Sunday, October 4, 2009

Letting Those 44,000 People Die

Perhaps the most controversial event of the last week was the feisty speech made on the Congressional floor by Rep. Alan Grayson D-FL arguing that the Republican health care plan can be outlined as follows:

2. And if you do get sick…


That’s right; the Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.
If the idea was to get attention, it worked. Grayson subsequently has made a number of appearances on different news shows, most notably this one on CNN.

Saying that Republicans want sick people to die quickly is more than a bit over-the-top. But had Grayson given his speech without the hyperbole, would anyone have paid attention? For better or worse, the media wants provocative sound bites to put on the air. In his discussion on CNN, Grayson explained that he was thinking about the over 44,000 who die annually in the US
according to a recent study from lack of health insurance and wanted a way to convey the urgency of the situation.

More than 44,000 Americans die every year – 122 every day – due to lack of health insurance.

That’s the startling finding of a new study –
Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults – that appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The 44,000 dead a year estimate is about two-and-a-half times higher than an estimate from the Institute of Medicine in 2002.

The next day in his
"apology" speech he focused more on these estimated 44, 789 Americans.

…that is more than 10 times the number of Americans who died in Iraq. It’s more than 10 times the number of Americans who died in 9/11. But that was just once. This is every single year.
And in an obvious message to the pro-lifers he had this to say…

Let’s remember that we should care about people even after they are born.

Unwisely, he ended the "apology" speech by referring to the dying as a “holocaust” for which he later
apologized to the Jewish Community despite the fact that he himself is Jewish and had relatives who died in the Holocaust.

To top it off, in
a fundraising speech, he had this to say about the Republicans:

Just what do these people think health care means? It's not some abstract "issue", we're talking about life and death! And the Republicans, who ran the government in full or in part from 2001-2009, chose to let those 44,000 people die, every single year when they were in power. And George W. Bush, whom the Republicans somehow pretend was not President for the last eight years, just let them die. He even vetoed health care for poor children.
These are strong words. While it may be unfair to say that anybody made a conscious decision to let people die, actions do have consequences. If the study is correct (and the opposition has not questioned its validity, only Grayson’s choice of words), roughly 122 people will die every day in America until we finally pass a reform bill.

I can’t help but think of the
Miracle on the Hudson back in January where the pilot became a hero for saving the lives of 155 people. Had those people died, there would have been outrage over the air traffic safety system and memorials would have undoubtedly been erected to the dead. But the difference is that when 155 people die in one place on one day, it is a tragedy. When roughly 124 people scattered across the country die needlessly each day, they become little more than a statistic.

While I cannot agree with all of the words that Grayson chose, he did express the outrage that we need to have for these dying people. So when we see endless delay by Republicans and some conservative Democrats — many of whom are financially enriched by the same health insurance industry that opposes any real reform — we need to think about those people who are needlessly dying each and every day in America and ask — Where is the outrage?

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