health care in America

Dear Friends and Fam,

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to blog more. Here I am, six days after New Year’s, and just now getting around to it. I think this one might be tougher than going to the gym. I seem to be experiencing some spiritual malaise that extends to my fingertips. But I promise to try to do more better.

So, with the same effort that it takes to strap on those neglected jogging shoes, squeeze into that unflattering pair of stretch pants, dust the cobwebs off the IPod, and step out into the unforgiving January air, here it is — my long-awaited return to blogging…

And it is: a rant about the American health care system and why I believe that our current national debate about it must bring about real, authentic, substantive change.

Alternate ROOTS founder, Jo Carson, discovered this summer that she has colon cancer. Jo is an extremely accomplished writer, having published several books and plays, not to mention her many residencies across the country as a playwright for community-based plays. In short, this woman is the definition of successful.

Despite all that, she is not, as you might say, “well off” financially. And she is independently insured, as many artists are, if they are able to afford insurance at all. Many are not.

Jo’s course of treatment involved radiation, surgery and chemo. Within four months, before she ever got to the surgery, she’d already racked up nearly $20,000 in medical bills.

Now, Jo was lucky in that she had some particular resources at her disposal. We at ROOTS gladly became the fiscal agent for the fund raising effort on her behalf, which meant that Jo could avoid some of the tricky tax issues that come to bear when people donate money. More importantly, through her own fabulousness and through colleagues, Jo was able to have a celebrity champion her cause. Peter Sagal of Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me! on NPR blogged about Jo’s plight [read here] and as a result her story went all over the country.

And people responded.

We took in all of the money Jo needed for the first phase of her treatment and will even be able to provide some toward the surgery. It was a tremendous outpouring. Everyday I became more overwhelmed by people’s generosity as the credit card and check donations in large and small portions came in. Not to mention the loving notes and personal stories that accompanied their contributions.

It really changed my perspective on human nature a little bit.

But, you know what? With every donation, I would also think about all of those other people out there who don’t have a celebrity champion and a nonprofit to back them up. Folks who have to declare medical bankruptcy and even some who are forced to get a divorce because it’s legally better not to be married when faced with that kind of debt. What kind of world – or nation – asks that of people just because they have the nerve to get sick?

And even for Jo, what now? There’s the rest of the surgery to pay for, and the chemo still to go…

Even in my own journeys with the American medical system, I’ve said on more than one occasion that it’s like falling down the rabbit-hole like Alice in Wonderland. When you enter the doors of Western medicine as a patient, you end up feeling like down is up, left is right, and you’re never going to get a straight answer. “Curiouser and Curiouser” becomes a way of life.

Because of all these experiences that I and folks like me have had, I just assumed that most folks really did agree that the health care system needs a radical revision. It was just the muckety-muck politicians that were duking it out in Washington, but most of us out here in the real world understood that everything was pretty much in need of a giant overhaul.

But, when I went home to Tennessee for Christmas I got a stark reminder of how divided our country has become. I was struck by the way the Political Action Committees have bought up hours of commercial time in those districts, which are by and large conservative. They’ve poured thousands of dollars into airtime there in order to make these horrifying commercials that you wouldn’t believe. I mean, these ads are like “they are gonna kill your babies, haul your old people off to death camps, and steal your family jewels in order to finance health care reform.” Every other spot was about it. I was stunned.

I just kept thinking about how these are the folks who are constantly comparing the Obama camp to Nazi Germany, but the propaganda that’s being propagated by them is just painful. And it is propaganda.

I hope that, after all this vigorous debate, we do enter into a new era for health care. Last spring I was just naive enough to believe that it was all possible. Now, I’m thinking it’s just going to be watered down drivel meant to make the democrats feel good about themselves and really accomplishes nothing. I’m heartsick that there’s no public option. Having been independently insured on more than one occasion myself, I know how great it would be to have, well, the option.

Ok, enough. Wow. I did it. It was easier than I thought it would be. Sort of. Next time it’ll be even easier. Hopefully.

Hope you’re all well. Hit me back with news from your neck of the woods.

Cheers,
Shannon

If you’d like to read more about Jo Carson, read here and here.

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