Lanterns: Who's Dying in the Streets of America?

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Who's Dying in the Streets of America?

If you watched the Sanders/Cruz debate a few evenings ago, and you're being honest, you may believe it a case of shocking elder abuse, caught on tape. The kind-eyed, somewhat lovable, white-haired Senator Sanders was found inadequate and sorely unprepared to battle wits with Senator Cruz, who brought statistics, maps, and a passion for Constitutional, free market economic solutions. Senator Sanders advocates for a single payer, Medicaid-for-all, socialized system of healthcare, and was quick to point out that Americans would die in the streets without it.

Not dissimilar in rhetoric, both during the primary, and in his early comments as he took the mantle of the Presidency, Donald Trump has often pronounced, to paraphrase, "We're not going to have American's dying in the streets on my watch." There is only one problem with Bernie's and Trump's remarks; they are patently untrue.

I don't remember ever having any love for government programs, because the government has shown a spectacular gift for screwing them up, and screwing we-the-people over. Only one specific group is actually dying in the streets, our US Armed Service Veterans. The Veterans Administration has been unequal to their task, and lax in reporting problems that have led to many deaths. Homeless Vets are, in fact, dying on the streets, and Veterans are committing suicide at the rate of twenty a day. It's heartbreaking that those who have voluntarily donned the uniform for our country have been so woefully neglected.

To hear Senator Sanders repeatedly bang the drum for more government intervention is staggering. He proposes the very same government institutions, which allow our Vets to suffer needlessly, be empowered to run government subsidized healthcare. Did we learn nothing from Obamacare? The Affordable Care Act has proven to be a failure on a large and very expensive scale. The cost of the Marketplace website alone was appalling, but the worst offense of this bureaucratic behemoth is, to my mind, that it was set up to fail, to purposely create problems that would necessitate a "fix" -- an excuse to usher in the single payer system Progressives seek, a program that is an anathema to our Constitutional Republic – it’s just plain un-American, to introduce socialist policy in the only true bastion of freedom in the modern world.

Returning to the lie that both Bernie and Trump propagate, I'll illustrate that they're incorrect, through a personal anecdote.

After applying for Social Security Disability in October 2014, I have been waiting for two-and-a-half years for a hearing. Seemingly, they are unable to make a decision on the basis of the documentation submitted to them through my lawyer. Neither my doctors nor my lawyer can understand why it hasn't been awarded, as there is ample evidence to support my claim including doctors’ statements, imaging such as MRIs and x-rays, and a large quantity of information in my doctors' files indicating a degenerative disease that has worsened over many years. This is a story for another day, though it is a fine example of government bureaucracy run amok.

This has been a difficult time for my husband and me. I've been unable to work, and my husband has had a stroke, a heart attack, kidney failure, and sepsis over the years; we've gone months at times, without income or insurance, and have been evicted from multiple rentals. We've been grateful to secure some minimal assistance from the state, but we've still lost almost everything we had ever worked for, right down to our wedding bands which were sold out of necessity.

We live on my husband's Social Security payment, which really doesn't cover our monthly bills. In 2015, we procured healthcare insurance through the Marketplace, but skyrocketing costs put 2016 policies out of our reach, with excessive deductibles, out-of-pocket costs, and the overwhelming cost of monthly premiums. The only plan that made any sense for us would have left us with only approximately $600 per month to pay rent, electric, and food, but we didn't have enough income to qualify for it anyway. Georgia did not accept the expanded Medicaid option through the ACA, and many low-income people, like us, didn't make enough to qualify for Obamacare.

Even without paying for insurance, we are barely scraping by as the months of waiting for a disability hearing go by. Television and the internet are luxury items, and some months we can't have them, though it bothers us less than our children. Last month was such a time, and adding insult to injury, I experienced a serious medical emergency.

