A few months ago, I got an email from Jeremy Helton asking if I was interested helping him get the word out about a project from the Recollective, telling real stories about patients abandoned by our profit-driven insurance system. The stories are intensely moving. Each vignette shows a still picture with voice-over—Jeremy spent hours with these folks to get the stories down to their essential meaning, and I think he did a marvelous job.
When I talked to some friends in Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) about the project, one concern was that the project focuses on patients at a faith-based clinic providing charity care. I’m sure you’ve heard conservatives say we can care for the uninsured easily with personal charity—we know that’s wrong because we’ve had thousands of years to try it without success. It would be a terrible injustice to suggest the solution is simply to establish practices like Jericho Road all across the country, mission accomplished.
What’s so wonderful to me about these stories is the honesty that we MUST have systemic reform to create true access to care. There is no suggestion that charity is fine without reliable insurance. At the same time, this practice is not waiting for our government to do the needed reforms. They are doing the best they can for their patients while advocating for change. They are setting an example for us of how to treat our fellow humans.
We are facing a similar problem in Alabama with Medicaid. If Alabama doesn’t do the expansion, we will abandon those most in need of relief. We are even in danger of defunding care for our currently covered children, disabled, and elderly in nursing homes if we don’t solve our 2013 budget trouble. I heard a PNHP member say recently that “liberals” support Medicaid expansion but “progressives” are in favor of single payer, because Medicaid perpetuates injustice and unequal access to care. Yes, but. I do not think we have the right, those of us not on Medicaid or hoping for it, to say this. The families I talk to who can’t get any kind of care unless they are in immediate danger of death do not agree. Of course they want full access to healthcare. Until that time, they would be grateful for temporary though imperfect relief, as long as we are also continuing to push for a truly just system.
Listen to this segment by Dr. Glick. He gets it. We need Medicare for All AND we need to see each other more compassionately. Confronting ourselves with faces and voices will keep us from thinking these uninsured persons are numbers, maybe numbers we can parse down until they don’t seem like much. The longer I watch our country struggle over healthcare reform, the more I believe we will never get what we need until we have a change of heart. A law alone won’t fix things. We must become the kind of people who will not compromise in healthcare justice, who believe it is not possible to serve our own self-interest and ignore the needs of our wider community, and who will do whatever it takes to make a national insurance system excellent instead of constantly trying to sabotage or repeal it.
Kudos to Dr. Glick, his staff and patients, and the Recollective team for bringing these stories to light! Please visit the site frequently as they post new stories, share them on your Facebook page, and help get the word out.