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"MD's Sob Story"

I’m not Raul Grijalva or Jerry Nadler, but I thought I’d try to respond to TPM reader MD’s “sob story” (as MD called it) because the story illustrates the issues at stake in health care reform. Here’s the story.

Like everyone I have a sob-story to tell about health care. After telling it to countless liberals who oppose the Senate’s health-care reform bill, I still haven’t heard a good answer from them about why they can’t support the Senate bill. They usually stop talking, or try to change the subject.Maybe Raul Grijalva or Barney Frank or Anthony Weiner or Jerry Nadler have wrestled with this problem and I haven’t seen it. Have you seen anything from them about this?

My story: My father is dying of Huntington’s disease. Before he dies in 8 to 10 years, he will need anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and drugs that fight dementia and his tremors and convulsions. He’ll need multiple brain scans and physical therapy sessions.

Current medical treatments can’t save him, but they will give him a few more years before the slow death strips him of his memories, personality and control of his body.

There’s a 50 percent chance the same slow motion death awaits me and each of my three siblings. If I ever lose my job I’ll become uninsurable, permanently. My sister already lost her insurance.

That means whatever treatment is developed for Huntington’s will be unavailable to us. There’s simply no way we could afford it. Not only high tech gene therapies or other interventions, but the medications and treatments that exist now that would buy us enough time to see our kids’ graduations or weddings, and would give them hope of not suffering their grandfather’s fate.

There’s a bill that would mean we’d never be rejected for health insurance or have it canceled. Health insurance that could ease our final years, or maybe even save us.

But liberals are refusing to support it. I know there are principles and politics at stake. I know people are tired of being told to shut up and take what’s given to them. But in the end, there a thousands of people with Huntington’s and millions of people with other serious or terminal illnesses who will never benefit from treatment because they are uninsured. Millions more who are otherwise healthy will die premature or unnecessary deaths because basic health care isn’t affordable.

What do liberal leaders say to them? What do those liberals tell people like my dad, a die-hard activist Democrat, a UAW member who worked his way through college to become a teacher?

I’m used to Republicans and conservatives not giving a damn about people like us, or mocking us for asking questions like this. That’s why my father spent so much of his life fighting to keep Democrats in power. But to be abandoned by people my father worked with and supported his entire life? What in the bill is so terrible to justify that?

This isn’t about betrayal, or a slap in the face, or an insult. It isn’t about strategies to keep seats, or grand theories of justice. Democrats in Congress have the chance to cast a single vote that will make the lives of tens of millions of Americans less wrenching, our demises less brutal. That’s what this is about.

I’d like to hear Reps. Grijalva, Frank, Weiner or Nadler tell us why they can’t cast that vote.

Now, to begin with, MD’s entire premise is wrong. To suggest that Grijalva and Nadler are the people preventing a bill from moving forward ignores the fact that, as things stand, even with their votes, the House would be at least one vote short of passage. As I pointed out here, until MD can convince one of the following to vote for a bill, there is zero chance of the Senate bill passing: Bart Stupak, Larry Kissell, Dennis Kucinich, Eric Massa, or any number of Blue Dogs who refused to vote for the bill the first time. MD would do better yelling at the Catholic Bishops, who think it’s more important for Bart Stupak to make choice less accessible to all women than it is to provide lots of poor Catholics health insurance, than he would yelling at Grijalva and Nadler.

And because the bill is at least one vote short, it is going to have to get more populist (to convince Kucinich or Massa to support it) or still more conservative (to get either the anti-choice vote or the Blue Dog vote) before it passes, presumably through reconciliation.

And frankly, it may get better in ways that are very important for MD and his family. Read more