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Healing Wounds After Boston Bombings

By Benjamin Day, Director of Organizing, Healthcare-NOW! –

The Boston area, where I live and grew up, has been feeling smaller and smaller since the Marathon bombings and unprecedented manhunt for those responsible. When the names of victims were gradually released to the public, I was astonished by how many I knew or were known by friends. Krystle Campbell, who lost her life in the bombing, was an acquaintance of mine and a coworker of my closest friends a number of years ago. It took an unthinkable act of violence to realize how closely knit our community already was – rarely more than one or two relationships removed from one another – and we had just never needed to rely on the full extent of our community for support until now.

I was struck that our community’s first concern was about the ability of those injured to afford their long-term health care costs. Even among the 282 injured who have health insurance, many will face unaffordable costs since what is seen as quality coverage in the United States typically imposes strict limits on physical therapy, mental health visits, and contributions towards things like prosthetic limbs or modifications to homes necessary to accommodate new disabilities. A “One Fund Boston” set up by the City and State has raised over $10 million in its first week to help pay for these costs. Friends of the victims’ families have set up their own online fundraising drives in the hopes that they will be able to receive comprehensive treatment. A “Bucks for Bauman” fund established to help Jeff Bauman, who lost both of his legs in the blast, has raised over $600,000 in response to the Fund’s plea that “Medical bills are going to start rolling in, let’s get a head start on helping out Bauman and his family! Every dollar counts!!” Similar funds for Brittany Loring; Nicole and Michael Gross; Celeste and Sydney Corcoran; Patrick Downes and Jess Kensky; Ann and Eric Whalley; William, Mary Jo, and Kevin White; and others who were severely injured, have raised millions from small donors across the country.

It’s an inspiring moment of community togetherness for me, but also bittersweet, since we are the only country in the developed world where victims of a terrorist attack have to appeal for charity to receive needed medical care. Every other developed nation provides universal health care for residents as a human right, so that in times of tragedy, accident, or severe illness, patients and their families can focus on recovery without having to worry about medical costs bankrupting them.

In my job I get to see many, similar, moving acts of community support – fundraiser events and online appeals to help patients pay for cancer treatment, or accident recovery. I also unfortunately get to hear about the cases where patients lack access to broad charitable communities, and face medical debt and collections agencies alone. I recall receiving a $5,000 hospital bill myself in 2005 after a three-day inpatient stay, at a time when I was earning $16,000 a year. The day I stepped out of the hospital, facing a difficult recovery, I could barely spare time for my health as the anxiety of having to declare bankruptcy – or to ask my friends and extended family to empty their savings accounts to help me – was all I could think about.

These moments bring out the best in our communities, and the worst in our inhumane health care system. I hope that in addition to rising in support of these victims of an atrocious crime, we also rise to swiftly establish a public, universal health plan that will protect the victims and patients of the future, so that no one has to suffer the quieter, more isolated tragedy of losing their entire savings, sometimes their homes, and eventually their access to desperately needed care.

Comments

5 Responses to “Healing Wounds After Boston Bombings”
  1. Kim Noreen Anderson says:

    How wonderfully clear this article is ~ it remains an outrage that money has to be donated to help victims of illness and tragic events. Recently, PNHP made it known that with all the cuts ~ the Obama administration has given $71.5 BILLION dollars to Medicare Advantage corporations ~ already benefiting for providing very little. We must organize as a movement of what is best for most of us ~ in all areas.
    Thank you for this article ~

  2. It is interesting that this writer had had an actual experience of having a big bill without the ability to pay it. Those who have great employer-provided coverage often don’t “get it” that health insurance is often not available or is very expensive for people who are not in a group plan. But since more people are losing (or never had) group coverage, there is a growing awareness that being uninsured is usually not by choice, but is because health insurance in unavailable or unaffordable. An act like the Bostom bombings also reminds people that sometimes medical bills come by way of a tragedy, something that was not their fault, but which comes with terrible financial consequences. I finally have Medicare, but spent my working life (mostly as a free-lancer or contract worker) worrying about me or a family member getting sick and being bankrupted by medical bills. Read my “rant” about what’s wrong with American medical care at http://www.theseekerbooks.com/articles/WhatsWrong.html

  3. Henning Sieverts says:

    Benjamin Day’s main points are exactly right, of course. But on the detail regarding the way other developed countries provide needed health care in situations like this, the fact is that the UK is just about the only one where what he writes is more-or-less true — and even in the UK, the NHS’s range of services is far from complete, particularly for people who need rehab and other long term care services. Even for wounded military personnel who come back with grievous physical and mental damage, there are serious gaps. Local communities and various charities struggle to find and fund care.

