A Day in the Life of Healthcare, A Sickening Feeling

At the Florida rehabilitation facility, the musician pounds his piano and sings some really old oldies – and the patients shuffle their feet, clap to the songs, and try to move their wheelchairs to get a better view. The patients are mostly in their 80s.

The music is a bit of a joyful reprieve from the day’s often mind-numbing ritual at the facility.  A few patients walk slowly in the halls. A  few babble incoherently or break the silences by screaming.  Someone is sitting near the nurse’s station, seemingly fighting off a dizzy spell from medications.  A woman demands a visitor roll her wheelchair to her room, only to find it is someone else’s.

There is singing in one room, where a patient is reportedly celebrating a birthday a few years beyond 100.  In contrast, some patients don’t seem to have any visitors. The other day there was a scary moment: someone fell inside her room, startling everyone, as the staff scrambled to help her.

This is a stop from a hospital stay for a patient, often from a chronic condition or a nagging ailment, part of aging. Some have been in and out of the hospital and the rehabilitation center several times over the last few months.  Others may be on their way home, a dream.

I am visiting a family member, who is recovering from an infection and can’t wait to leave after repeat visits to the rehab center.  Blaring from the rooms are the TVs, where healthcare seems to be all the news all the time: the Senate’s once secret, but now almost ready for a vote, healthcare bill.   Today on CNN, chief political correspondent Dana Bash interviews HHS Secretary Tom Price, who dismisses Obamacare and vows the administration is working to ensure people don’t fall through the cracks. Price keeps talking up the GOP plan, and Bash, a solid professional, peppers him with questions, focusing on the gaping inconsistencies of the promise vs. the plan. As Price answers, she has an incredulous look on her face, listening politely to Price’s answers. Like, really?

To me, it’s a blur what he’s saying. I’m astonished by the obfuscation. The untruth.

For some reason, I feel even worse on this day, surrounded by the truth of healthcare, in this rehabilitation center. The Senate GOP’s plan, as the New York Times reports, shifts “money from the poor to the rich,” with substantial cuts in Medicaid, and the potential for more people to lose insurance coverage. Here at this rehabilitation center aren’t the poor, exactly, but I can only imagine the struggle ahead for many of them and their families if this bill is passed. As AARP notes, cuts in Medicaid would eliminate funding for “millions of low-income and vulnerable Americans,” including 17 million senior citizens, and children and adults with disabilities. A so-called “age tax” would allow insurers to “charge older Americans five times more for coverage than everyone else while reducing tax credits that help make insurance more affordable,” AARP said.

“This new Senate bill was crafted in secrecy behind closed doors without a single hearing or open debate – and it shows,” said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeMond. “The Senate bill would hit millions of Americans with higher costs and result in less coverage for them.”

AARP isn’t the only one railing against this piece of legislation that sends America into the dark ages of healthcare protections.  It seems most of healthcare is against it.

I walked the corridors of the rehabilitation facility after I stopped listening to the music. I wonder how many of these patients even know who Mitch McConnell is.  The Senate majority leader is said to be working the chamber back doors in hopes of rounding up the necessary votes to pass the bill, a potential close call as seemingly more Senators indicate they just aren’t ready to stomach the plan.

Thinking of those people in the rehab center,  it’s hard not to have a sickening feeling, and wonder why these politicians don’t feel bad about potentially costing so many lives if this bill is passed.  Maybe they should visit the sick and the aged to help them understand the importance of healthcare, compared to political rhetoric.

— Joe Cantlupe

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