“This is a Third World country”

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.

Wow. Imagine.

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.

23 thoughts on ““This is a Third World country”

  1. Actually, by definition, we ARE a third world country. We’re also the only country to ever be tried and found guilty by the world court of a terrorist act.

  2. Wow, just wow. Your juxtaposition of Gingrich’s statement and the description of the LA event is just mindblowing.

  3. I have news for Dr. Chamberlain, who thinks that a year is a long time to wait for treatment of an infected tooth in the U.S. I’ve had one tooth with pieces missing and an another with an infected gum for more than 2 years, self-treatment only — and I’m sure I’m far from being the only person who’s just trying to hang on long enough to come up with the money for a root canal/crown. As far as I know (and I’d love to find out otherwise), the County Health Department only covers treatment for acute infection, meaning extraction, not root canals. And that’s only if your income is low enough to qualify. Fear of rationing? That just cracks me up. Oh, and glasses? Please, that is a luxury, kind of like Oliver Twist holding out his bowl for more gruel. But you should see what can be done with Scotch tape and Super Glue to hold those frames together!

    Sorry for the sarcasm, and I really do commend Chamberlain and others for giving their time and money to help others. It just disgusts me that this is something that is left to charity, forcing the working poor to beg for help, when other industrial nations are light years ahead of us and have working healthcare systems. I am a taxpayer, btw.

  4. 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.

    Yes, the same statement struck me as well. No thinking, feeling human being should be a ble to walk away from that without a profound sense of how detached from reality Gingrich, Beck and others like them are.

    THe realization that such a statement engenders goes straight to the heart of that euphoric sense of greatness by association that liars like Beck and Gingrich are able to kindle in the ignorant ones who they fill full of fear of “the other”… their neighbors and countrymen. We’ve lost an important moral compass.

    On account of that greed and fear alone I’d say we are a once-great nation. Now this…

  5. Something seems broken here….post made before this one “awaiting moderation” but this the subsequent on does not get held up. Is that a design feature for those whose second thoughts are typically better than their first ones? Kidding, sort of but though you might want to know of this strange behavior. You probably meant to restrict me across the boards or not at all.

  6. The almighty free market does the rationing. Those people at RAM are losers that deserve their fate.

    I don’t believe this is the America I love. The America I love tries to lift people up and gives them help to reach their potential. Free market religion has become dogma to too many people. It needs a reformation, a recognition that von Mises and Hayek aren’t infallible.

  7. Pat, I’ve noticed too that moderation is spotty and unpredictable; perhaps it recognizes keywords or goes by length, but I haven’t been able to tell. I don’t think it’s anything personal. Moderation bots must have cranky days too. Sometimes my comments have sat in moderation all day, until maha can step in and say, “Hey, whoa, she’s all right… kind of daffy, but let ‘er through.”

    Re the post: my dentist and her husband organized a trip to Asia a couple of years back, to do free clinics in some desperately poor areas. It seems to me they even held a clinic in Tibet, but I’d think the Chinese would prevent such a thing, so perhaps that’s wrong. I was proud of my dentist for what she’d done, but ironically, some of the poorest rural counties in America are less than an hour’s drive from our city, so in future her free clinics may need to be more local.

    And zheesh, leave it to Newt to be so blatantly, publicly wrong… and still not get a clue.

  8. I wish the media would ration Newt. But he’s on everywhere like he’s some kind of paragon of virtue or knowledge. He’s a disgraced former Speaker of the House. The key word there is “Disgraced!” I wish someone would introduce him that way. Yeah, that’ll happen!
    As for the clinic, God bless those who volunteer, and damn those who turn their eyes from those in need. I’m talking to you, you selfish right-wing pigs! I swear, I don’t understand these people. And I hope I never will, either…

  9. I would like the CEO’s of health insurance corporations to tour a RAM health clinic, talk to the patients, listen to their stories… Then I would like the same CEO’s to justify to the patients why, since 2002, their profits had to increase by 428%, which is why their premiums had to increase by 70%.

    I’m sure the patients would be more than understanding.

    And then there’s Newt. If still in place, House members are guaranteed a lifetime of government funded health-insurance – even if they’ve only served one term as a member of the House. As usual, Newt is making ugly noises from his you-know-where and, as usual, he expects us not to notice the stink.

