A Tale of Two Cancers
It was the worst of times, it was the most uncertain of times, it was the age of greed, it was the age of folly, it was the epoch of cruelty, it was the epoch of malice, it was the season of darkness, it was the season of cold, it was the summer of fear, it was the winter of despair…
A Senator has brain cancer. He is immediately flown to the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, one of the best healthcare centers in the entire world. He has a cutting edge surgery that appears to have removed all of his tumor. He will receive chemotherapy, radiation and any other treatment necessary to increase his odds of survival.
The Senator does not need to worry about the financial implications of his treatment. He has a high quality health insurance plan that is subsidized by taxpayers. His base salary as a Senator is $174,000 per year. As a result of his career in government, he is worth an estimated $21 million. His job allows him to be absent as much as needed for his recovery, without consequence.
The Senator is so well cared for that he is able to fly to Washington D.C. only 11 days after having brain surgery. He took a private jet.
The Senator cast the deciding vote on the motion to proceed on repealing the Affordable Care Act. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that, in the best case scenario, 20+ million Americans would lose their access to health care. In the worst case scenario, it would be 32+ million.
Another man has cancer. His is pancreatic cancer. He is self-employed as a cabinet maker and martial arts instructor. He is fortunate enough to have insurance, though it is a poor policy. His insurance decides to not approve his immediate treatment. He sits and waits, after his diagnosis of cancer, for three weeks without treatment while he is jaundiced and rapidly losing weight. Family eventually has to take him to an emergency room and demand they admit him and start treatment. His insurance finally relents.
The man is at a good hospital, but it’s no Mayo Clinic. His family has to drive him several hours to the hospital. His surgery goes well. He begins chemotherapy. His insurance has a high deductible and only covers 80% of his costs. His friends have to start a GoFundMe to help cover his expenses. He is already tens of thousands of dollars in debt. It will be hundreds of thousands before his treatment is complete.
Since he is self-employed, he has no paid vacation. He cannot leave his job indefinitely with no consequence. He cannot afford home health care during his chemotherapy. His family has to take turns coming to stay with him. Their jobs don’t cover medical leave either, so they are all financially burdened by providing his care.
One man is a Senator. The other is self-employed. They are both human. They are both loved by their families. They both have people who count on them. They both improve their communities. They both have friends. But only one is being adequately cared for.
The contrast in these two tales is why we must fight for medicare for all.
It is a far, far better thing that we do, than we have ever done; it is a far, far better future that we go to than we have ever known.