I’ve been meaning to write a few quick thoughts on this topic and with Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s passing it seems even more timely. The “Lion of the Senate” and a true advocate for women, minorities and the working class has always been at the forefront of the battle for equal access to comprehensive medical coverage.
Having lived in Massachusetts and been involved in the implementation of the Country’s only government mandated health care system – I can say that it has truly had beneficial effects. Individuals and families who would otherwise not have health coverage are now able to receive comprehensive preventative care. Reactionary medicine is never the way to go – and that is currently how our medical system works for those who cannot afford insurance.
When I was in Ireland and hurt my foot, the medic at the Guinness Factory stressed to me that I should get an X-ray. I explained to him that I did not have insurance. He laughed at me and said that all I needed to do was go to the hospital and pay $100 to have it checked and x-rayed. This is a perfect example of preventative care. In the United States a person without insurance would have had to pay $500+ and because of the cost would have likely not had it checked by a doctor. If It actually had been a stress fracture I could have damaged my foot even worse by continually walking on it (lucky for me I had 3 med students with me).
Of course its not a complete rosy picture in MA we are only in the first 2 years of comprehensive coverage for all – there are still very big issues with the climbing costs of insurance, but we are moving in the right direction.
Everyone in this country deserves the right to get the care they need no matter their income or their pre-existing conditions. A “public option” is exactly what it says – it is an option for those who cannot afford private sector coverage. It gives ordinary people an opportunity to protect the health of their loved ones. Not everyone falls under Medicare or Medicaid, two very effective government run health systems, but still can’t afford the skyrocketing costs of health insurance in this country. Nobody should be falling through the cracks. This also goes hand in had with the current decline of the formerly booming middle class that now is dealing with foreclosures and education/medical debt. Senator Kennedy always saw this connection and made it his quest to aid those who needed someone to speak for them.
Below please find a tribute video to Senator Kennedy that was played at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. It highlights his life’s work and his quest for comprehensive health care coverage for all. As the great Senator always stated, “Heath care is not a privilege, it is a right.” We have lost a major champion for social justice and progress in this country. He truly was a giant and I am honored to have met him even in passing and to have heard him speak on several occasions. He will truly be missed and I hope a well written Health Reform Law is written and passed in his honor.