Those Who Matter and Those Who Don’t
The GOP’s devastating plans for Medicare/Medicaid, under the tutelage of House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Whip Eric Cantor and Rep. Paul Ryan— has just become personal. As I sit here writing this piece–my emotions fluctuate wildly between grief–and blind rage; rage at a cold blooded capitalistic system which puts a crass price-tag on human life.
While I review a system of health insurance for profit vs. a single payer system such as ‘Medicare for ALL;’ I have to face the outrage, that my last remaining immediate family member–namely my brother– has died prematurely, due to the fact that health care was denied–and then mercilessly delayed. The delay cost him his life. You see, my younger brother had AIDS.
His story is not the face of celebrity AIDS, filled with star-studded benefits–political hopefuls practically ‘wetting their PR panties’ over such a publicity boost. His story is about uninsured patients, many near homelessness,having to navigate a charity/Medicaid bureaucratic maze, demanding a person become indigent, before receiving any Medicaid coverage. This is not the ‘politically correct’ AIDS–no awards ceremonies or television movies on the ‘Oxygen’ channel–just the reality that his suffering and premature death– was totally preventable.
He was diagnosed about 4 months ago, after arguing with several acute care clinics–all of them refusing to give any diagnosis. He didn’t have health insurance, being marginally employed–his employer did not provide this ‘benefit.’ Only able to access a minor ‘aflac’ type plan which pays for a few screening tests, but no meds, no hospitalization–he was subjected to the tender ‘mercies’ of the REAL ‘death panels’–the healthcare FOR PROFIT– industry. By the time the last acute care facility rendered ‘the diagnosis’–he already resembled Rock Hudson during his last days, emaciated, barely able to stand. My brother was 49 years old.
The reality of AIDS among uninsured…not the face of celebrity patients…..
Unlike celebrity patients such as Magic Johnson–my brother had to beg for Medicaid in order to access the ‘cocktail’ drugs which can prolong his life and ease his suffering. Even though he was confined to a hospital bed, (he had fallen several times)–the very Medicaid system Rep. Ryan and House Speaker Boehner want to dismantle—will look for any excuse to deny his claim. All it takes is a single doctor under orders (either from the insurance company OR from the state), to ‘withhold’ a differential diagnosis–and he will be doomed to an immediate and painful death.
AIDS and Cancer Patients are routinely denied Medicaid in several states…..
Contrary to the rosy picture of overly generous benefits painted by Tea Party politicos and officials such as Sen. Rand Paul—Medicaid routinely denies or delays granting benefits to cancer and AIDS patients–though the cancer patients are more readily ‘acceptable’ than those with AIDS. The suspected reason ‘why’ is blatantly ugly in its political ramifications–the ongoing bigotry against AIDS patients by religious hypocrites on the far right. Since AIDS was first discussed in the mainstream media–it was viewed as a disease contracted by gay men or IV-drug abusers. Patients with this diagnosis were treated by most conservative religious communities like pariahs–deserving of this hideous fate. This started to change when sports icon, Magic Johnson–publicly announced his diagnosis.
What many church going bigots fail to understand is the simple medical fact that untreated or undertreated AIDS patients frequently go into ACTIVE TUBERCULOSIS as they near their imminent deaths. Patients refused healthcare and nursing assistance become active carriers of TB, as a ‘co-infection’, out in the public realm. Refusing healthcare to these individuals not only violates any moral standard–but is stupidly risking a possible outbreak of TB. Before the talking heads of the mainstream media blandly explain that TB is ‘highly treatable’—there should be a public reminder regarding new strains of ‘antibiotic and drug resistant TB;’ which surfaced in Russia and Ukraine several years ago. (Source: ) Those ‘drug resistant ‘ strains of TB are not isolated to the European continent–they are here. Subsequently, the undertreatment of AIDS patients risks us all to the airborne passed ‘drug resistant’ TB–which is highly contagious and deadly. It does not discriminate in terms of infection–any warm body—churchgoing or not–is vulnerable. Since our ‘medical care for profit’ industry fails to address this issue–the World Health Organization has created a sensible, medically realistic protocol to protect both AIDS patients and the general public.
