Health Kare in Amerika

This is how the poor in America get their health care now: once a year, in a cattle barn. This is the Remote Area Medical clinic in Wise, Virginia, as covered by a British newspaper.

They came by the thousands (1100 on the first of three days), out of the dark mountain hollows where they live, the sick and the lame and the hurting, the half-blind and half-deaf, drawn by a once-a-year chance to be given something they could never afford to buy for themselves: relief from their afflictions. They came in derelict, rattletrap, rusted cars and trucks, they came one or two days early and slept in their vehicles or in the fields to assure a place in line for a slightly better life.  Then they stood in lines hundreds and hundreds of people long, waiting like so many beasts of burden to be allotted a few minutes on a folding cot in a cattle barn to have teeth pulled, lesions sliced off,  blood drawn, tests administered.

These are not Haitians, or Yemenis, or Venezuelans, not denizens of some failed state in some poverty-ravaged, storm-lashed, drought-stricken country. These are citizens of the United States of America, which claims to be the richest (on average) country in the world (actually, the US is number 13, well behind Ireland, for example) and to have the world’s finest health care system (No again, that would be Denmark).

As they congregated in Wise, Virginia (tucked into the farthest southwest corner of the state) last weekend, the United States Senate and the Trump Administration was laboring mightily to drop them from Medicaid, the only coverage any of them has, which in any case does not provide dental care, eyeglasses or hearing aids. (With one notable exception: US Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia was working as a volunteer in the registration tent, something he has done every year this clinic has been held.)

The charity behind this annual free clinic (and many others around the world), Remote Area Medical, was founded by Stan Brock. He’s British. “This organisation was designed to parachute into the most God-awful places, he said. “I expected to see stuff like this in South Sudan and Haiti, but it’s right here in the United States of America.”  What further “drives me up the wall,” he told The Telegraph, is that most of these people blame former President Obama for their troubles and believe President Trump is coming to save them. Obama, who got tens of millions of them covered by Medicaid, and Trump, who seeks to expel them.

If you want to read details or see pictures of this horrid event, you will find them in British or Australian publications, or in the hyper-local press. There were no CNN cameras present, no world weary anchor babes to pretend empathy.

I have been a professional writer my whole life, and I have no idea what words to use to describe a country that has deliberately turned over the misery and illness and diseases and injuries of its people to be profit centers for voracious and amoral industrialists. To say such a country has descended to Third World status would be to offer a mortal insult to the entire Third World.   


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12 Responses to Health Kare in Amerika

  1. Is it deliberate? If we are this economically screwed, doesn’t it follow triage has already begun? In a collapse, more infrastructure than sewer pipes and bridges collapse. And capitalism is based on surplus and greed anyway, so by its very nature it is also failing. Sure, the greedy may make money by throwing the patients under the bus, but that is merely indicative of systematic collapse. I agree with your shock and dismay, but I also think there is nothing to be done at this point. Other countries doing better medically are doing so because of their culture, choosing basics over luxury. We pissed it all away on Happy Motoring. Notice how the poor coming in for service had cars still?

    • geo says:

      They need the cars to get to their jobs. That’s the U.S. economic model – to keep everyone in perpetual debt by driving gas guzzlers to wage-slave jobs.

  2. Kate says:

    Glad to see a new post from you…too long without one.

    The notion that Obama screwed them while Trump will save them is just one more of the obscenities that have flooded out of this administration. And we’re only six months in.

    Clearly the Republicans did a closer reading of 1984 than the Dems did. They learned how to present black as white and get buy-in.

    Facts don’t cut it; agitprop rules.

  3. Susan Helf says:

    This kind of medical event happens in a basketball arena in Seattle once or twice a year. The media barely reports on it anymore.

  4. kathleen Nelson says:

    ASHAMED is the word that keeps coming to my mind!
    Where is the news media? It’s way TOOOOOOOOO busy covering the “fake news”! These are OUR neighbors suffering in silence. Thank you, Tim Kaine, for your contribution; would it be too much to ask to bring this to the forefront?

  5. Tom says:

    It’s going to get a lot worse, and sooner than anyone expects. Healthcare is a racket, like war and politics.

    Enjoy the time you have, while you can.

    Thanks for taking time to report on this, Mr. Lewis.

  6. Dennis Mitchell says:

    Ashamed to be an American. This did happen under the Obama care umbrella. It is hard to not sound bitter about a “slightly better than nothing” solution. The democrats and republicans both are responsible. I don’t mean the politicians, I mean the voters who keep putting them back in office. A single payer system would help(democrat), but we desperately need to reign in the spiraling costs (republican). Instead of the best of both parties we get handed a stinking rotting carcass hand crafted by lawyers for the soulless benefit of corporations.

    • Daniel Reich says:

      Where do you come off blaming voters? For whom should they vote? We have no choices. It’s a one party system disguised as two. All progressive candidates are blackballed by the corporate media. I told over a hundred people about Jill Stein. They had no idea who she is. As for Bernie we all know what the party operatives did to him. The media pointed their cameras at empty podiums instead of covering Sander’s speeches. No, it’s not the fault of the voters. It’s the greedy bastards that have us all by the neck. Obviously, they are done with us. No need for our labor now that they have a global market. We are nothing but a nuisance to them now. We are looked down upon with contempt. If that makes you mad, good. It’s about fucking time.

      • Paul says:

        Time, then, to stop voting for them, stop banking with them, stop watching their entertainment, stop buying their junk. Stop interacting with them and form communities and cooperatives again.

  7. Susan says:

    A number of organizations providing these types of services, and bless them. For example, check out The Human Path, going to remote areas of the UNITED STATES to provide clean water systems and medical care, and using primarily herbal medicines, which are much more sustainable over the long term. This is the good work these days.

  8. Randy C says:

    I lived in Virginia for about 20 year, 11 years in Northern Virginia working for the federal government, then another nine in Southwest Virginia operating a small creamery making and selling cheese. The northern part of VA does very well with all the government and military money there, Southwest VA does okay with the railroads and universities, but the Far Southwest VA, as it is called, is very poor, it was once coal and tobacco county but those industries have mostly ended. I looked at land out there and am glad I didn’t buy there. Very poor and backwards. Not that different from South West Virginia and eastern Kentucky to the north. I feel for those people. I have since relocated to Minnesota. Minnesota cares about its population. Homeless people here have access to good quality healthcare. I had Minnesota Blue Cross before I found a job.

  9. Daniel Reich says:

    The poorest always suffer first. But all this and more is coming to a neighborhood near you. Sooner than later.