Intense, radiating chest pain caused me to call 911, and we learned, one really can call 911 from a deactivated phone, something I’ve long wondered about. After hours in the Emergency Room, the doctor was preparing to send me home with a diagnosis of reflux. After checking my blood work, however, he discovered elevated cardiac enzymes, suggesting a heart attack. The small local hospital doesn't have a Cardiologist, so I was immediately transferred about sixty miles to a larger facility in Savannah. Subsequent testing over the next two days was not definitive, and since I hadn't experienced any more pain in my three days at the hospital, I was sent home to follow up with my primary physician, and come back to see the Cardiologist in a month.

The very next day it became apparent that there was indeed a significant problem. I repeatedly experienced the same chest pain. The only difference in my time at the hospital had been a steady source of nitroglycerin.

The medical group, with which my primary doctor is affiliated, offers indigent care for those who qualify, and I was grateful to find I qualified for 100 % coverage of many services and tests. Several appointments later, more possible diagnoses had expired after various testing; I was beside myself with pain and fear, more and more certain there was a problem with my heart.

I called the office of the Cardiologist I had seen in Savannah and explained, I didn't have insurance, but I was very concerned with my condition. They gave me an appointment for the next day, and didn't ask for any deposit or co-pay. The doctor said it was time to get to the bottom of the pain, and scheduled me for a heart catheterization a few days later.

I reminded him that I didn't have insurance. It turns out Memorial Hospital also had an indigent program for which I had already been approved, during my initial hospital stay almost three weeks earlier. The doctor said he would work with me on his charges; the most important thing was to make sure I didn't have a life-threatening issue.

During catheterization, the doctor found a 90% blockage in my Lateral Anterior Descending Artery, and after angioplasty, a stent was immediately placed in the artery. I stayed overnight in the Heart and Vascular Institute at Memorial Hospital, where I was cared for by a crack team of nurses who specialized in cardiovascular disease and events. I felt safe, and in excellent hands, and was released the next day. Now I'm home and recovering, and very thankful to have found a doctor and hospital committed to finding and treat my heart disease, regardless of status.

That's how I know Senator Sanders is wrong about his claim that the United States abandons those in poverty. Hospitals are required, by law, to treat anyone with or without insurance. The doctors and nurses aren't even allowed to ask if you have insurance when you arrive, seeking help. Even when not commanded by law, the local medical groups, hospitals, and communities find ways to assist the underprivileged. Americans are a very compassionate people, as they’ve shown many times over when faced with catastrophic events elsewhere in the world. I find it somewhat slanderous and an affront to suggest that Americans simply stand by and leave the indigent to their fate.

It will be a relief to settle the disability case and be added to the Medicare rolls, but I was treated every bit as well as anyone else in the hospital who might have had coverage. I had access to the same expert care, the same board-certified physicians and specialists, and the same state-of-the-art equipment and testing. On the B-side, it’s the reason many feel angry that those who’ve entered the US illegally, are usurping the resources meant for, and paid for, by our citizens. The unknown, but grave, question is, “When will the resources no longer exist for our citizens who require assistance?” Again, this subject will have to wait for another day.

Even without the expanded Medicaid option in Georgia, the people of the state have worked to catch those caught in the cracks, and provide help to them. Assistance is coming from the local communities and local health care professionals, and it can be accomplished more effectively and efficiently than mandates handed down by the federal government. Down here in rural Georgia, we take care of our own, and that famous Southern hospitality is extended to all in need.

No, Senator Sanders and President Trump, those of us in poverty in these great United States are not sentenced to "Die in the Streets." We have access to the best healthcare available anywhere, and it is the free market economy which has permitted the industry to expand, innovate, and create the healthcare system that is the envy of the world. Most telling is that leaders and officials from countries providing cradle to grave healthcare for their citizens, come to the United States again and again when they need critical care because it is unavailable to them in their own countries.

Our system must not face collapse through socialist theories, which history clearly shows have repeatedly failed, that haven't achieved a fraction of what has been accomplished in our United States in our short tenure on the world stage. It's why we fight to return to the unique concept of limited government that has allowed us, not just to live, but to excel across the spectrum of our endeavors, and has permitted us to become, unequivocally, the most advanced country the world has ever known.

Written by Julie Custer

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