A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Sick System

I knew that there was a health-care crisis, and as an old lefty I've always believed that the government should do something about it.

But it's never been a matter of personal urgency. I've always had fully paid health insurance. But now, having retired, I have to deal with plans and fees and deductibles and limits and all the other headaches that millions of people have been dealing with.

Even with Medicare, there are choices to be made on prescription drug plans and supplemental coverage. And they cost money, and involve "gaps" and limits and all sorts of headache-inducing stuff, largely because Congress has kowtowed to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Even so, it's a lot easier than dealing directly with insurance companies.

What kind of "health care" system allows a teenage girl to die while waiting for a liver transplant? You probably read the story: Nataline Sarkysian's doctors said she needed a liver transplant, but her insurer, CIGNA, declined to pay for it because the surgery was "experimental" and because there was no guarantee that it would be effective. And while the family was appealing the decision, she died.

Why is health care less important than highways, or schools, or police forces, or fire departments? We trust the government to use our taxes to fund and manage these things. Why are we so reluctant to let the government take charge of seeing to it that Americans have guaranteed access to the health care they need? If we belief in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, why is "life" being neglected?

Why is a governmental bureaucracy supposedly less efficient than a corporate bureaucracy? The standard conservative argument against universal health care is that it's too important to be left to bureaucrats. But it was a corporate bureaucracy that determined Nataline Sarkisyan's fate -- on the basis not of the patient's welfare but of the company's profits. My dealings with the government's health bureaucracy -- Social Security and Medicare -- have been both efficient and helpful. My dealings with insurance company bureaucracies? Not so much.