I expected to be blogging today about the Republican Budget Plan, but we all know that that joke fell flat yesterday when it was seen to be DOA. For all the ballyhoo that preceded the awaited Republican Plan for our nation, it just amounted to another big fat No for the American People, another one-finger salute from the “elite right” to the voters who voted for a different approach to our Nation’s governance. That being the only critique I deem necessary, I decided to move on today to another much neglected topic—health care.
One of the reasons for my absence from the blogosphere this week is the pressing need to address a family issue that has come to the front. My father-in-law, a World War II combat veteran, has reached a place in his life that he can no longer live on his own, despite his protestations to the contrary. It was necessary recently for Mrs. Jack and her brother to intervene from great distances to get him the help he needed in his hometown, Miami, Florida. We first turned to the Veterans Administration for assistance. What we found was more than disappointing; it was downright alarming. He had to be hospitalized twice because the first time they released him right back into the dilapidated house he was living in where he was still unable to care for himself. Then they reluctantly allowed as how that was the case and released him to a nursing home.
The rub is, the VA nursing homes in Miami were all full, and so he couldn’t go there. We were told that he would be put on a long waiting list for an opening. In the meantime the VA moved him into a private nursing home, and due to his ownership of said dilapidated home, he wasn’t deemed eligible for Medicaid so he’s having to pay the high monthly cost himself. And I’m still trying to figure out what the hell is going on with Medicare, who also has deemed him ineligible for assistance. I keep hearing Joe Scarborough SCREAMING almost every morning that Medicare needs means testing to stop the waste like it didn’t have any such provisions. Don’t ask me, because we’re still not getting any answers from them.
Long story short, Mrs. Jack and I decided it was time to move her father to Texas so that we can oversee his care. That required us to start searching for a suitable nursing home for him. That started out in the most depressing way. We were confronted with nursing homes that are licensed by the State of Texas that were absolutely unfit for human habitation. It was not uncommon for us to encounter sickening odors up and down the hallways as we toured. My mother spent her last working days as a healthcare worker, and when I asked her if this was common, she told me that it was, but not to put my father-in-law in such a place because it meant that the staff—for whatever reason—were not cleaning up the way they should. So we expanded our search and found a really nice place that was almost the same price as the others we had visited in spite of being a world apart both in cleanliness and facilities. We were grateful and are now readying my father-in-law for the trip from Florida to Texas.
It was an enlightening experience talking to the people at the nursing homes we visited. It seems that sub-standard care is standard in most of them because Medicaid pays the bills for most, yet seems to exercise little if any oversight. The place we decided on was private pay, which in time will deplete my father-in-law’s resources if he lives that long, causing us to have to move him into one of the hell holes that we didn’t deem suitable that Medicaid will pay for. But the most interesting thing I heard was from the manager of the place we have chosen for my father-in-law. She informed us that we were lucky that he will be able to go to the VA Hospital in Houston for his care because if he needed to go to the near-by private hospital emergency room where our county has a contract for indigent patients, the wait has gone from two hours just a short time ago to a whopping eight hours now. That is a startling pronouncement to me.
Our cocky Republican Governor, Rick Perry, announced to us and the rest of the nation that Texas is doing so well that we really don’t need all that stimulus money the Congress approved. “Texans would rather have a job than an unemployment check,” he announced at his news conference on the issue. How can you argue with that? Well, let’s start with the idea that maybe there aren’t enough jobs to go around. What a thought. But Governor Perry and his Republican-controlled legislature don’t want to be bothered with that possibility. They’re all busy playing “NO to Obama politics” shouting to the far right in hopes they will win re-election.
Here’s the deal. If the number of people who are showing up with no health insurance nor access to health care has increased four-fold over the past several months, that indicates that the problems in the Houston-area economy are four times greater than we are being led to believe by our Republican leaders. That means that four times the people are without health insurance or some sort of state aid like Medicaid.
This is Texas where we are told every day how strong our economy is. It smacks of the same kind of misleading bullshit* (that’s what we call it down here) coming out of Republicans in Austin as was coming out of the Bush Administration in Washington last year.
Yesterday Mrs. Jack and I made the trip to our county seat to check into assistance for my father-in-law, and while waiting in the crowded waiting room, I met a young father of three teenagers who, feeling the need to explain his presence in the welfare line, told me a compelling story of what is really going on here in the land of economic prosperity. Up until five months ago he was working for Kellogg, Brown & Root as a truck driver in Iraq. Due to his wife’s continuing concern for his safety, along with the entreaties of his children, and believing the bullshit that our state leaders have been pumping out about how good the job market is in Texas, he resigned from his dangerous job in Iraq and returned home. Now, five months have passed, and he still can’t find a job, even as a truck driver with his own rig. He was inconsolable and repeated over and over how much he would like to go back to Iraq to support his family, but KBR tells him they don’t have any openings in Iraq now. So there he sat in the Department of Human Resources offices, embarrassed and dispirited, telling his story to everyone who sat near him.
It is easy for the elites of Wall Street and Washington to sit around and tell everyone out here in the real world of America how much more urgent their problems are, and how the money is not there to help all the average Joes in their shame-faced situation. Morning Joe remarked the other day how he knew about Diabetes because one of his sons has the disease. But I have some questions for Mr. Scarborough: What if you didn’t have any healthcare benefits from NBC or GE or wherever it comes from, and you didn’t make whatever presumably huge salary you receive for helming your own cable talk show, and didn’t have homes in New York, Washington and Pensacola? What if, instead, you lost your $40,000 a year job and the health insurance that went along with it, and were in danger of defaulting on the mortgage on your modest three-bedroom not-so-exclusive suburban home, and your son had diabetes? Where would you get the money to take him to the doctor and buy his medicine? You may not know
the answer from high in your ivory tower–I didn’t used to know myself, to be fair. You would be over in that eight-hour-long line at your county’s charity hospital emergency room to save the life of your child. And as far as your constant assertion that we just can’t afford healthcare reform right now because we’re broke, your County Government or State Government or Federal Government would be paying inflated emergency-room rates for your son’s care instead of him just going to the doctor’s office and local pharmacy. You keep harping about the high cost of health care, but you refuse to look at the realities that exist in every county in this country–especially in our home region, The South.
Do you really want to save tax dollars, Republicans? Or are you just keeping your big insurance buddies and big pharmaceutical buddies happy by blocking a reasonable approach to health care? Members of Congress are protected by a very good healthcare plan, and I would expect that all the talking heads on cable news channels are also recipients of some sort of healthcare plan.
In an aside, I must say that I almost found it amusing some time back when Tucker Carlson–a loud-mouthed opponent of government health care and unions and all things not conservative–bragged that he understood unions because he gets his healthcare insurance from one.
And there is the hypocrisy in the whole thing. A bunch of people who are not in the line of fire on an issue that is vital to so many of the real people of the US, are clucking their tongues and saying, “NO! It’s just too expensive. By the way, could we have some more money for big banks and military spending?”
I’m not totally convinced that either party really gets the simmering anger of the American People. We voted for a change in November and are being told that we will have to wait for that because the people we booted out took all the money with them. This is the stuff populist rage is made of, and it is time for our Congressional leaders to realize it and throw a little something to the people How about access to affordable health care? That would be a really good place to start. It’s time for the folks at the top to make a few sacrifices for all the little people who make their cushy lives possible.