Let’s meet three people—one tragic, one heroic, and one both—whose lives make the case for universal healthcare on a SinglePayer model.
First up is Michael Keenan. Six years ago many people learned his name when he dived into the San Francisco Bay to rescue a couple who’d accidentally driven their car into it. Now, a man apparently given to heroic acts, Michael is in the hospital. He ran into the burning house of a friend to save his dog. The dog survived; Michael got burned over 80% of his body and his life hangs in the balance. Here’s the sick part: his friends have put up a Web site to raise donations for http://michaeljameskeenan.blogspot.com/ his recovery (go help!). No one should have to figure out how to do Web marketing or hold bake sales to pay for health care. It is a universal, basic human right that our society should work together to guarantee. A teacher at my husband’s school was recently selling candy bars because her friend had a brain injury and needed an operation—and if he didn’t sell enough candy bars, he wouldn’t get the operation and die. This is barbaric, and every one of us is morally obligated to work to a fundamental re-ordering of our healthcare system’s priorities. (And yes--the teachers' friend had health "insurance," but he'd hit his caps. That's one reason California's nurses have been arguing against any healthcare proposal that tries to carve out a role for private health insurance companies--they are in the business of denying care, not providing it.))
We don’t know the name of the second man. All we know is that he’s paraplegic and apparently homeless. CNN reports that Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles took this man to the city’s gritty Skid Row and dumped him. We don’t know how he ended up at the hospital, or if he came in with a wheelchair, but he was left on the street, in a dirty robe, with a broken colostomy bag hanging out of him. He was crawling on his hands and knees in one of the roughest neighborhoods on the West Coast. To the hospital, it’s just business, completely logical within our market-oriented health care system. That's why we have to change that logic.
And the heroine? Meet Tangerine Brigham. Tangerine is running point on what has to be the single most exciting health project in the country:
If all goes well, San Francisco will be the first major city in the nation to provide health care coverage for its uninsured residents -- 82,000 by some estimates -- who earn too much money to qualify for Medi-Cal, the state's public health care insurance program.
Nope, it’s not exactly SinglePayer, but San Francisco is at least crafting genuine universal healthcare—and pushing the debate forward for SinglePayer healthcare. Tangerine is the one making sure it happens, and someone who will end up affecting the lives of at least 82,000 people, most of whom will never hear her name—and she might end up having an impact of many more people. It’s not often government workers get called heroines, but Tangerine deserves it.