The six components of the STOP TB Strategy…
The risk of co-infection can be so high within untreated AIDS patient populations that the World Health Organization has published a ‘Stop TB Strategy.’ (Source: http://www.who.int/tb/strategy/en/) The six outlined steps to this strategy include the following steps.
1.) Pursue high-quality DOTS expansion and enhancement; (DOTS being the acronym for treating TB through via DIRECTLY OBSERVED TREATMENT, SHORT-COURSE) which includes identification, treatment featuring a
…”SUSTAINED POLITICAL COMMITMENT to increase human and financial resources and make TB control a nationwide activity as part of a NATIONAL HEALTH SYSTEM;
…ACCESS TO QUALITY-ASSURED TB SPUTUM MICROSCOPY for case detection among people with, or found through screening to have symptoms of TB (most importantly prolonged cough). Special attention is NECESSARY FOR CASE DETECTION AMONG HIV-INFECTED PEOPLE AND OTHER HIGH-RISK GROUPS, e.g. people in institutions;
…STANDARDIZED SHORT-COURSE CHEMOTHERAPY to all cases of TB under proper case-management conditions, including the direct observation of treatment. Proper case-management conditions imply technically sound and socially supportive treatment services;
…UNINTERRUPTED SUPPLY OF HIGH QUALITY DRUGS with reliable drug procurement and distribution systems;
…RECORDING AND REPORTING SYSTEM ENABLING OUTCOME ASSESSMENT of each and every patient and assessment of the overall programme performance; ” (Source: http://www.wpro.who.int/sites/stb/dots_definition.htm)
2.) Address TB-HIV, MDR-TB, and the needs of the poor and vulnerable populations;
3.) Contribute to health system strengthening based on primary health care;
4.) Engage all care providers;
5.) Empower people with TB, and communities through partnership;
6.) Enable and promote research.”
The GOP Corporate Plan to Dismantle Medicaid…a Real Threat to Public Health…
Due to the corporate, profit-driven system of medicine we suffer through in the U.S.– far too many chronically ill people, especially those with AIDS–wind up losing their homes, their jobs, their dignity and their hope. The official rate of homelessness among indigent AIDS patients is not readily available, but perhaps the statistic shouldn’t be the focus. The mere fact that AIDS patients denied medical care routinely become homeless–should rivet everyone’s attention on the inherent IMMORALITY OF OUR CORPORATE, PROFIT-DRIVEN SYSTEM.
Now my brother had to wait and pray that Medicaid would approve his SSI Disability and Medicaid entitlements. In my home state of Missouri, Democratic Governor Jay Nixon does not have a good reputation regarding programs such as Medicaid. Borrowing a page from the ‘blue dog’ democrats; Nixon regards himself as the ‘CEO of the State.’ I fear that the Missouri Legislature, dominated by ultra-conservatives and ‘tea party’ acolytes will use the opportunity of Medicaid ‘block grants’ (like those proposed under the Ryan-GOP plan)–to steer the money away from Medicaid and redirect those same monies– to thinly disguised corporate welfare.
Missouri’s two US Senators, McCaskill (D), and Blunt (R), have yet to endorse single-payer Medicare for All–rather they tinker around the edges, with McCaskill worrying about ‘earmarks’ , and Blunt screaming about deficits. It should be noted that neither senator has declined THEIR TAXPAYER SUBSIDIZED healthcare. Furthermore, Medicare/Medicaid DO NOT ADD TO THE FEDERAL DEBT as these are ‘pay as you go’ programs. No loans are taken out to cover costs, and the debt is based on LOANS FROM THE FEDERAL RESERVE. Consequently, the claim of placing all programs ‘on the table’ as a prerequisite to reduce the national debt is not only disingenuous–it’s a plain stupid lie. Calls to both senate offices regarding the issue of Medicare for All has resulted in dead silence from both honorable senators.
Even if he had been approved–the ongoing delay caused greater suffering and risk the medical caretakers– who attempt to help him due to the very real risk of an ‘active TB’ co-infection outbreak. It is truly evil that the delay of care cost him his life–now the political ‘bosses’ (Tammany-Hall approved)–add further suffering by requiring financial groveling just to obtain humane treatment. That is the true evil. Somehow, I sincerely doubt if any Hollywood studio will make a movie about his story–it’s too much of an ‘inconvenient truth.’
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