    And in most of the rest of Europe, the range of health care benefits provided by the various insurance schemes is highly variable: there are limitations and exclusions, not unlike those in the better American plans.

    What’s the lesson? It’s not a simple matter. No system provides everything that anybody might need, especially in areas such as long-term care, physical rehab, mental illness care, and the like. You cannot assume that when a disaster strikes, whether murderous like in Boston or a product of nature like an earthquake, the medical care required by people afterwards will simply be supplied, free of charge, no questions asked, Especially if they are foreigners.

    But no doubt about it: America lags well behind, for most people. else in the developed world.

  4. L. O'Connell says:

    All – Please send your letter about “Medicare For All” to letter@globe.com

    Letter to Editor, Boston Globe (4/30/2013) = letter@globe.com

    Charitable Medical Funds shameful for U.S.A.

    The tragedy of the Marathon attack is worsened by knowing that the victims’ families are needing charitable medical donations – donations that would be better spent to replace lost income. Congress and the Obama Administration turned their backs on Congressman John Conyers’ HR676 “Medicare For All” that would have eliminated the health insurance companies and allowed every citizen to arrive at any doctor or hospital with a no-copay “Medicare For All” card in hand. President Obama’s own mother had to struggle to pay bills and fight the insurance companies as she was dying of cancer.

    Please, Boston and all your nationwide supporters – NOW is the time to insist upon HR676 in place of costly and complicated “Obamacare”. In February, several public officials were sentenced in the El Paso ACCESS Health Source case under The RICO Act for failure to “preserve the intangible right of citizens to the honest services of their elected and appointed public officials”. PNHP and Healthcare-NOW are two nationwide organizations pushing Congress to enact “Medicare For All” in place of “Obamacare”. Please email ben@healthcare-now.org to add your support. (Ben was raised and lives in Boston.) Congress needs to enact HR676 “Medicare For All” in place of “Obamacare” to help all victims of medical crises have the peace of mind of getting well rather than fighting the insurance companies and falling short of the ability to cover medical bills.

    Lynn O’Connell
    Marlton, NJ

  5. Lynn O'Connell says:

    All – Please send your own comments to “letter@globe.com” re: “Medicare For All” – – –

    (my)Letter to Editor, Boston Globe (4/30/2013) = letter@globe.com

    Charitable Medical Funds shameful for U.S.A.

    The tragedy of the Marathon attack is worsened by knowing that the victims’ families are needing charitable medical donations – donations that would be better spent to replace lost income. Congress and the Obama Administration turned their backs on Congressman John Conyers’ HR676 “Medicare For All” that would have eliminated the health insurance companies and allowed every citizen to arrive at any doctor or hospital with a no-copay “Medicare For All” card in hand. President Obama’s own mother had to struggle to pay bills and fight the insurance companies as she was dying of cancer.

    Please, Boston and all your nationwide supporters – NOW is the time to insist upon HR676 in place of costly and complicated “Obamacare”. In February, several public officials were sentenced in the El Paso ACCESS Health Source case under The RICO Act for failure to “preserve the intangible right of citizens to the honest services of their elected and appointed public officials”. PNHP and Healthcare-NOW are two nationwide organizations pushing Congress to enact “Medicare For All” in place of “Obamacare”. Please email ben@healthcare-now.org to add your support. (Ben was raised and lives in Boston.) Congress needs to enact HR676 “Medicare For All” in place of “Obamacare” to help all victims of medical crises have the peace of mind of getting well rather than fighting the insurance companies and falling short of the ability to cover medical bills.

    Lynn O’Connell
    Marlton, NJ