American Health Care: More than 275,000 will die over next decade from lack of health insurance

Image by leoncillo sabino via Flickr

It’s easy to get swept up in the stupid meaninglessness of a public event like Obama’s healthcare summit and lose perspective of what’s really at stake in all of this reform business. The media is more preoccupied with who is “winning” or “losing” this particular PR stunt without taking time to discuss the real matters of life and death.

Back in September, I asked Trudy Lieberman, a veteran healthcare journalist, to grade the media’s performance in explaining reform to the American people.

The horse race coverage of the healthcare reform debate does not impress Lieberman. The “Who’s up; who’s down? Who’s winning today? Does Pelosi have the votes? What’s going to be the game-changer? What should Baucus do because he can’t get the votes out of his committee? That chatter doesn’t inform citizens, she says. “That kind of coverage certainly wouldn’t rate very high — probably C-, but I tend to be a very tough grader.”

Nothing has changed since then. Sticking with the horse race theme, the media has covered the summit in terms of who’s “winning” and who’s “losing.” Dylan Ratigan played with marionette puppets. It was a strange time. (The Daily Show lampoons the media’s coverage of the summit here, starting at around 9:10).

Unsurprisingly, the outcome of the summit appears to be that the Republicans intend on obstructing meaningful reform. In a candid moment, Obama admitted he didn’t know if bridging differences with Republicans was even possible, something any casual observer of congressional gridlock could have told him months ago. He confessed this after about seven hours of Republicans telling him they want to scrap the bill. Obama finally got the message, it seems.

But the summit wasn’t just a photo-op gone awry. It was potentially the last in a series of failures that will result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

A new report by Families USA, a liberal advocacy group, warns that without comprehensive legislation more than 275,000 adults nationwide will die over the next decade because of a lack of health insurance. This doesn’t even count the millions of people who suffer a reduced quality of life because they lack insurance.

The plain truth is people are going to die without healthcare reform, and the sad tragedy is what’s going to kill them is preventable. It’s important to remember this when confronted with the callous indifference of conservatives who mock the pain of Americans.

At the health care summit, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY-28) told this story about one of her constituents:

I even have one constituent — you will not believe this, and I know you won’t, it’s true. Her sister died, this poor woman had no dentures. She wore her dead sister’s teeth, which of course were uncomfortable and did not fit. Do you believe that in America that that’s where we would be?

What was the reaction from leading members of the conservative media?

  • On Twitter, Michelle Malkin wrote: “We need trillion-$ Demcare cuz someone had to wear their sister’s dentures! O: “Terrific conversation””
  • On his radio program, Glenn Beck stated, “I’ve read the Constitution … I didn’t see that you had a right to teeth.”
  • Author and radio host Laura Ingraham told Bill O’Reilly that Slaughter’s tale was “ridiculous” and a “sob story.”
  • Fox Nation, the website maintained by the Fox News Channel, labeled Slaughter’s comments “Summit Insanity.”

Big Rush also weighed in:

“If you don’t have any teeth, so what? What’s applesauce for?”

I’m really not sure how you negotiate with unfeeling sociopaths. I’m not sure that should even be a goal.

But what we do know because of this latest study is that lack of insurance was responsible for more than 290,000 premature deaths since the last major push for health care legislation in the early 1990s.

In the media world, the mantra is, “If it bleeds, it leads,” which is strange because the lives of millions of Americans are in jeopardy if healthcare reform fails, and yet the media really fails to focus on the human toll of reform. Maybe they’re afraid of looking like a bunch of bleeding heart liberals. It’s safer to let Ratigan play with his puppets.

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– Allison Kilkenny


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