Workers’ Correspondence

”Of all the forms of inequality, the injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

All of us have encountered one problem or another with our health care plan. I know of a colleague who died from cancer due to her HMO’s refusing to pay for her treatment when the cancer was in its early stage.

For far too many of us there is no health care plan. Depending on the county hospital system can be an all day/night test of our patience and we still have not resolved our health problem. Unfortunately, many county hospital districts have ceased to serve the poor and uninsured. Today many are run like a system whose top priority is generating revenues.

For those of us who are 65 and/or disabled, the so-called Medicare prescription program has proven to be one of the most confusing, misleading and frustrating programs ever devised by the federal government. The problem that stands out with Medicare Part D is the fact that the private carriers of this program can delete medications they deem too expensive at will, without recourse. The other major flaw is that the Bush administration allows the pharmaceutical corporations to set the cost of these medications with no negotiation with Medicare. Once again our government has sold us out to the interests of the pharmaceutical corporations.

The United States is the only major industrialized nation without a national health plan. Nations as wealthy as Japan, Germany and France have national health care programs. Nations as poor as Cuba, Mexico and Vietnam also have such programs. Only in the U.S. do the health care bosses consider health care a privilege and a commodity. Thus we have the chaos, disparities and gross injustices in our health care.

In April last year, I attended a community meeting in San Antonio mandated by the president and Congress on health care. One hundred seventy-five individuals from all walks of life voted that we need/want a national health plan. A large percentage of us also voted to cut the war budget to help finance this. Similar results were recorded across the nation, yet the government does nothing. In fact, the commission assigned to facilitate these nationwide surveys has watered down the results in order to appease the wishes of Bush.

All is not lost! There is an excellent piece of legislation pending before Congress. This bill; House Resolution 676 was introduced four years ago by Michigan Congressman John Conyers and is just now gaining support as our health care crisis worsens. It has the endorsement of over 275 labor organizations, Physicians for a National Health Program, Progressive Democrats of America, the Board of Church & Society of the United Methodist Church, Latinos For National Health Insurance and 77 members of Congress. Michael Moore, who recently released “Sicko,” has also endorsed HR 676.

Conyers’ bill would improve and expand Medicare coverage to all residents of the U.S. and its territories. Services would include chiropractic, dental, mental health, long-term care, hearing, vision and prescription drugs. It would cost a person earning $40,000 a year about $1,300 annually. (At present many of us are spending as high as $6,000 for health care and we are getting very little in return.) There would be no deductibles. The for-profit health insurance corporations would basically dry up and cease to exist. HR 676 would make health care a nonprofit entity with the sole purpose of providing health care for all.

Single-payer, universal health care can become a reality in this country. People must begin pressuring their members of Congress to become co-sponsors of this legislation. The time for waffling and excuses is gone!

Medicare for all is ours, only if we are willing to struggle for it!

10 facts about U.S. health care

• Every year about 18,000 Americans die needlessly due to inability to access adequate health care services. (Institute of Medicine)

• Approximately 46.6 million Americans have no health insurance! (U.S. Census Bureau)

• Texas leads the nation for people without health insurance, about 5 million individuals. (Census Bureau)

• Consumers in England spend about $2,800 annually for health care. In the U.S. we spend about $6,000 annually for far less coverage! (Physicians for a National Health Plan)

• Of all the major industrialized nations, only the United States has no universal health care. The rest of the world considers health care a basic human right as outlined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

• Today the U.S. health care system is rated #37 in the world. France has the highest-rated health care system. (World Health Organization)

• When surveyed, most Americans said their first concern about our health care system is the price and deteriorating quality of services. (Citizen Healthcare Working Group).

• From 2001 to 2006, the cost of health care in the U.S. rose 73 percent. (Citizen Healthcare Working Group)

• There are 11.2 million children in the U.S. without any health insurance — an increase of 361,000 from the year 2000. (Census Bureau)

• House Resolution 676, introduced by Michigan Democrat John Conyers, is the only legislation that will adequately address these problems.

Frank Valdez (, an activist for over 40 years in the civil rights, labor and peace movements, currently an active member of LULAC Concilio
Zapatista in San Antonio.