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Four Absolute Rights

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I recently watched a documentary on Alcatraz, its origins and early years. I was struck by the comment of one of its former inmates who was being interviewed for the documentary. “There are four basic rights in prison….the right to food, water, shelter, and medical care. Everything else was a privilege” he said.

Now as you read this, I must tell you that I am a conservative. I am not an advocate of massive social programs, and I think people should work and make their way. I do not believe in the “dole” except for that very small number of our population who are mentally or physically unable to care for themselves, HOWEVER….

I don’t think anyone would quarrel with the fact that the United States is the last superpower on earth. Certainly not the only power, but the last real superpower. The only power who can, if necessary, stand alone against all others and still likely achieve its goal, whatever that may be.

We boast the strongest, largest and best equipped military on the planet, the highest per capita standard of living for our citizen’s, the best opportunities to achieve one’s goals, and many other “bests” and “brightests”. And the most important, of course, we have the highest and best sense of personal freedoms and our citizens are most protective of those freedoms.

All those things said, this best and brightest country is not without serious internal problems which scream to be addressed. I’m not even going to mention those important issues such as terrorism with its attendant sub-problems, energy production and conservation, and the environment. I’m not even going to talk about animal rights which, for those who know me, realize that what I am going to talk about must be serious indeed for me to leave that out.

In this land of 200,000,000 plus persons, more than 45,000,000 (im no math genius but that inches up on 25%), are uninsured (and does not include any veterans because veterans are eligible for heathcare through the veterans administration). Now that doesn’t mean those people are all precluded from getting their basic health care needs met, because a portion of those 45,000,000 persons are eligible for either state aid (medicaid), or federal benefits (medicare), and other assistance programs which means they can seek at least the most basic health care.

But a GROWING number of those 45,000,000 are comprised of the self employed or small business owner to whom private medical insurance premiums are cost prohibitive; the unemployed (or part time employed) who do not qualify for group benefits of former or present employers at a cost which is reasonable and affordable, or those labor for employers who do not offer group medical benefits to its employees. So what do those people do?

I’ll tell you what they do. They may visit a community doc in the box (primacare or other freestanding facility), or a private doctor for relatively minor illnesses which they can pay for out of pocket (because demonstrating one’s ability to pay is clarified up front when one doesn’t have insurance benefits). If they are injured or experience a trauma, they have the option of being treated at a county hospital supported by the community tax base, but they cannot get ongoing treatment for a chronic condition or catastrophic illness unless they can demonstrate that they live below the poverty level and can qualifiy for state aid so the facility can be paid by the state or federal government. Most just ride out their illnesses and pray to God that nothing serious or catastrophic befalls them, because if it does, they are screwed.

Now let us assume a person has worked in the labor force and paid social security and fica (income taxes – some in quite suprising amounts) for most of his or her adult life but is uninsured, and then contracts a serious or catastrophic illness. He or she is unable to work, but also has too many assets to qualify for aid from one of a number of sources. After unemployment runs out (assuming he wasn’t self employed), he or she applies for social security disability because of his or her inability to work. One of the requirements to qualify for such disability payments is a recent (within 12 months) set of medical records substantiating the illness or disability, including ekg’s, mri, ct scans, biopsies, exploratory surgeries, rehabilitation records, and physicians and hospital records. He or she cannot amass such records without paying for them upfront which in most cases means an out of pocket expenditure of between $5,000.00 and $25,000.00, which many people don’t have, or would have to liquidate their home or all their assets to acquire. They are denied the assistance because they can’t afford to “prove” the disability. It is the worst form of Catch-22.

Long before this became an issue I actively championed, I documented horror stories from regular, hardworking people, who faced these problems. If we can spend billions of dollars on aid to other countries, to rebuild and bring the necessary changes required to give them the most basic quality of life, then we have to address the healthcare of our own citizens. To fail in that, would be the most heinous mistake.

This country can be the world’s farmer, the world’s protector, the world’s eco-guard, the world’s technological leader, the world’s banker, the world’s watchdog over human rights, and every other “world” class cornerstone. It must solve the problem of healthcare for at least 25% of its own citizens before it can afford to be the end all to the world community.

We have the best corporate minds, the brightest think tanks, the most adept trouble shooters, and supposedly, the most righteous motives, right here in the United States. We solve problems of WORLD magnitude all the time. It has been tried, but the insurance lobby was too strong to even seriously discuss real change. We, the people, are responsible for the ultimate disposition of this issue. Insurance companies have a right to make a reasonable profit, doctors have a right to be paid, but people have a basic right to health care. That isn’t true everywhere on earth, but by God it is true in this country, and if it isn’t, it should be. One should not have to get sentenced to “The Rock” in order to claim this basic right.

