A Pair of Crutches

James Shearer

I was supposed to be writing more on panhandling in this column but something else even more important drew my attention: health care. It’s funny how something so simple and personal can actually make you sit up take notice. Last week my better half went into the hospital for knee surgery. Nothing major but something that had to be done. On the morning of the operation, we were in a rush to get out of the house so we wouldn’t be late. In our hurry we forgot the crutches that had been given to her by the hospital a few days in advance—no biggie right? They would just give her another pair after surgery. WRONG!

The hospital could not give her another pair of crutches because her insurance wouldn’t cover it. Now people may think I’m pissing and moaning over something trivial—just go back home and get the damn things. But that’s not the point. The phrase “your insurance won’t cover it” is my point. After the incident with the crutches, I began to think of that phrase in other instances—like when you are really sick and need treatment but can’t get it because the damn HMOs feel that the cost of keeping you alive is a little too high. It would cause a slight dip in their already overblown paychecks and they wouldn’t be able to get Johnny that new action figure with the kung fu grip.

Talk about death panels. Seriously, why are they allowed to get away with this, who’s minding the store? Thinking about all of this reminds you what the big deal is with making sure everyone in this country has good health care. Should it be an entitlement? Yes it should. It should be a fundamental right, no matter if you’re rich or poor. Hospitals should be like supermarkets in that people should be able to walk in and get what they need to survive.

There shouldn’t be a debate about this. Doctors should be able to take care of their patients without saying, “Hold on sir. Before I give you this new liver I have to make sure you’re covered.” So why was Washington fighting so fiercely over reform? Because of stupid language that says the feds won’t pay for a woman’s right to choose. Hasn’t the whole abortion thing gotten old already?

And then there are the right-wingers whose panties are still in a bunch over the fact that the Prez is a black man, so everything he does is socialism. Don’t kid yourself folks, his race is at the heart of everything that the party of Bush argues about.

The bill has passed but the country is still split over it. The moonbats on the left are saying that the bill doesn’t go far enough, that too many concessions are being made. I personally don’t care about a government option one way or another. But I do believe they should be minding the store. Isn’t that what a Sec of Health should be doing?

As far as the right, the only way I can explain their opposition is with something I once heard: “The folks on the right don’t really know anything about health care except for what they hear from Glen Beck or what they see on medical shows, like Grey’s Anatomy or ER, where you get 12 dedicated doctors there for you and only you.” I believe it’s true—there really are some people who believe the world works that way.

Truth is, I don’t want doctors working on me after they’ve had sex in the maintenance closet like they do in those shows. But real world medicine doesn’t work like what you see on TV. It’s more like your insurance doesn’t cover this, won’t cover that.

Anyway, a nurse at the hospital took exception to the rule and gave my wife a second pair of crutches. All’s well right? WRONG! As it turns out me and my wife—who was fresh out of surgery—had to take the MBTA all the way back to Lynn from Cambridge during rush hour. (No I don’t own a car). Why? Because the program that allows hospitals to pay for taxis for people having day surgery was cut.

What does that have to do with health care you ask? Well as the HMOs get bigger and bigger, services that hospitals provide—even simple ones like cab vouchers and shuttles, which are vital to people with low-incomes and disabilities—get smaller and smaller. Never mind something as life saving as heart surgery. If you don’t believe we need universal heath care, then you need your head examined. Oh wait. Your insurance doesn’t cover that.

James Shearer, Spare Change News co-founder, was once a homeless vendor. He currently serves as the Board President.






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