Cancer is a horrible word. Everyone is affected, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will get a cancer diagnosis in their lifetimes. Everyone is affected – either personally or when it impacts someone they love.
In so many Hollywood films of yesteryear, American soldiers and war veterans-- particularly those of the World War II era-- are depicted as valiant, well-adjusted warriors who have fought for their country. They smile, even if they are wounded. Upon coming home, they are ever-willing to be embraced by their loved ones while disappearing into the mainstream and getting on with their lives.
Anyone who's jumped off a haystack or played on a trampoline, knows the pleasurable feeling of weightlessness, wherein there are, for a fleeting moment, no more sagging body parts.
Felix Baumgartner, a 43-year old Austrian military parachutist, intentionally jumped from a capsule 24 miles up, on Oct 14, thus certainly knowing weightlessness for a decent amount of time. And what a fascinating lot of physics the man who fell from space experienced!
Late last month, renowned cyclist and cancer activist Lance Armstrong was stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from competitive sport. Mr. Armstrong has repeatedly denied the allegations, and has only tested positive once for a banned substance -- cortisone -- for which he provided a prescription. The prohibited steroid was in a doctor-provided cream used by many riders to treat saddle sores.
Have you ever heard of Leon Cooperman? He is a billionaire whose 1500 word letter of complaint to President Obama has made him the darling of the top one tenth of one percent. In the NEW YORKER’s October 8 issue he is profiled in a fascinating article that quotes from his letter.
I am reprinting the entire letter with my comments interspersed:
As much as medical care, public policy decisions have a tremendous impact on Americans’ health care. And there is no decision more important than next week’s Presidential choice.
Americans who watched the 2000 Presidential election – including Al Gore – know that it’s not the nation’s total popular vote that chooses the President. In fact, there have been a total of three Presidents elected while losing the national popular vote.
As I record this commentary, there is a powerful storm approaching the East coast. The last hurricane to hit this area affected a number of people in my office. One of the women who had worked for me lived in Schoharie. Her home and family were OK but she was devastated by what happened to her town. This time, my thoughts are in Brooklyn where my son and his family live – near the water but in the area that serves as a port so we hope more protected.
I’m no meteorologist. So how do you talk about a storm?
As the shadow of a doomsday triad looms over the coming first week in November, this WW-II combat-veteran-turned-commentator is compelled to dwell on an over-riding truth, that any military commanders who have seen war’s effects on the bodies, minds and spirits of combatants must – ever after – become reluctant warriors. This does not make them more timorous or less diligent in carrying out the savage and frightful actions that combat leadership compels; it does, though, constrain them from committing those they command to needless or foolhardy slaughter.
At the Republican convention, Senator Rick Santorum told a story I could have told. At birth, he said, his daughter’s hands were “just a little bit different and I knew different wasn’t good.” At birth my son’s hands were clenched and quivering in seizure.
Now I know the Senator and I share the brotherhood of vigilance. We have known the long nights watching hospital monitors for reassurance that our baby is still alive. I know how much, admirably, he left unsaid—the change in expectations, the frustration over pains that can’t be soothed, the exhaustion of constant concern.
The Senator told his story as an anti-abortion message. “We didn’t let go,” he said. He thanked God America still has one party that says that “each of us has dignity and all of us have the right to live.”
But which party is that? Paul Ryan’s budget, which candidate Mitt Romney has said he supports and the Republican House already adopted, would deeply cut funding for Medicaid, the very program that supports the medical costs of disabled children. For the mother who has been told she is carrying a child who will face difficulties, Medicaid provides the financial security to choose not to let go. Medicaid protects disabled children, but also most of the residents of nursing homes. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that by 2050 the Ryan Plan would reduce the projected federal spending on Medicaid by over 70%.[i]
Instead, the Ryan Plan shifts Medicaid costs to states, more so each year. States are not likely to be able to make up the lost federal money except by cutting people from the program. The Kaiser Foundation estimates that in just nine years, the Ryan Plan would force states either to cut payments or to reduce enrollment by almost half.[ii]
A few years ago, my child had a fall at school. He hit his head and developed that staple of television hospitals, an epidural hematoma. Bleeding under his skull was increasing pressure on his brain with each heartbeat. Without immediate surgery he would have died. Our insurance paid for a helicopter ambulance to take him to a trauma center. Our insurance paid for the surgery and hospitalization. Medicaid helps us pay for that insurance.
Once my son was well enough, we moved from intensive care to a shared room, which had many beds. Changes to Medicaid were being debated then as well and I remember wondering who among the politicians calling for cuts would be willing to come to that room and tell parents precisely what their child would no longer be able to afford.
The Ryan cuts are far deeper. So I wonder again, is Paul Ryan himself going to walk into a room of ten beds and push half of them back into the hallway? Will he clip the IV drips? Deny the pain meds? Will he pull the respirators?
There is a deeper kind of dishonesty than saying things that aren’t true. Paul Ryan’s proposed cuts to Medicaid can have only two outcomes. Either the unreimbursed costs will be passed along as ever higher medical fees. Or children will die. They will miss preventive care, they will wait too long, they will be denied care. Pretending to value children while withdrawing the supports they need is unforgivable dishonesty.
David Gilbert Keith is a father and independent researcher living in Deerfield, Massachusetts.