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About Claire

  • Eric Olsen

    excellent job Claire – I don’t know what the answer is either: I don’t want to sacrifice quality of care nor remove the incentive of profit but it’s a pay me now or pay me later situation that doesn’t get better over time, with very real human consequences.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Not to mention that, as a nation, we’re overfeeding our kids and undernutritioning (??) them, and they will eventually turn into a nation of obese, lazy adults who expect drugs and other medical marvels to keep them alive. That particular cost of health care can’t be ignored.

  • Eric Olsen

    I’m 100% for mandatory phys ed all the way through high school, and kicking their fat, lazy, video game-addicted asses into shape. The parents of fat, slothful kids are failing their job miserably

  • Claire

    Eric…thank you so much for your comments. There are only three alternatives:

    1) Privatize universal healthcare where the “haves” pay for the “have nots”, not a new concept, but everyone gets coverage.

    2) Put universal healthcare into the hands of the government *shudder, which then becomes socialized medicine which is going to impact research, development, cost a fortune in administrative waste, congressional boondoggling, wasted time and effort, and will probably affect everyone’s care to some extent.

    3) A combination of the two where healthcare rocks along in the hands of the insurance goliaths for those who can afford the premiums (or whose employer’s can), and then relax (basically remove) the strict guidelines for medicaid/medicare which means everyone who can’t afford private insurance is covered. This solution will make it a two tiered health care system because there will be (as there are now) physicians who will refuse to treat “medicaid” patients.

    The government WILL NOT tread too heavily on insurance companies because their lobby is probably the strongest, with the Pharmaceutical Lobby running hand in hand with it, and they all want to be re-elected. It will be the poisonous pill of politics unless it is a bipartisan decision.

    A dilemma. But one which must be addressed by some of those good minds.

    Claire

  • Claire

    bhw…you are absolutely right, and
    “undernutritioning” (*grinning)works as a word for me. Teaching children good eating habits when they are young stick with them into adulthood. Thank you so much for commenting.

    Claire

  • Claire

    Eric..the mandatory phys ed and kicking their fat lazy asses out from in front of tv’s and video games is a good solution.

    But then we get into the inevitable question (which is going to require another blog), with the current state of education, how do we pick phys ed over science teachers, when choices have to be made? Hmmmmm…mind already clicking here..:) Thank you again.

    Claire

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    the inactivity of kids, and our society at large, it really a tough problem to solve…since there are so many reasons for it.

    heck, the very design of most of our towns literally prohibits walking to do anything. you’ve got to pull your butt off of the couch only to sit back down in the car just to go to the fricken ‘convenience’ store.

  • Claire

    Mark…*laughing and laughing…it is so true. Unless you live in urbanville like Manhattan, and then people still take taxis if they can find one…lol

    Good point, and thank you so much for commenting..

    Claire

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    i never thought much about suburban design until i read Suburban Nation.

    really worth checking out.

  • Claire

    Mark, I absolutely will! Thank you so much for the heads up…sounds like something I would like very much…

    claire

  • andy

    Just because it’s a right in prison does NOT mean it’s a right everywhere else. If you’re locked away, you have no way of taking care of yourself. All I can say is GET A JOB, preferably one that provides health care.
    Prisoners have to many rights as it is. Did you know that they won’t feed prisoners in this country MRE’s? That’s meals ready to eat for you non-military types. Because that’s considered cruel and unusual punishment!
    I did 20 in the USN, now for a measly little $115 a quarter I have health care for me and my entire family. Maybe everyone should try it. In MOST other countries around the owrld, some fomr of govt service is required by law.
    I also have a job that offers a health plan, it costs more than my Retired military plan so I don’t use it.

  • andy

    One more thing, most of those people getting those “4 basic rights” as you call them also lost one. The right to vote. So I guess, you win some you lose some.

  • Claire

    Andy…you seem to miss my point here. This is not about prisoners. The documentary on Alcatraz, and the statement of the former prisoner that medical care was one of his rights…gave rise to the issue that there are hardworking people throughout the country, most of whom HAVE jobs, who cannot afford healthcare. My posture is that healthcare IS a basic right, a right which many Americans do not have.

    I don’t think prisoners incarcerated for violent crime should have any rights..but since the law is that they are free from cruel and inhuman punishment, so be it.

    I’m very happy that you have such reasonable health care premiums. I’d take a very hard look at your policy and look hard at the limits of your coverage. Especially for catastrophic illness. I would also like the name of the company so that I may praise them from the highest rooftops if it is good, affordable coverage. You are the exception not the rule. Healthcare premiums exceed 500 per month for many families who are self employed, out of work and not under COBRA, and that is cost prohibitive to most. So they do without. In addition to your private coverage, you also have the right to medical care through the VA. Others do not.

