Friday, 24 June 2011

Desperate measures

Another tragic story of an American with no health insurance who resorted to desperate measures to get treatment for all his ailments.

James Verone of North Carolina needed help so urgently he robbed a bank of one dollar so he would be arrested and qualify for free health care.

He was duly taken to jail and is now getting the medical attention he needed for his slipped discs, arthritic joints, a foot problem and a growth on his chest.

A few years ago he lost his job with Coca-Cola, and with it his health insurance. Since then he has lived on his savings, part-time jobs and food stamps. He can't afford to get his own health insurance.

I don't know if Barack Obama's watered-down health care reforms will eventually help people like James. If not, then they're pretty useless.

They say a civilised society is one that looks after its most frail and vulnerable citizens. In that case, the USA, with its reluctance to provide free medical treatment for anyone who needs it, is far from civilised.

Millions of hard-up people are expected to endure painful and disabling ailments indefinitely because they're seen as too feckless to provide for themselves and therefore undeserving of help from anyone else.

There are cats and dogs that are looked after more generously and humanely than human beings. There are rare plants and endangered species that are cared for with more diligence.

But human beings are expendable. If James should drop dead of some untreated illness, there are plenty more Jameses to fill the gap. Why waste cash on society's flotsam and jetsam?

Pic: a very desperate-looking James Verone

27 comments:

herschelian said...

Thank god for the NHS - whatever its problems, faults and flaws it is still one of the best things about Britain.

Baino said...

It wasn't until I became friendly with an American that I realised it's not the "United" states at all but a collection of commonwealth's which makes it impossible for national legislation to work. I wondered why the US didn't use a model like the NHS or the Canadian or French models . . if Obama had done that, he'd have no chance of ever winning another election and it would have failed. Sorry, getting a bit serious but it does seem absolutely ludicrous that someone has to go to these lengths to get free health care, especially when they've worked and paid tax.Just don't understand that country half the time.

Nick said...

Herschelian - Amen to that. We don't have to sell our houses to get a heart operation.

Baino - The federal set-up seems to create a lot of political headaches. We can only hope that Obama's rather limited reforms progress into something more like the NHS in due course.

e said...

Obama's healthcare reforms are actually insurance reforms. His reforms are currently being challenged in the courts, especially the provision compelling people to buy insurance. We do have two government programmes, Medicaid for the poor and Medicare for the elderly and those adults receiving Social Security Disability regardless of age.

There are rules for these various programmes, so it helps to let people know help is needed. Additionally, where I live, the county has a medically needy programme for those who have no insurance, and those that have little or no income do not pay, depending upon their particular situations. Most big pharma corporations also offer assistance in supplying medication to those who cannot pay for it, but people need to ask and meet the guidelines involved.

Unfortunately, our system is broken and inefficient and not easy to navigate, so many who might be helped are not. We also live in a time when our so-called safety net is being cut and insurance costs as well as medical costs have never been reigned in, so they are prohibitive and growing more so, leaving increasing numbers of people without insurance and unable to access the services they need.

At the same time, many Americans believe the mythology that government regulation is evil and will lead to socialism. They also think that their taxes are too high and many are unwilling to finance a government-run healthcare system for those ineligible for either of the existing programmes. They elect conservative politicians who constantly harp on the dangers of big government, and since the US has become increasingly right-wing, nothing that smacks of commonsense, like national healthcare, will be put in place. At present, even the Medicare programme is being assailed...

Like you, I think national healthcare is the only real answer, but many of Obama's promises are empty, and nothing is likely to change for the better here.

Nick said...

e - Thanks for that, that's very helpful. I was aware of some those points but not others. I knew about the Medicaid programme, but presumably this guy isn't poor enough to qualify for it. It's hard to see how he would pay for health insurance if he was compelled to, particularly since as you say insurance premiums are rocketing. What essentials would he have to sacrifice to afford it?

I've been following the Republican opposition to healthcare reforms, and their horror of anything "socialist". Of course many of them have links to insurance companies and private healthcare providers so have a vested interest in keeping things as they are.

e said...

I read that a member of congress attempted to buy private insurance rather than taking the package that came with his job...In the end, he could not afford to provide private coverage for he and his family, so he went along with the coverage provided for congress and the senate.

