There’s a presentation of What’s Wrong With America in the Los Angeles Times today. There are feature stories on this week’s Remote Area Medical (RAM) health clinic in Inglewood, near Los Angeles, that shine a line on pain and medical neglect. Several of the physicians and dentists who volunteered to work at the one-week RAM fair also volunteer to work in Third World countries. And they said that what they were seeing in Inglewood was just as bad.
Steve Lopez, “At Free Clinic, Scenes From the Third World“:
Stan Brock, who founded RAM in 1985 to bring medical care to Third World countries, told me that in 1992 he began getting requests to do the same work in the United States.
“I don’t have the answers,” said [Dr. Mehrdad] Makhani, the dentist who insisted I look closely at his patient’s ailing mouth. “I’m not a politician. But I have people here with infected teeth, gums, abscesses. I saw a lady bus driver who lost her job and she’s walking around here crying. Her tooth is infected, she’s in pain and she can die from this. This is disastrous. This is a Third World country and people need to come and see this.”
“The people we’re seeing here have teeth as bad as the people in the Upper Amazon,” said Brock, who used to tangle with wild beasts on “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.”
One woman had lived with infected teeth for a year; she had no insurance because she had lost her job. She needed two extractions and a root canal. The dentist who took care of her, Joseph Chamberlain, also had done volunteer work in Brazil.
“They have a nice system of public hospitals and clinics,” he said.
But don’t patients have to wait for treatment?
“Yes,” Chamberlain said. “But not like this. Not for a year.”
I already mentioned the Tzu Chi Foundation, an international Buddhist charity headquartered in Taiwan. Tzu Chi does a lot of medical relief work in impoverished countries around the globe. And now it’s here. I can remember a time when it would have been unthinkable for an Asian charity to come to America to help the poor.
Eugene Taw, an ear, nose and throat specialist with the Buddhist Tzu Chi Free Clinic in Alhambra, was one of many Forum volunteers who has worked in other parts of the world. Yes, he said, there are far too many parallels between the uninsured in the United States and the residents of impoverished Third World nations.
At the Forum, his patients included a diabetic amputee who had not been able to buy his medicine for months, a retiree who couldn’t afford an X-ray for a lung problem, and a 30ish female diabetic with a kidney ailment so serious that Taw called for an ambulance to take her to a hospital.
Kimi Yoshimo, “How L.A.’s massive free clinic event came together“:
It’s pretty profound, the scale of it, the human stories,” Manelli said. “Those things don’t show up on a spreadsheet.”
In all, an estimated $500,000 in care has been provided daily to patients granted appointments on a first-come, first-served basis. Despite the pace, hundreds of uninsured and underinsured people have been turned away. Organizers lament that they could treat more if additional dentists and eye doctors showed up to volunteer in the clinic’s remaining few days.
One woman said she had received an abnormal pap smear result a year ago but was unable to get further medical attention. And then there is “The trumpeter who couldn’t play because he’s missing two teeth. The mother who camped overnight so her daughter could get glasses.” As one of the volunteer doctors said, these things don’t show up in a spreadsheet.
But it gets better. In this same newspaper, in the editorial section, there’s an op ed by Newt Gingrich warning America that if the Democratic plans for health care reform go through, we could have rationing.
The fear of government rationing is based on the premise that once government has such power, especially the ability to control what is covered by your private insurance policy, it also has the power to deny and restrict.
Those defending the House legislation claim rationing is not in any of its versions, and though that is technically true — no one wants rationing — the unprecedented power this legislation would grant to virtually unaccountable government agencies is all but certain to lead to rationing.
See, in a Free Country, the power to deny and restrict belongs to insurance companies, not the government.
I’ve got more to say, but I have to leave for a bit. I’ll get back to this later.