I'm a Democrat. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you probably guessed that fact. In fact, I go to caucuses every couple of years (unlike 99% of my fellow democrats), make modest contributions to political campaigns when I can afford it, and have served in a variety of petty political party offices like precinct captain, vacancy committee member, volunteer campaign worker and state convention delegate over the years. I've even served as a treasurer for a county commissioner candidate when I lived in Grand Junction. This is hardly big time political participation, but it does come with some privileges. One of those privileges is that I know most of my local Democratic party elected officials personally. My state representative is Anne McGihon (State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff represents the other side of the park after the current round of redistricting, and I know him too).
Right now, Colorado's legislature is not in session. But, an elected official's work is never done. I had the delightful chance to talk to Anne for a while this week and found out what she was up to these days. She is heavily occupied fighting a sometimes lonely, brave political battle that needs to be fought, even when it isn't on the front pages of the national papers every day. She is working to help Coloradans gain greater access to health care. One day, she's talking to drug company representatives, explaining to them that they could sell more drugs if more people who needed them had a way to pay for them. Another day she's off to a conference of doctors, explaining why it would be a better thing in more people could get care.
Anne knows and I know that Colorado is not going to turn around next legislative session and solve all of the world's health care issues. Until Colorado passes Referendum C, TABOR prevents the state from spending even all the money it collects with existing taxes, and nothing but baby steps can be taken in the right direction. But, change doesn't happen over night. Second, third and fourth tier influential people need to be won over one by one to the very idea that increasing access to health care is a good thing, before any kind of proposal can avoid their vehement opposition. It is hard work and I back her in it 100%.
As I noted a few days ago, 18,000 Americans die every year in this country from lack of health insurance. NPR just had a story yesterday or the day before about a man who was evacuated from a hospital in New Orleans on the eve of receiving brain surgery that he needed. Now, because he doesn't have health insurance, his prior arrangements have fallen apart and no hospital will take him. The man will probably die, another quiet casualty of a failed health system. I know a man, who is a member of an internet community which I am also a part of, who goes by the handle WinAce. He too needs major medical intervention or he will die in a matter of months. He too can't get it because he doesn't have health insurance. I had a client who injured his hand in an accident in a bar. The doctor told him that his hand would be permanently impaired if he didn't receive surgery in a matter of weeks. The legal system doesn't work that fast. He eventually got a preliminary offer of some medical payments without resolving the entire case from the bar owner. But, the money came too late to do the surgery. My client will be permanently impaired as a result in a hand he needs to use to do his manual labor job because he didn't have health insurance. Now that Colorado has abandoned the "no fault" system of car insurance, many Coloradans who lack health insurance will face similar dilemnas. Businesses are frustrated too. Starbucks spends more on health insurance than it does on coffee.
The payoff may be a long time in coming. The outrage isn't nearly what is should be considering that nations like Cuba get health care outcomes for the average person better than those in the United States. But, I admire people like Anne who take the time to do the groundwork which may, someday, maybe many years from now, bring about sufficient political will to make the system better. As Margaret Mead once said:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
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