Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Civilized Health Care

Massachusetts Enacts Universal Health Care

We're not going to spend a lot of time comparing operations around here. But the health care crisis in America is going to be a persistent topic on this blog. First, because in our sixites we enter an especially vulnerable part of our lives. And second, because all the ideals and the now forgotten knowledge of the 1960s tells us that universal health care makes sense, is possible and is right. It's civilized health care.

I'd planned to begin with a rationale for why we need universal health care, particularly a single-payer system. But there's startling news from Massachusetts: both houses of the legislature have passed an innovative plan for universal health care coverage, and the governor is going to sign it. It isn't a single payer plan. It is untested but looks like it might work, and it certainly is the best any state has passed so far. According to Reuters, here are its major features:

The state's poorest — single adults making $9,500 or less a year — will have access to health coverage with no premiums or deductibles.

Those living at up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $48,000 for a family of three, will be able to get health coverage on a sliding scale, also with no deductibles.

The vast majority of Massachusetts residents who are already insured could see a modest easing of their premiums.

Individuals deemed able but unwilling to purchase health care could face fines of more than $1,000 a year by the state if they don't get insurance.

The plan requires no new taxes.

The devil may be in the details, but the law has bipartisan support: business and a "health care for all" advocacy groups favor it, both houses passed it by lopsided margins, and the Republican governor supports it. "It's only fitting that Massachusetts would set forward and produce the most comprehensive, all-encompassing health care reform bill in the country," said House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, a Democrat. "Do we know whether this is perfect or not? No, because it's never been done before."

We'll be watching. But if it encourages other states to pass their plans (California has a universal plan inching its way through the legislature every year), then the logjam of opposition and indifference may be broken. That alone makes it progress.

Roberto Clemente,60s hero Posted by Picasa
Enduring 60's Hero: Roberto Clemente

An article by Dave Maraniss in the Washington Post Sunday, taken from his book on Roberto Clemente that will be published later this month, is called The Last Hero. It was about Clemente as an enduring hero throughout Latin America. It's a very moving piece, not only for what it says Clemente continues to represent, some 34 years after his death, but what he had to endure as a Latino in major league baseball in the 1950s until 1972, when his small plane was lost as he tried to deliver relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

But even though I am not Latino, Roberto Clemente was a hero to me. He played his entire major league career for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I grew up about 35 miles from the city. I saw him play at Forbes Field several times, watched the televised games and listened to many, many games on the radio, in the late 50s and early 60s.

MORE at Boomer Hall of Fame

Monday, April 03, 2006

Book Note

A review of World, Beware! by Theodore Roszak, author of The Making of a Counter Culture.

Sounds Familiar

Echoes of a 60s President

"Last month, in a memorandum ... the Justice Department claimed the inherent right to bug or wiretap-without court orders-any time it felt that the "national security" was in jeopardy."

Sound familiar? There have been Bush administration memos claiming this inherent right, but this quote happens to be from a 1969 TIME magazine story on the administration of Richard Nixon. (It's quoted by the Unclaimed Territory blog, with a link to a reprint of the article.)

The justification was explained: As authority for this broad power, the Government cited the President's oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution" from domestic subversion as well as foreign enemies. Contending that every President since Franklin Roosevelt had permitted such wiretaps, the Government went on to imply that they were even more important now because of the growing violence and rioting in the nation's cities and on its campuses.

The memo justified spying in connection with the trial of the Chicago 8, accused of conspiring to disrupt the Democratic National Convention in 1968. Among the defendants were Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden and Bobby Seales. It is now a trial that lives in infamy.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Rosie Kreidler Posted by Picasa

Civilized Health Care

The Bonds of Generations

She would be just another nameless victim, a true elder who inspired everyone who met her, but reduced to homelessness through no fault of her own. She has a name, of course--it's Rosie Kreidler, age 62. And she had a past. An Olympic athlete. A nurse, who had applied to join Doctors Without Borders and go to the Congo. Until an automobile accident started her on a journey that many Americans have taken, particularly older Americans. And many more will take in the coming decade, as baby boomers age into vulnerability.

No one outside of the people she met might ever have known her story. Except that somehow, someone found out that her nephew is Barry Bonds, one of the most famous men in America. Not even he knew of her plight.

But her story is the story of many others, and will be the story of countless others, until this country fixes its disreputable health care system, and puts human health and human dignity above the greed of a powerful few.

She was known as Rosie Bonds when an automobile accident left her badly injured. She might have eventually become well enough to resume her career, but her insurance company denied her the treatments she needed.

Having been released from a hospital into physical therapy, she battled with insurers to cover her treatment. About $50,000 in coverage ran out fast, as did her savings; her 18 months of physical therapy ended when the money did, not because she had recovered. Her Social Security Disability Insurance application was rejected; she challenged the rejection in court and lost.

Eager to go back to work because she loved nursing and was desperate to pay her mounting bills, she returned to the Bay Area in 2005. But constant pain made bending or lifting impossible, and numbness in her hands prevented her from drawing blood or inserting an IV.
Her career as she had known it was finished. Destitute and unable to work, too proud to turn to her family or friends for help, she soon was sleeping in her car.

Read this story, of a woman of rare courage and accomplishment, who nevertheless was reduced to poverty and indignity, and consigned to needless pain, because this country will not take care of its people.

Barry Bonds was born in 1964, the last year of the postwar baby boom as designated by demographers. Rosie Bonds was born just 20 years before, in 1944. Let's hope he sees this not only as a family tragedy but as a cause for his own generation. America needs to join the civilized world, with a health care system that works.