Thursday, October 8, 2009

Health Care Reform - The Core Issue

You may like or dislike Keith Olbermann. I go back and forth myself. But his thoughtful, passionate and reasoned discussion of why health care reform is so important, yet why we're so deeply divided about it, was brilliant and you should watch. I have my own story to add.

Keith talks about his recent experiences with his dad in the hospital. I've been there with both my parents.

My mother lingered six weeks in the hospital, dying of cancer that had spread to her stomach, in horrific pain that even liberal and constant morphine drips couldn't mask, starving to death. She developed bed sores. She was, most of the time, unconscious or barely conscious. On the two occasions during that entire six weeks that she was aware, she was afraid. Not of dying, though perhaps she was afraid of that as well. But what she was afraid of was the bills.

"Can we afford this?" she whispered through lips we kept moistened with salve. She couldn't drink. Everything made her throw up.

"Of course we can," my father assured her. They could. They had Medicare. They had supplemental insurance. They were lucky. The bills were high, but they weren't impossible thanks to years of paying for that extra protection.

But she wasn't sure. And he couldn't convince her.

So my mother died worried that she was creating a financial burden for my father and for me.

And her fear lingered with me, along with the memories of the bedsores she developed despite the nurses' best efforts, along with the memory of her grimaces when the pain stabbed her, along with the anger that a kind, generous woman should not only suffer, but worry that her suffering was just too damned expensive.

Watch Keith. Then can't we all talk about this and come up with a solution that fixes a broken system?

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