Thursday, April 24, 2008

Baltimore Jonny and the Rest of Us

Stories like this one (if you use that link, scroll down to see it) are beginning to seriously freak me out. World-class fiddler Jon Glik from Baltimore had been ill for quite a while. Online appeals for medical funds and benefit concerts had popped up to help him, but it's really tough when you don't have medical insurance in the US of A, and it's not easy for people who work as musicians to afford insurance.

Now sure, you might say, people shouldn't be musicians, and they should work in factories or oil drawbridges instead. I'd argue that musicians add something to our society even if they don't make as much money as, say, hedge fund operators. So as I encounter these various tales of ailing musicians, and I hear plenty, I feel ashamed that we're the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't routinely take care of our own.

Jon Glik was lucky. As a much-beloved musician, he'd met someone at a square dance (of all places) who was able to help him out. Also, he qualified for a state program that helped him out when he was set to get the liver transplant he needed. A few weeks ago, I worked with a musician who was not so lucky. He'd been having chest pains, and he ignored them (having no health insurance). Several days after I saw him, he had a heart attack and died.

And you and yours (and me and mine, and our neighbors) might not be lucky either, if you haven't got insurance. If you're middle-class or anything close to it, you'd have to divest yourself of pretty much everything you have before you qualified for Medicaid. Also, catastrophic medical emergencies are now no longer grounds for debt relief under bankruptcy, thanks to the credit card companies, the US Congress, and George W. Bush.

Some argue against national health care. Some point out shortcomings in the Canadian and European systems. I've no doubt there are shortcomings. But we can do better than this. It behooves us to do better than this.

Listen to Jon:

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