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"We cannot stop people from getting sick or hurt, but we can stop killing them with our lack of action to change the system that snuffs out their lives," writes Donna Smith. (Photo: Public Citizen)

Our Health Care Dead Matter Less Than War Dead?

Donna Smith

The photos are horrific of the dead and injured from the most recent escalation of warfare in Palestine.  Seeing dead children who have their small bodies ripped apart by weapons of war forces me (and others I suspect) to confront the realities of our violent, war-prone world.  I hate war.  It hurts to see the photos, and I always have a hard time understanding why we have all had to assert our power since the beginning of recorded history by killing one another.  Will we ever advance beyond settling our differences with war?

Then I also think about the 123 people dying every day in the U.S. without access to the health care that might have saved their lives.  This is a war too.  It is a war waged by the rich and powerful against those without enough money or power.  People suffer and die needlessly and invisibly since no one takes their photos or speaks of them on the evening news.  Do their lives matter less than those of the war dead in the Middle east?  Apparently so.  Or we'd see the pictures and we'd hear the stories and we'd stop blaming these health care dead for not being rich enough or powerful enough to access care.

Couldn't those Palestinian families have moved to safer areas to avoid the bombs and drone strikes?  Couldn't the Israeli soldiers killed have avoided the tunnels or even avoided military service that put them in harm's way?  As ludicrous as those suggestions sound with their obvious difficulties for the people in the war zone, we seem to think the health care dead might have done things differently if they had just wanted to badly enough.  Else, why would we deny their deaths and ignore their suffering?

We've kept track of the Americans killed in the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002.  And we ought to all know that 6,717 Americans died in those wars along with many thousands more civilians.  If we calculated the daily number of dead Americans in these wars, we come up with approximately 1-2 Americans killed each day.  And we are saddened by these deaths. Often the war dead are young people with full lives ahead of them until they were dead.  This is true of our health care dead too since most seniors can access care through their Medicare coverage.  

I want the patient stories to be recorded and told.  I want photos and videos of those we have placed in harm's way in our profit-driven health care system  The post Affordable Care Act/Obamacare stories must be recorded and shared if we are ever to end the cruel health care warfare that kills so many innocents day after day.  We cannot keep denying their suffering or allowing our ignorance to shield us from the reality.

Civilians, including all those children, who are killed in military action are often considered collateral damage and an unfortunate but necessary cost for pursuing the overarching reason(s) for the war -- whatever they may be. Those who die in the U.S. because they lack access to life-saving health care or the money/coverage to secure that care are collateral damage in the unending quest for personal wealth and corporate profits and the all American freedom to pursue both.  Is there really such a big difference between those killed in war and those killed knowingly and frequently for profit?

We need improved and expanded Medicare for all for life.  There are only a few reasons why we do not have full access to needed care -- and all of those reasons are economic and largely based on false assertions about the very scary prospects of a single-payer system.  We can end the war against the sick and injured in America by providing a single standard of high quality care for all without financial barrier.  We cannot stop people from getting sick or hurt, but we can stop killing them with our lack of action to change the system that snuffs out their lives.  

Take photos and record the videos. Share the stories... please. Let's at least try to recognize that these lives mattered as much as those in the war zones in other parts of the world.  Could we ask for a cease-fire on our health care battlefield?  Because while we wait to see what happens in the political world through every new election cycle, the numbers killed rise, our capcity to look the other way grows, and our society becomes ever more disconnected from the kind of peaceful existence many of us had hoped would be unfolding in the 21st century.


August 9, 2014 --  Today's count of the health care dead and broke for profit in the U.S.:

The 2014, to date, U.S. medical-financial-industrial -complex system dead: 26,691

The 2014, to date, U.S. health care system bankrupt: 429,226

** These figures are calculated based on the Harvard University studies on excess deaths in the U.S. due to lack of insurance coverage or the ability to pay for needed health care, and the Harvard University study that calculated the high percentage of personal bankruptcies attributable to medical crisis and debt in the U.S. 123 people die daily due to lack of coverage or cash to pay for care; 1,978 go bankrupt every day due to medical crisis and debt though the majority had insurance at the time their illness or injury occurred. This statistic is also based on the 1.2 million bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2012, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and calculating those medically-related bankruptcies from that number.

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Donna Smith

Donna Smith

Donna Smith is the former executive director of Progressive Democrats of America and currently a Medicare for All campaign surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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