Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Senator Max Baucus “tries” to Restore Order

Tuesday’s Tale
More Questionable Actions of Senator Max Baucus

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." —Martin Luther King, Jr.

Quality health care is a basic human right. Do Senator Max Baucus of the Senate Finance Committee and the insurance lobbyists he appears to represent believe otherwise?

A basic human right? Tell that to the families of the victims of an unjust, at times, ruthless health care system: men and women like Dale Fausset, Jennifer Gigliello, Hannah Devane, Ivyl Garnes, Mary Casey, Julia Slaven, Selah Schaeffer, Tracy Pierce, Steven Hailey and Lisa Howard. To name only a few. Many denied life. Hopes dashed. Lives destroyed. Business as usual.

Every day I receive an e-mail or read about someone who is boldly challenging the health care system. Today it may be a trickle. Tomorrow it just may grow into a sea of advocates putting it all out there, no matter how embarrassing to regulators, insurance companies, and government officials.

We are winning the small battles. There is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction and distrust. While it’s business as usual for HMOs like Carelink Health Care, Inc of West Virginia, the foundation continues to crack.

Here’s an example of the essence of e-mails I have begun to receive…regularly:

Senator Dick Durbin said last week that the banks own Congress. That's true. But they don't come close to the hammerlock their brothers in the health insurance and drug companies have over the place.

The drug companies and health insurance companies control every nook and cranny on the Hill. If you doubt it, look no further than the events of the past two weeks at the Senate Finance Committee.

Committee chair Senator Max Baucus called a full 28 witnesses for two hearings on health care reform. Senator Baucus called on the Business Roundtable. He called on the Heritage Foundation. He called on the lobby known as America's Health Insurance Plans. But not one of the 28 witnesses called by Baucus supported what the majority of the American people want.

And what the majority of doctors, nurses and health economists want.

Single payer, full Medicare for all, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital health care.

And so, Single Payer Action, citizen action organization, decided to act. Last week, eight citizens - including three doctors - led by Single Payer Action - simply demanded that Baucus add a seat at the table for a single payer advocate. Instead of adding a seat at the table, Baucus called for the police. The eight were arrested, handcuffed, and charged with so-called "disruption of Congress."
The police left behind undisturbed the horde of corporate lobbyists accustomed to "the purchase of Congress.

This week, two doctors, two nurses, and a citizen from Maine - inspired by the actions of the Baucus 8 - rose and simply demanded that Baucus add a single payer advocate to the witness list. Again, Baucus refused. And again, Baucus called for the police.

Now it's the Baucus 13.

Single Payer Action will not rest until America gets what every other Western industrialized country has - universal, not-for-profit, health care - everybody in, nobody out. More efficient. And more humane.

Single Payer Action has gained widespread publicity - on National Public Radio, Democracy
Now, in Politico, the Associated Press, and the National Journal. Opportunity is knocking…To defeat the insurance and drug industries. And secure single payer national health insurance for all Americans.

It appears that Senator Baucus may not be interested in representation from we consumers. Is anyone discussing the reality that 50% of Americans did not receive the health care benefits they expected from their health insurance plans? Alarming news.

For me another personal lesson: Senator Baucus spins the truth in his desire to control outcome. On his website Baucus invites public comments and states he will contact the writer within three weeks. Admirable intentions. But just words. He does not care to hear my incriminating tale.

Finally, there are two books that may be of interest. Galvanizing reading:

Health Care Meltdown by Robert LeBow, MD, revised and updated by Dr. C. Rocky White - a Republican doctor so fed up with the needless suffering caused by the insurance industry that he became a leading advocate for single payer and Ten Excellent Reasons for National Health Care, edited by Mary O'Brien and Martha Livingston.

Yes, today there is more distressing but not surprising news: We consumers, a force for good, are not represented Senator Max Baucus’ table.

Tuesday’s Tale
A little bit of Kindness Goes a Long Way

“You are such a fine couple,” Sara told me. My husband Tom and I were leaving a birthday celebration for one of our members of the Steubenville Ohio chapter of Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. We are fine people. And so are those who joined us to show we care about one troubled individual.

You know, when you suffer with a mental illness, it makes you more sensitive to the human condition than when one operates in the confines of business as usual. I cannot judge the people in HMOs like Carelink when they deny benefits to the mentally ill and the elderly. They just don’t get it.

But stigma is a life sentence to the mentally ill. Oh, it’s so easy to know when a person has no clue about another’s disability, when a person closes the door to any opportunity that would otherwise be offered someone.

In 2001 Tom and I founded the first chapter of DBSA in West Virginia. Today we have eleven chapters meeting throughout West Virginia, succeeding in helping heal people who suffer with mental illness.

"Richard" is just one such individual. He is so dear to my heart. When Dick first came to DBSA of Ohio Valley, he spoke little or nothing at the meetings for some time, tension always a part of his posture. When he began to share his story, it was in little cryptic pieces. One learned that Dick suffered with depression before we learned that he lives with daily paranoia and hallucinations.

Ponder this definition and count your blessings:

Schizoaffective disorder is a major psychiatric disorder that is similar to schizophrenia. The disorder can affect all aspects of daily living, including work, social relationships, and self-care skills (such as grooming and hygiene). People with schizoaffective disorder can have a wide variety of symptoms, including problems with their contact with reality (hallucinations and delusions), mood (such as marked depression), low motivation, inability to experience pleasure, and poor attention. The serious nature of the symptoms of this disorder sometimes require clients to be hospitalized at times for treatment. The experience of schizoaffective disorder can be described as similar to "dreaming when you are wide awake"; that is, it can be hard for the person with the disorder to distinguish between reality and fantasy."

A beautiful mind? A remarkable transformation. Over a year later, Dick still lives with the grave symptoms of schizoaffective disorder, but he controls them much more effectively. He leaves his bedroom now and his charming, brilliant, affable personality comes alive at DBSA. The group has so affected him that he now longer withdrawals from the public. He has been loved and he now loves us in return.

Our world is a better place because Tom and Penny along with many others in DBSA are such fine people. That reality is what fuels my hope, determination and perseverance.

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