Swine Flu Hysteria and the State of U.S. Healthcare: UPDATE

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Ok, so we've been hearing about this deadly swine flu that has many folks panicking right and left.  Schools are closing, people are wearing surgical masks, and many are avoiding their local public transportation systems, railroads and airlines.  In Texas alone, 300,000 children are not in school.

Indeed the reaction has been so strong that a flight enroute to the U.S. from Europe diverted to Boston because a passenger said she had flu like symptoms. Some folks, mainly Republican politicians and xenophobic pundits, have demanded that we immediately shut down the U.S./Mexico border. Apparently these folks have not heard the latest reports on the swine flu.

Apparently we were warned about this flu's potential as far back as 1999. The forewarning obviously fell on deaf ears.  Of course some of these reactions are exaggerated and perhaps the media should assume at least some responsibility for fomenting the current state of swine flu pandemonium.  After all, medical data shows that every year there is some kind of flu in which some folks are   hospitalized. Sadly, some people will die.  Those who do are normally very sick people with seriously compromised immune systems.  Contrary to today's hyperbolic ravings, folks are not dropping dead in their homes, at school, at work or in the streets 24/7.

As diarist and doctor Granny Doc over at Daily Kos observed:

Are we still paying the price for our government's refusal to treat science seriously for the past 30 years?  Are the scientists and policy makers just flexing their wings and preening at the new attention they are getting from the world of politics?  How much of the total political nonsense of the McCains and Liebermans, posturing for a dumbed down electorate, will we have to endure?  (And, how much damage will they be willing to cause before they just shut the fuck up?)

It's the flu, folks.  The flu makes you sick.  The flu can kill people with compromised immune systems, the very young and the very old.  People like me!

Are folks alarmed over the swine flu because it is slowly dawning on us that the evil flu will exert the highest impact on folks who do not have healthcare insurance? Has the flu already claimed the lives of those who are both medically and economically challenged?  

47 million of us do not have healthcare insurance. Texas has the highest number of uninsured residents.

The majority of Americans who do not have healthcare insurance don't have it because they cannot afford it.  Period.   The obstructionists for universal healthcare will tell us that a certain segment of the population has access to the insurance but they refuse to pay for it.  OK, so maybe there are more than a few under 30 years olds who are under the illusion that they are immortal and nothing really bad or awful will happen when they are “old” because at that age one does not normally anticipate either growing devastatingly sick or even old for that matter. But this group represents a very small minority.  

In his op-ed piece in the New York Times,

A Nation of Typhoid Marys

Nicholas Kristof writes:

Lacing its armor across the field, a group called Conservatives for Patients' Rights is airing commercials denouncing (and distorting) President Obama's health care proposals.

Kristof also reminds us how Karl Rove, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and some ConservaDems ridiculed President Obama when he attempted to add pandemic flu planning into stimulus plan. It just goes to show us why we should never trust conservatives on anything.  They are almost always wrong on every issue, especially where people and quality of life issues are concerned. Conservatives are driven by the money.  It is always about the money.  That and rigid ideology.

Kristof asserts that the flu crisis will remind us of the vulnerabilities of our “deeply flawed medical system.” This may have already have happened.  Is this why we are worked into frenzy about the swine flu?  

Think of the 47 million Americans who lack insurance. They are less likely to receive flu vaccines (which might or might not help), less likely to receive prompt care when they get sick, and less able financially to stay home from work – and thus they are more likely both to die and to spread the virus inadvertently.

According to Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health:

“This is a most dangerous brew: a dysfunctional health care system, vast numbers of Americans without access to health care, a severe recession, overextended and highly stressed hospitals, and the prospect of a nasty new killer virus,” Dr. Redlener said.

Kristof reminds us that although American medicine leads in cutting edge technologies our health care system continues to fail us.

Yet over all, our health care system has failed us. Troll through World Health Organization data and cringe: Americans live shorter lives than Greeks, our kids are twice as likely to die by age 5 as Portuguese children, and American women are 11 times as likely to die in childbirth as women in Ireland. Over all, we rank well below most European countries in our health statistics (for which you can also blame the Danish in your hand as you read this).

According to Kristof, we over-invest in clinical care under-invest in public health.  This is why so many Americans fall through the health care system cracks.  

I wish those disingenuous  Conservatives for Patient's Rights would stop doing their fellow Americans a monumental disservice by lying about and distorting efforts that are not only sorely needed, but will serve the greater heath care needs of at least 47 million Americans.   So many benefits could be reaped from a fixed and highly functioning healthcare system in the U.S.  

Why do these people oppose health care reform?  Who are they?  What are they afraid of?  What will they lose?  

One could very likely assume that the folks who fund the smear attacks, lies and distortion on health care reform are also those  mostly anonymous donors who managed to find $100 million in 100 days to raise money for W.'s LIEbrary at SMU.   Those would be companies like Halliburton and other multi-national corporations who profited enormously from the Bush Administration's no bid contracts, tax cuts and  and tax havens. One has to wonder why these corporations won't come clean and announce their contributions.  Why do they choose to remain anonymous?

We can do health care reform.  We can do truth and out lies and the lying liars who tell them.

We did it in 2008 and we'll do it again.

Update: That is not to say this will be an easy fight.  It will get ugly, real, real ugly. We have some of our own dirty dog sell outs in the Democratic Party who sleep with the fat cats in the health care industry. As is the case with their Republican soul mates, some ConservaDems are dead set against single payer health care.  

Already health care reform activists have been arrested.



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