March 26, 2013 7:15 AM

The Tennessee version of "Dialing for Dollars": Dialing for your life

NASHVILLE — Two nights a year, Tennessee holds a health care lottery of sorts, giving the medically desperate a chance to get help. State residents who have high medical bills but would not normally qualify for Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor, can call a state phone line and request an application. But the window is tight — the line shuts down after 2,500 calls, typically within an hour — and the demand is so high that it is difficult to get through…. “It’s like the Oklahoma land rush for an hour,” said Russell Overby, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society in Nashville. “We encourage people to use multiple phones and to dial and dial and dial.”

Think about it for a moment. We live in the most powerful nation in the world. We can project our military anywhere in the world. We can kill people as if we were playing a video game. We can do all of that…and yet we can’t find it within ourselves to guarantee a basic level of health care for every American. We excel at killing and destroying, but we seem to think that supporting life via universal health care and the social safety net is the hallmark of evil, godless socialism. We subject the sick, the elderly, and the poor to all manner of indignities, all in the name of…well, I’m not quite certain what, really. Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t people in this country willing to tolerate a system based on Social Darwinism. Congressman enjoy arguably that finest health insurance in the world, so lacking insurance and access to basic health care is merely an abstract concept to them. “Only the strong survive” is a system as simple in concept and execution as it is devoid of humanity…yet to many on the Right it’s what America should be all about…and those on the Left lack the moral courage to push the issue.

There are few places where “only the strong survive” is more true than Tennessee, where, if you happen to be poor and ill- but not so much so that you don’t qualify for Medicaid- you have a small window of opportunity to get help. In order to secure this help, though, you must subject yourself to a lottery system. Win (by dialing your phone and getting a connection on the other end), and you have at least a possibility of securing assistance from the state with your high medical bills. Lose, and…well, that’s just your bad luck, eh? Sorry, but you’re on your own; there are winners and losers…and you, my friend, are a loser. As Alan Grayson once pointed out, this is the Republican health care plan:

  1. Don’t get sick
  2. If you do get sick, die quickly

In an era of creeping austerity and tight budgets, I can understand how it might be difficult to find the money to attend to the health care needs of the uninsured or those dealing with high medical bills. Yet we always seem to have plenty of money to finance tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. How is that? Well, the answer is as simple as it is damning; we live in a political culture that defines helping those in need as “socialism,” while providing tax breaks to those at the top of the economic food chain as “capitalism.”

Is this a great country or what??

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Cluth published on March 26, 2013 7:15 AM.

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