Thursday, February 07, 2008

It's Your Health, Stupid

Sad news today that saxophonist Andrew D'Angelo is undergoing emergency brain surgery after suffering a seizure last week and being diagnosed with a large — and hopefully benign — brain tumor. Like so many other musicians in the U.S., D'Angelo has no health insurance, and colleagues are pulling together an effort to raise money to pay for his medical expenses. See the BBS post at JazzHouse for more information on that.

As a Canadian, I know better than to get involved in the politics of another country, but when, oh when, will America leave the rest of the world alone and look after its own citizens? The fact that millions of Americans still view socialized medicine as un-American just baffles. Sure, it's a commie-inspired idea until it's your liver, heart, brain — or your kid's — on the line.

Recent reading — Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise, David Halberstam's The Fifties and Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States — has illuminated America's obsession with socialism in the wake of WW II and Roosevelt's New Deal. That this unhealthy paranoia continues to affect working people in the country today is troubling. The fact that no one aside from Hillary Rodham Clinton is talking about healthcare on the campaign trail is more troubling.

1 comment:

John Doheny said...

One of these days, I'm going to do an article on musicians and health care in this country. Believe me, no matter how bad you've heard it is up there, it's worse. I've had half a dozen colleagues pass in the last couple of years due to conditions clearly attributable to long term lack of access to quality health care. Many more in their 50s and 60s face failing health for the same reason.

Unfortunately, the situation is not necessarily better for people who do have insurance. A colleague at Tulane who spent a week in hospital got socked with a bill for $18,000 because somebody in the panopoly of doctors who treated him was out of United Health Care's "network" (so much for choosing your own doctor. You can only do that here if you're rich). The byzantine, booby trapped minefield of co-pays, restrictions, denial of coverage due to 'pre-existing conditions' and inpeneterable, bureaucratise-laden paperwork is incomprehensible even to my overeducated co-workers.

Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton's 'solution' to this is basically a welfare scheme for insurance companies, who have a built in conflict of interest since the most efficient way for them to maximize profits is by denying claims. Imagine being in the midst of a medical emergency and simultaneously in an adversarial position with a huge company and it's staff of lawyers.

The chilling effect this has on business is the great, unseen rot at the bottom of the American economy. No sane person would leave a job with employee-sponsored health insurance when a 'private plan' with crappy coverage and high co-pays can cost over $1,000 a month. People with terminal illnesses can't quit their jobs because they'll lose coverage when they need it most. The list goes on and on.

And things will never change, because the only viable alternate (government as the single payer, cutting private insurance out of basic coverage) has been too effectively demonized as 'socialized medicine.'