  10. Actually, by definition, we ARE a third world country.

    Not by any definition I ever heard of. The old definition of “third world” was a country unaligned with either Communism or Capitalism. The new definition is “undeveloped.” We’re a lot of things, but “undeveloped” ain’t one of ’em.

    We’re also the only country to ever be tried and found guilty by the world court of a terrorist act.

    Irrelevant. Do stay on topic.

  11. I read the Steve Lopez column and saw an idea I read somewhere else. All Obama needed to turn the health care debate around was simply spend a day or two in Inglewood. That’s all it would’ve took. This would’ve instantly destroyed the Republican position. What an opportunity missed.

  12. Pat Patillo — I don’t have you or anyone else who posts here regularly in any kind of filter. There’s a WordPress spam filter called Akismet that automatically looks at each comment and approves it, rejects it, or dumps it into the moderation bin. I honestly don’t know why it makes the choices it does sometime. But this site gets hit with hundreds of spam comments every day, and without the automatic filter I’d spend hours every day dealing with it.

  13. moonbat,
    You are SO RIGHT! The media has to follow him, he’s the President. He could have walked in there, parted the crowd like Moses, and it would have been on every network, except FOX. Why didn’t his staff think of that?
    But, then again, they may not have shown it. They hate showing our festering boils to the rest of the world. Especially when there are literally festering boils…

  14. In my life, most health care insurance usually has very minimal dental coverage; e.g. two checkups per year. Thus, I eventually had to get a separate more comprehensive dental plan from my union when I finally had the money to get my teeth fixed after some thirty years of dealing with dental problems only on an emergency basis. As a result, I am missing three of my original 30-something teeth. But, at least I know my teeth are healthy. It is amazing how a painful tooth can impact the rest of a person’s body. If it is infected, the infection is throughout the body and will make you feel really bad until the infections is treated.

  15. I live in Taiwan and am very familiar with Tzu Chi. They were out there front and center in 2004 when a tsunami destroyed so many coastal villages in Southeast Asia.

    At the present time, we are actually in bad shape ourselves recovering from Typhoon Morakot. Estimates now have reached 500 dead. Again, Tzu Chi is leading an effort to help the victims.

    They helped during Hurricane Katrina as well, when the inept US government was doing “one heck of a job.”

    I guess you’ll know things are really bad when Somalia or Nigeria sends relief workers to the USA.

    The Tzu Chi Foundation web site has some info:



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  17. It might be of some interest to “right to life” people that periodontal disease in pregnant women is a huge risk factor for pre-term delivery. So, dental insurance and subsequent education and care would improve pregnancy outcomes, save money and possibly reduce the infant mortality rate. It seems like something any well intentioned rational person would… Sorry I forgot who I was talking about for a moment.

    I know you are right about the definition of “third world” country. But, I have to admit that certain aspects of life here in the Bible Belt sure have that feel about them. Horrific dentition certainly sets the mood.

  18. Strictly speaking we’re not a Third World country. What we’re fast becoming is one of the many countries in the world which has a very small middle-class. A study – political/social/economic – of countries with small and sometimes practically invisible middle-classes might give us an indication of where our own is headed.

  19. Felicity, you are quite correct. The vanishing middle class, so essential to a democratic republic, is what should concern us.

  20. I got 2 good ceramic dental caps for P1500 each in Manila

    P46 = US$1
    In a cheapo poor suburb dentist
    In Australia a cap wuold be AU$1200 plus several visits at AU$120?
    So 2 caps made airfare to Manila worthwhile.
    Caution: I got a root canal done in a “Flash” dental clinic in Bangkok for only half the Aus price, but it wasnt a very good job…. so you takes your chances…

  21. Fortunately I live near a ‘third world’ country–Mexico–where all my friends who don’t have insurance (and some who do) go for their medical and dental care. The doctor’s there are good, kind, compassionate and affordable. They take their time with you. My friend didn’t speak Spanish and didn’t know how to order meds from the local pharmacay in Naco, Sonora, so her doctor, walked her down the street to the pharmacy and helped her get them! I know people how retired to Mexico because for less than $300 a year they got the national health insurance there. By no means is Mexico perfect–so much suffering there, but–well you get my point.

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