    This is about healthcare, healthcare for hardworking people who cannot afford to go to the doctor, have surgery, buy prescription drugs, or seek other treatment they desperately need because there is no affordable health care coverage available to them, yet they have too many assets to qualify for state aid. The numbers grow daily…it will be 50,000,000 within a year. I’m sorry you missed the point of this. But I very much appreciate your taking the time to read and comment.

    Claire

  • andy

    The policy is called Tricare, it is only available to active and retired military and their dependants. I’m not sure who it’s administered by, but the coverage is good.
    My point is, what makes it a right? As I remember it, the only line is, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, nothing about health care.

  • Claire

    Andy, I am at a loss to even attempt to connect the dots on this. If you cannot see that the health of a country’s citizens is not implicitly related to “life and the pursuit of happiness”…then I don’t know what to say.

    I would, however, give you some information you might find helpful in the future. Tricare (formerly CHAMPUS)
    has had 654 complaints filed with two of fifty insurance boards/commissions throughout the United States (I can’t get the numbers on others until tomorrow). There are a myriad of websites devoted to the problems with Tricare. You get what you pay for, and this link is to the first web site set up to handle the problems back in 1998….you might want to keep the url, although I hope and pray you never have to use it.

    Peace,
    Claire

  • Claire

    It would be nice if I gave you the link, sorry…lol

    http://militarybenefits.org/

    Claire

  • andy

    When you consider that tricare handles close to a million customers, if not more, I would say 654 isn’t a bad ratio. And even if you multiply that 25 more times, it’s still not a bad number. I’m sure that EVERY health care plan has complaints from some limited number of customers. I mean, how else can guys like John Edwards make a living? You can’t please everyone.
    I understand what you’re saying, but I have a real problem with a welfare state. Anything that is given to the people has to be paid for by somebody and that somebody would be me.

  • andy

    Since I’ve retired from the USN, which was in 96, I’ve been lucky enough not to need any serious health care, my wife however, has had several different operations and all of it was outsourced to civilian medical centers. And I live very close to a very large Navy medical facility. One surgery, required a night in the hospital and it cost me a total of $50. I have no complaints.

  • andy

    The problem with any of those sources you may list talking about the problems with Champus and Tricare is that, as I’m sure you know, we live in a very litigeous(sp) society. People will sue for anything and everything. Maybe I’m just lucky, but I live in a military town and have many, many active and retired friends who have never had a problem with Tricare. They have always been quick to react to any need I’ve had in my 21 years of using the system. I say 21 because that’s how long I’ve been married. Before I was married, the Navy took care of me. After, Champus and Tricare took care of my wife and my 2 daughters. Both my daughters were born in civilian hospitals while I was on active duty. Everything was paid for by Champus. I think my first daughter cost me 25 and my 2nd cost me about 40. She stayed in the hospital for a couple of days, a little jaundice. All the prenatal care was outsourced for both, and all the child care after was outsourced. Every once in a while I would haveot use a military hospital, but they’ve alwasy been good to my girls also. What can I tell you. I guess, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet!

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    Claire, with the exception of career military and those injured while in the service, veterans do not necessarily get medical treatment from the government. There are plenty of veterans who do not have health coverage. Remember that our military is drawn disproportionately from low and middle-income people, those least likely to be covered. They are no better off after serving in that regard than before.

  • Claire

    Mac…Thank you so much for commenting and the information. Your information makes the situation even more heinous that it is now.

    The VA told me that any veteran who had served his full tour of duty, and was honorably discharged, was eligible to be treated at any VA facility, by any VA doctor…liars! Now I’m going to shove the information you have shared in their faces…:)

    Thank you so much,
    Claire

  • andy

    Now you hurt my feelings. I thought you might have been sleeping or something afer you didn’t comment on my last 3 posts. Did I say something that pissed you off? Or are you just “done” with me?

  • Claire

    Andy…many hugs, and of course I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings…I’m just working backwards…first ones in, last ones responded to…:) I appreciated your comments very much, and am delighted that you have not had any problems with Tricare. The complaints I mentioned from just two states were within the last quarter which was all I could get, but you are right…all insurance companies have their issues. (I hate them all)…

    I am very happy that your wife, and your babies were covered, and that you had minimal personal expense.

    The problem is, that doesn’t solve our problem does it? Most of us have not served in the military, or are dependents of active military…so we are still left with MILLIONS of people who can’t get the health care they desperately need.

