Why Isn’t 122 Dead Americans Every Day a National Health Emergency?

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CommonDreams.org

Why Isn’t 122 Dead Americans Every Day a National Health Emergency?

Why does H1N1 call for a Presidential designation as a national emergency while the preventable deaths of 45,000 Americans every year (122 every day) is not?

Swine flu leads the news. You can die from swine flu, or should we say H1N1, even if you have no underlying health conditions. Young people have died, and pregnant women are at risk. People are lining up to be vaccinated. Health professionals are at risk due to poor preparations at some health facilities. As many as 1,000 deaths have occurred due to this flu outbreak. It's scary out there.

But the swine flu is no match for the killing going on at the hands of the for-profit healthcare system in these United States. We bury kids, pregnant moms, babies, teens, young fathers, mid-lifers and older folks too without even batting an eye in the chambers of power in this nation.

Some have termed it the spine flu as they say it is the failure of our leadership to stand up to the money interests promoting and protecting this system. But it is worse than simply failing to stand up to the for-profit insurance industry, the big pharmaceutical companies, the large hospital conglomerates, the medical equipment profiteers and the financial service industry salivating at the prospects of more suffering and more want for healthcare in this nation.

There is no lack of spinal fortitude in this lot of legislators or in the Oval Office. They stand up to the American people just fine. We voted for a man who told us he knows healthcare is a basic human right yet we have a President who is not willing to issue a cease fire in this profit-driven healthcare war upon his own citizens. We swept in with him large numbers of Congressional members who said they got it -- they would stop the carnage at the hands of the broken system.

But we are told to wait. It's hard -- they say -- to get their bipartisan reform done. Blue Dogs might be upset. The Republicans want to protect the free market of death-care, and the Democrats want to stay in office. So they all stand up all right, they stand up for their own self-interests and the death count rises ever higher each day.

Yet, they dribble and dawdle and bumble and act as though it's just too damned difficult to immediately stop the losses. Extend Medicare like coverage to all, right now, and then haggle about the details later boys and girls.

Issue an executive order, President Obama. Declare a national emergency. No one else denied care when it is available. Save the lives of as many as you can right now. It could be that simple. Really.

It is a national health emergency in this nation when pregnant 24-year-olds like Jenny Fritts of Indiana are turned away for appropriate care because she doesn't have a way to pay for it and she dies along with her baby. It is a national emergency when teenagers like Nataline Sarkisyan are denied lifesaving treatments until protests grow loud enough to pressure the insurance industry and she dies due to that delay and the need to protest.

So, if the hospital that killed Jenny Fritts had treated her (and her unborn child) and was then worried about the money to cover her care, is that something we can fix? That's an issue we have time to haggle over. But the time to save Jenny came and went. We allowed her to be killed. And because we all know these deaths are happening every single day in every single state in this nation, we are all to be held to account.

The media doesn't help either. They are leading the news with the swine flu fears but completely ignoring the kids and moms and dads and neighbors dying underfoot for a lack of healthcare of any kind when they need it. Shameful excuse for journalism in most cases, I'm afraid.

A public health emergency is defined as "an occurrence or imminent threat of an illness or health condition, caused by bioterrism, epidemic or pandemic disease, or novel and highly fatal infectious agent or biological toxin, that poses a substantial risk of a significant number of human fatalities or incidents of permanent or long-term disability. Such illness or health condition includes, but is not limited to, an illness or health condition resulting from a national disaster."

What do we not understand about the appropriate role of our elected and democratic government to protect us from such a threat killing 122 of us every day? As far as I am concerned, the whole lot of them is not fulfilling their legal duties to me or to the rest of the citizens of this nation. They are failing in the most fundamental way to protect for the common welfare and common good of this nation.

Declare the emergency, Mr. President. Back him up, Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid. Treat the sick. There is time to fight the payment battle. Healthcare is a basic human right in America.

Donna Smith

Donna Smith is the Executive Director of Health Care for All Colorado and the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation. 

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