Elizabeth on Healthcare
I didn’t much care for Michael Moore’s film Sicko.
I thought it was too heavy handed and, in the case of his
information about the National Health System in Great Britain,
actually misleading. As a novelist who writes exclusively about
Great Britain, I’ve spent a great deal of time there, and it doesn’t
take much reading of British newspapers to know that the NHS isn’t
working the way Michael Moore depicted it: happy doctors making
adequate salaries and patients who wait thirty minutes or less to
see those happy doctors. Indeed, often what one reads in the London
papers are stories of the poor souls who died waiting three or four
years to have surgeries that you could have within weeks here in the
U.S. For this reason, most of the people whom I know in England have
private insurance and go to private hospitals for their care. They
do not rely on the NHS.
Beyond that, though, I thought a lot of Sicko was irritating
in its presentation, with Michael Moore asking all-too-obvious
questions of the people he was interviewing, just in case the
audience out there wasn’t going to be able to get his point about
health care in the United States. I don’t like that sort of thing,
generally. God knows I might not be the freshest sandwich in the
picnic basket, but I’m not entirely stupid.
On the other hand, I agreed whole-heartedly with the major premise
of his film: The health care system in the U.S. stinks, and its odor
seems to get worse every year. Frankly, I think that could apply to
a lot of critical programs in the U.S., but let’s keep it at health
care for the moment.
What I believe about health care is pretty simple: I believe that
the richest country on earth—that would be the U.S.—ought to provide
health care for its citizens, especially when it’s asking its
citizens to fork over piles of cash in taxes for the government to
spend as the government sees fit. To me, this is simply a no-brainer
since a healthy population is going to be far more productive than
an unhealthy population. I also believe that the richest country on
earth should see it as a sacred responsibility especially to provide
health care for those who cannot under any conceivable circumstances
provide it for themselves: infants, children, the poor, the
homeless, the psychologically scarred, the battle-wounded, the
psychiatrically incapable, and the elderly infirm. As a matter of
fact, I don’t think health care ought to be a profit-making industry
at all since the obvious way to make a profit in an industry
designed to give something to people is simply not to
give it to them, or to give them inadequate service or goods, or to
deny it to them altogether for one reason or another. The profits
made by insurance companies, for example, are accrued through two
means: through the insurance company betting on the general health
of those it covers (i.e. “we’ll insure them but they’ll probably not
ever need catastrophic coverage so we’ll make a profit from their
monthly payments”) and, failing that, through denying claims
presented to them by the people it covers.
At the present time, the system of health care in the U.S.—such as
it is—doesn’t appear to be working particularly well when one
considers how many people are uninsured and are left depending upon
emergency rooms to take care of them should there be a crisis.
Now in my case, throughout my life I have seen doctors as seldom as
possible—having a lifelong aversion to anything that puts me in
targeting range of a hypodermic needle—and as a child, I rarely
needed to see doctors at all. It wasn’t that I was a miracle of
health, though. It was that my mom was a registered nurse, and she
considered herself fully capable of handling nearly everything that
came up. She knew what to do about chicken pox, measles, the flu,
common colds, incursions into poison ivy, fevers, coughs…You name it
and that lady could deal with it. Short of broken bones—which she
could and did splint but not set—and anything requiring a
prescription or stitches, she was cool, calm, and capable. Luckily
for me and for my family, when I had to visit the doctor on those
rare occasions that something actually came up which my mom felt
uneasy about dealing with, my visits to the doctor were free
because, when I was thirteen year old, my mom returned to work as a
nurse and the doctor she worked for saw the families of all his
employees without charge. This was a pretty sweet deal, so we were
careful not to take advantage of it.
It’s my opinion that you gauge a country’s greatness by what it does
for its people not what it does to its people: how it
educates them, how it safeguards them in times of natural disasters,
how it maintains the quality of their air and food and water and
roads and environment, how it ensures that unscrupulous individuals
taking advantage of the innocent are dealt with appropriately. I
think you also gauge a country’s greatness by how it reaches out to
help other countries when such help is needed and requested. Great
countries thus do not turn their backs on anyone. Great countries
extend their arms.
How I feel right now can be expressed rather simply: I’m absolutely
desperate for a leader who embodies that particular frame of mind
that I’ve described above. It has been missing in our country, I
believe, for far too long. To my way of thinking, it’s been missing
since at least 1980, and I believe that twenty-eight years is long
enough to wander in a wilderness in which people have been
encouraged to believe that “health care for all” is somehow
synonymous with the country collapsing in a shuddering heap into
I wanted to see how Senator John McCain feels about health care
because I wasn’t able to ascertain his beliefs on this subject from
watching the Republican National Convention. I looked on
VoteSmart.org and followed a few trails. This is what I uncovered. I
ask you only to read it, to pause, and to think about what Senator
McCain’s votes on health issues imply about Senator McCain the man
who would be our President:
June 22, 2000: Senator McCain voted NO on an amendment to
provide prescription drugs to patients through Medicare.
June 29, 2000: Senator McCain voted NO on a bill to allow
patients to sue health care insurers in court if they are denied
benefits. This was also a vote of NO to allow patients to see
specialists outside of their network doctors.
June 29, 2000: Senator McCain voted NO on an amendment to
prevent Medicare and Social Security benefits from being moved and
used for other purposes.
June 27, 2003: Senator McCain again voted NO on a bill to add
prescription drug benefits to Medicare.
October 27, 2005: Senator McCain voted NO to increase funding
for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.
November 3, 2005: Senator McCain voted NO to provide
emergency health care to survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
November 7, 2007: Senator McCain voted NO on the State
Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) which allows states to
provide health care assistance to children of eligible parents.
His votes concern me because of what they say about his priorities.
These have been the priorities of his Party for far too long, I
think. These priorities have caused distress to a lot of ordinary
people, people unlike me whose moms do not work for doctors who will
provide them with free health care.
Here where I live on Whidbey Island, we have a group called Friends
of Friends. This group was started to help people with their medical
bills and with other bills related to their medical care. We also
have a group called Hearts and Hammers that, once a year, organizes
volunteers who fan into the community and repair people’s houses. We
also have a food bank called Good Cheer, a thrift store that
supports that food bank, a back-to-school program for disadvantaged
kids to get their school supplies, a Christmas Holiday House for
families in difficulty to “buy” presents for their children, an
active land conservancy group to protect the island from
development, and a no-kill animal shelter. This is, in short, an
unusual place to live. While I am a contributor to all of these
groups, I find it a compelling commentary upon our times that such
groups have to exist in the first place in a country in which
billions upon billions of dollars are poured into the manufacture of
weapons—guns, bombs, missiles, etc.—while infant mortality rises,
tuberculosis returns, cancer eats away lives, and AIDS ravages part
of the population. This tells me that somehow priorities became
skewed along the way. This tells me that we need an alteration in
the course we’re taking.
I think everyone has to consider the issues before voting. I think
everyone has to ask the hard questions, both of themselves and of
their candidates. We have to ask ourselves what we owe our own
individual generations and what we owe the generations to come. When
we’re driving our cars and the cars begin to drift to the side of
the road, we make a correction. It should be no different for a
- Elizabeth George
Whidbey Island, Washington
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