers talked to the emergency room nurse, she “did not show any concern” for Rodriguez, the police report said. The report identifies the nurse as Linda Witland, but county officials confirmed that her name is Linda Ruttlen, who began working for the county in July 1992.
    Ruttlen could not be reached for comment.
    During that initial discussion with Ruttlen, Rodriguez slipped off her wheelchair onto the floor and curled into a fetal position, screaming in pain, the report said.
    Ruttlen told her to “get off the floor and onto a chair,” the police report said.
    Two officers and a different nurse helped her back to the wheelchair and brought her close to the reception counter, where a staff member asked her to remain seated.
    The officers left and Rodriguez again pitched forward onto the floor, apparently unable to get up, according to people who saw the videotape and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
    Because the tape does not have sound, it is not possible to determine whether Rodriguez was screaming or what she was saying, the viewers said. Because of the camera’s angle, in most scenes, she is but a grainy blob, sometimes obstructed, moving around on the floor.

    When Rodriguez’s boyfriend, Jose Prado, returned to the hospital after an errand and saw her on the floor, he alerted nurses and then called 911.
    According to Sheriff’s Capt. Ray Peavy, the dispatcher said, “Look, sir, it indicates you’re already in a hospital setting. We cannot send emergency equipment out there to take you to a hospital you’re already at.”
    Prado then knocked on the door of the county police, near the emergency room, and said, “My girlfriend needs help and they don’t want to help her,” according to the police report. A sergeant told him to consult the medical staff, the report said. Minutes later, Prado came back to the sergeant and said, “They don’t want to help her.” Again, he was told to see the medical staff.
    Within minutes, police began taking Rodriguez into custody. When they told Prado that there was a warrant for Rodriguez’s arrest, he asked if she would get medical care wherever she was taken. They assured him that she would. He then kissed her and left, the police report said.
    She was wheeled to the patrol vehicle and the door was opened so that she could get into the back. When officers asked her to get up, she did not respond. An officer tried to revive her with an ammonia inhalant, then checked for a pulse and found none. She died in the emergency room after resuscitation efforts failed.
    According to preliminary coroner’s findings, the cause was a perforated large bowel, which caused an infection.
    Experts say the condition can bring about death fairly suddenly.

  2. Ed says:

    Ya know, this is my line of work. Your posting is very accurate of what is happening in this country, the health care access crisis in this country is beyond belief. How can we, the so called most affluent nation of the world, have such crap for a health care system? I think about this often, as the reality of our situation is so depressing.

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