    What do we do about it? I don’t want a welfare state either, hey, I’m a republican! LOL…But there has to be an answer that won’t burden the haves, but will still help the have nots. I think the insurance companies could give up a little of their profits which might be a good start…:)

    Claire

  • andy

    It’s ok, I don’t have any feelings anyway!
    Personally, I’m a registered Independant, but if I was to put myself with any particular party, I’d say I’m more of a Libertarian than anything else. I don’t believe I would vote for Badnarik, just because I think GWB needs my vote to keep that liberal MA senator out of the whitehouse.
    I don’t know the answer to this question either. The only thing I do kow is that I don’t want to pay for it.
    How about this, survival of the fittest!

  • Claire

    Andy…come sit by me! You said magic words in that comment *giggling.

    I don’t want to pay for it either, but some is going to have to…I think it is a collective moral duty. I wish they’d let me at ‘em for just a week :)

    Claire

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    You do NOT have a “right” to health care. I’m quite sympathetic to the laments of the people who can’t afford proper doctoring. That sucks.

    Nonetheless, you do not have ANY “rights” to demand that other people pay for stuff for YOU simply on the grounds of NEED. That is claiming the right to STEAL from people, though only for the most noble and meaningful ends- of course. Also of course, that’s what they all say.

    “From each according to ability, to each according to need” is the central tenet of Marxism. We can see how well that’s worked out.

    Prisoners properly get a right to expect health care because we have them locked up, and have taken total control of their lives. They are not allowed to go out and seek health care of their own, obviously. If we take over their lives, then we have to take over maintenance.

  • Shark

    AL: “You do NOT have a “right” to health care.”

    Do we have the right to ask the government to keep the ill, dying, and sick off our doorsteps?

    …Sorta like paying taxes to pick up the garbage?

    Thanks in advance: I’m always interested in new ways to avoid seeing too many sick people cluttering up my gated community.

  • Claire

    Shark…thank you for commenting. Your opinion (which I hope was tongue in cheek), is always valued…

    Not quite the humanitarian, eh? :)

    We have the right to demand that SOMEONE give the ill, dying and sick the right to treatment. But yes, you can kick them off your doorstep…trespassing, ya know…

    Claire

  • Claire

    Al, I am certainly no marxist, but we disagree on what “inherent rights” are…which is fine..thats what makes good debate…

    Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment!

    Claire

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    too bad those guys who wrote the constitution used language like “general welfare”.

    almost sounds a little commie-ish, if ya ask me. ;-)

  • Claire

    Mark, VERY good point…it fits nicely into my argument on inherent rights..:) I don’t think the had the commie mindset, they were just very wise…

    Hey, a link you will enjoy…:)

    http://www.geocities.com/chrisforliberty/welfare.html

    Claire

  • andy

    Claire, you seem to be one of these extremely big hearted people that “feels” for all the needy. I sure hope you don’t fall for those sally struthers commercials too!!!
    And I’d sit next to you any time!

  • Claire

    Andy…:) while I do “feel” for less fortunate people, I am not their activist, although I will certainly donate my time or whatever, to help if I can. My “causes” are health care, animal rights, and being able to die with dignity (narrow spectrum euthanasia)…I also am particularly interested in the space program (going where no man has gone before) and in stem cell research…:) in addition to my “politics”..lol….

    I will likely be unable to resist writing on those issues too…:)

    Saving you a seat…I’ll likely need you to have your horse handy…lol…

    Thank you again.

    Claire

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Miss Claire, this statement is dead wrong, “We have the right to demand that SOMEONE give the ill, dying and sick the right to treatment.”

    No, this would clearly be saying that you have a right to enslave other people to provide your needs. This is saying that the world does in fact owe you a living, and it is ultimately right in line with that central tenet of Marxism.

    The government could, however, reasonably do a number of things to make medical care more affordable, starting with tort reform and medical savings accounts.

    Mark, “general welfare” does not mean the personal welfare of each citizen. I find it unlikely that even the pinko crowd would really believe that the founders had such a thing in mind. “General welfare” would be something like the CDC.

    Again, being ill and without the means of paying for health care sucks, and it is a good thing to be concerned with wanting to ameliorate suffering. Nonetheless, that still does not give you any right to extract money from other people at gunpoint to pay for it.

  • andy

    Hmmm…animal rights…guess that might be a discussion for another blog…I will say this..i don’t leave my dogs outside, EVER! But I do enjoy a good piece of venison. Hope we don’t have a problem there!
    Oh yeah… I’ve never owned a fur coat…they just don’t look good on me.

  • Claire Robinson

    Bob, this was not a doctoral thesis, but a short opinion piece on which you have obviously missed the point.

    Disagree as much as you like, but DON’T call me honey. That is reserved for people who are gracious and debate with style.

    That is all.

    Claire

  • Claire Robinson

    oops, this post was meant for another thread…I will doublt post it…so it doesn’t miss its mark :)

    Claire