If members of congress cannot afford private cover, how the bloody hell do they expect the citizens they represent to do that?

(Sorry for swearing, but this is bollocks, really...This country is about two things--money and consumption...

Wisewebwoman said...

The huge tragedy in all of this Nick is that the USians have been brainwashed into thinking universal health care is socialist (to line the pockets of Big Pharma and Big Insure, while not looking at schools and fire service and police et al as 'socialist'.
And sorry Obama is too far up the a***s of his enablers to do anything truly radical.
XO
WWW

Sandra said...

Awesome post...I'm Canadian, and to think, this week, I was complaining about waiting two hours in an ER waiting room. You kind of put things into perspective...you and the Jameses of the world.

Brighid said...

Nothing will change in our social security or medical insurance until the people that write the laws have to live by the same said laws as the rest of us.
It matters not wether they are Republicans or Democrats, neither is looking out for the greater good.

Nick said...

e - Well, that just says it all, doesn't it? Even a congressman can't afford private health insurance. It would be farcical if it weren't so tragic. No need to apologise for swearing - it IS a load of bollocks.

www - It's not just that they think universal health care is socialist, but also that they think socialism is some sort of flesh-eating virus about to devour humanity.

Nick said...

Sandra - I have two Canadian cousins, and they think Canadian health care is pretty good. And very different from the US health care car-crash. I have to say, btw, that waiting times in NHS A&E departments (ER rooms) can be anything up to 12 hours, due to perpetual under-staffing.

Brighid - You've said it, the big problem is that the top politicians live in a privileged cocoon and simply don't understand how ordinary folk live. If they had to live on baked beans and porridge for a month....

Jenny Muir said...

My recent trip to the US left me with huge respect for the work ethic and for the service culture, but also shocked at the social divisions. I wondered if part of the motivation for all the hard work is that the bottom of the pile is so unpleasant that people will do anything not to be there, including staying in awful jobs that offer health insurance

Nick said...

Jenny - You might be right there. Life at the bottom of the heap seems pretty dreadful, with few safety nets of any kind. And as you say, people probably endure crappy jobs for the added health insurance.

speccy said...

Scary stuff. The people who most need a health care system are those who have least resources to fight for it. Those with resources are not minded to support others on any form of ethical grounds and so situations like this happen. Dreadful.

Nick said...

Speccy - Indeed, those most in need have no influence on the politicians who keep them in such disadvantage. I always expect people's anger to brim over into mass rioting, but it never does.

Megan said...

Baino brought up a great point. This place is just too damn big. You've got city, county, state, and federal governments all jostling with each other for the tax dollars and adding conditions and layers of bureaucracy onto every kind of public assistance.

Sometimes I really wonder what would have happened if the union had come apart back in the 1860's!

Nick said...

Megan - Yes, all those layers upon layers of administration must make everything less efficient and less responsive to ordinary people's needs. There are similar complaints in the UK about how massive the European Union has become and how much of our money it gobbles up without giving much in return.

nursemyra said...

It's sad stories like this that make me doubly glad I'm an Australian

Nick said...

Myra - Yes, Australian health care is more civilised. Though an Aussie friend of mine had to pay a hell of a lot for a root filling and crown recently!

nursemyra said...

Oh dental care is another thing altogether. My last crown cost $1500

Nick said...

Myra - That's about what my friend paid. I paid £400 for a root filling in 2008 and that was private not NHS. The NHS charge for fillings is currently £47 (A$71.50).

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Excellent post, Nick. I saw that news story and felt simply horrible for that poor man, and for the government-sanctioned inhumanity which has become the norm in America. And you are spot on that endangered plants are often more respected and protected than our brothers and sisters in need.

Nick said...

Heart - Government-sanctioned inhumanity is about it. What is the function of a government if it isn't to look after needy citizens who for one reason or another are unable to fend for themselves?

Liz said...

Was that photo before or after treatment?

Nick said...

Liz - Nice one! I think it was after they asked him if he was the guy due for a leg amputation.

blackwatertown said...

Sad tale - though at least he was clever enough to work a way to get treatment - even if it meant prison.
I think the photo was taken just after he met his cellmate for the first time.

Nick said...

Blackwater - That could be it. Maybe his cellmate recites passages from the Bible 15 hours a day....