Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Mesage to the Pope

That's what unionized Catholic school teachers have. They're demanding a living wage, and objecting to the church's insistence they pay 10% of their health benefits. I can't say I blame them, as the movement toward less, rather than complete, insurance for working people is troubling indeed.

On weekends, I play music, and I work with a lot of people who have no health insurance. I met a banjo player last year and we argued about health insurance. He called himself a libertarian, and complained about liberals (like me) who thought we ought to have universal health insurance like every other industrialized country. It was entitlement, it was too expensive, we needed choices, and I don't remember what else he said.

A few months ago, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Apparently, he'd avoided seeing doctors for a long time, and his prognosis is not good at all. He had to divest himself of all his worldly possessions and apply for Medicaid. Last week we played a benefit for him. Here in the USA, you don't get help until you lose your home, your money, your job, and pretty much everything. It's an unconscionable system.

Two weeks ago, I had a job opening for a professional touring bluegrass band. We went out to lunch with them. I sat across from another banjo player (I no longer talk politics with banjo players) and we talked about where he came from, music, and the food at the restaurant, which was pretty good. I couldn't help but notice he was the only guy in the band who wasn't overweight.

Three days later, he had a heart attack and died. He'd been having chest pains, but didn't have insurance (banjo-playing is not the most lucrative job around), and didn't want the expense of seeing a doctor.

The Pope ought to insist that Catholic school teachers get complete health coverage, and that all Americans get complete health coverage. It's preposterous that in this country people can no longer use catastrophic medical emergency, the no. 1 grounds for bankruptcy, as grounds for bankruptcy.

We ought to all have coverage, there ought not to be such a thing as bankruptcy due to catastrophic medical emergency, and the Pope, along with the leaders of every other religion, ought to make universal health care in the US a moral imperative. If we can pay 3 billion dollars a week for an endless and pointless war, we can surely afford to help our own people.

And that includes the Catholic school teachers, of course.
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