Old People

     In my weekly conversations with my aunt, we talk about politics mostly and occasionally the intersection of religion and politics. She is a strong Christian, and my grandfather was a Christian preacher.
     But it is not the Bible-selling, me-and-my-money-comes-first Christianity of the Republican Party, it is a fundamentalist but liberal group (oddball combination, for sure) that believes the original teachings of Christ had a lot to do with helping the poor and not killing people.
     So we were talking a few weeks back about Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate. My aunt, who is over 80, zeroed in right away on Ryan’s views on health care.
     Riffing on the Good Book, she said, “The old people will rise up!”
     I finished it for her, “And smite him down.”
     I said that try as he might to seem otherwise, Romney projected an empty shell of conviction and ideology, and Ryan filled that shell and gave the ticket a clear definition.
     As it turns out, Ryan has defined the ideology of the Republican campaign. And my aunt’s prediction is coming true.
     I read today that a New York Times poll shows that three quarters of the voters want to keep the system of government support for health care the same. A majority believes that Obama would protect the system better than Romney. The respondents, especially the old people, do not like the word “voucher.”
     So, like the used insurance salesman at their heart, the Republican stalwarts are now pushing the term “premium support.”
     The voucher system takes an overly expensive but high-quality government system and turns it into a cheaper, private system of low quality, like Kaiser.
     A friend of mine who is a nurse told me about a Kaiser salesman who came to her mother’s door and persuaded her mother to sign a contract turning over her right to government medical benefits in exchange for Kaiser care.
     Her mother later died of lymphoma diagnosed only in the final stage, after repeated visits to a Kaiser facility that simply sent her back home undiagnosed.
     That story is eerily familiar to that of my father, a member of the enormous and powerful teachers’ union in California that negotiates Kaiser coverage for its members.
     He, too, was routinely underdiagnosed by Kaiser — a major blood clot was called a sprained ankle, for example — and then died of an enormous cancer tumor that Kaiser doctors repeatedly diagnosed as a groin pull.
     That is what the voucher system will get you.
     Included with the Almanac is a list of new civil cases filed in the Central District, and our news service now provides that same reporting throughout the nation. I have set up an alert that tells me anytime Kaiser is sued.
     It is amazing how frequently they get hit, once or twice a day in general. In trying to catch up on my email before a holiday, what is left are the alerts on Kaiser suits, and they are like cancer cells themselves, multiplying until they take over my email.
     Scanning down the list, here’s a suit from a medical doctor filed in Sacramento Superior Court saying Kaiser put profits ahead of patient care.
     Here’s another from a patient filed in Orange County Superior Court last month, saying Kaiser treated her for chicken pox, and only after she sought a second option and obtained her medical records from Kaiser, did she find out that a 12-by-16 centimeter mass was located in her chest and she had lymphoma.
     Sounds awfully familiar. That is what Ryan and Co. will bring to your family.

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