Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Death of A Child

One of the greatest tragedies is the death of a child, particularly when that death was preventable.

On the front page of the February 28 issue of the Washington Post*, the lead story was of a 12 year old boy dying because of a lack of dental insurance. A combination of poor nutrition and no regular dental care, he developed an infection in his brain after getting an abscessed tooth. What followed was a series of surgeries on his brain, seizures and eventually death from meningitis.

All for the lack of dental insurance and available Medicaid dental providers.

Sadly, this happened in Maryland, not far from that bastion of hypocrisy, Washington, DC. All senators, congressmen, judicial appointees and departmental appointees receive full medical and dental coverage. And, of course, the Decider and his henchmen all receive top medical care, courtesy of the American taxpayers. The people who continue to enjoy the privilege of quality health coverage (and get to vote themselves annual pay raises), are the ones who
have slashed Medicare, Medicaid and VA benefits while cutting taxes for the very rich.

A few years ago, I got into a particularly heated argument with a troll regarding universal health care. He made the remark:

"Health care is a privilege, not a right."

I asked him what the working class was supposed to do if they couldn’t afford health care – “join the military,” I asked. Not surprisingly, he seemed to think that was a rational solution. Unfortunately for the troll, even that is no longer a viable option. Just ask any of our military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Or better still, ask veterans of World War II, Korea or Vietnam. If they hadn't applied for benefits by 2003, they are no longer eligible for health care. Likewise, returning veterans now have a window of 24 months in which to apply for benefits or risk losing them forever.

The cruel irony of the Post story is that the attempt to save this child's life has resulted in over $250,000 in medical bills. Since his mother had lost her Medicaid benefits (one of the reasons her son had not been able to see a dentist), she will probably be billed for those expenses and then will be unable to claim bankruptcy, thanks to the Bankruptcy Bill. A simple program of annual dental checkups, including education on dental health, might cost around $100 a year per child – but that cost is too great for the conservatives and others who rally against the so-called “welfare state”.

What happens to a society when the poor, the sick, the disabled, the very young and the very old are expendable?

Take a good look at America. We’re there.

*[You will need to be registered at the Washington Post to view this article, however, registration is free.]


Post a Comment

<< Home