Dance for Us, Tiny Tim! Dance!

We Americans are a generous and warm-hearted people, if only we’re presented with a nice, strong, easy-to-understand narrative. Thus, the Washington Post reports on an extremely specialized niche at health-care non-profits:

The call from the White House came late in the week. Rep. Paul Ryan was vowing to slash Medicaid in his 2012 budget proposal, the administration strategists explained, and they wanted to have a powerful response ready, complete with poignant stories of Americans who might lose their health coverage under the Republican plan.
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Within minutes, Elizabeth Prescott was on the case. The coordinator of a vast database of real-life stories maintained by the advocacy group Families USA, Prescott worked through the weekend poring over hundreds of files. Among them were heart-wrenching tales of hardship faced by people whose care is dependent on Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
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By the next Monday morning, Prescott was ready to e-mail the White House the first batch of five people from five different states. But Prescott needed more, so she set to work calling smaller health-care advocacy and legal aid groups across the country in search of as many compelling cases as possible to counter the chairman of the House Budget Committee. […]
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Families USA is hardly the only group that specializes in finding individual cases. With the group’s encouragement, smaller, locally based allies are increasingly maintaining lists of their own. The White House has unique sources as well — drawing, for instance, on those people who have written President Obama directly.
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Still, for sheer scope and geographic reach, few can match the Families USA story bank. Begun about two decades ago in the lead-up to then-President Bill Clinton’s failed effort at health reform, it has expanded to include thousands of names in a detailed, confidential database that can be searched according to such fields as health issue, location, race and income. It even includes notes about how articulately the person describes their experience.
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As often as five times a day, Prescott consults the system in search of a case to match the latest request…

Gods bless the woman. If I had her job, I’d probably eat a gun barrel before the end of the week, possibly after an attempt to shoot up the executive offices of the nearest medicopharminsurance conglomerate. Because this is the kind of outside-the-box innovation America’s been reduced to: coming up with stories calibrated to the exact degree of ‘heartstring-tugging’ necessary for each political target of wallet-opening.

And those stories are a frustratingly renewable resource. Remote Area Medical just did its first free clinic weekend in Northern California:

By the time the free health clinic at the Oakland Coliseum opened Saturday at dawn, some 800 tickets had been handed out to people who waited in the cold all night for the chance to have a tooth extracted, get new glasses or to finally get prescription medications for arthritis or other painful conditions.
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Geneva Clay, 51, of San Leandro worked as a project manager and had health benefits before she was laid off in 2009. She had been waiting in line since 11 p.m. Friday and was number 282.
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“We are the middle class. We are in need of health care because of the lack of jobs,” she said, trying to keep warm until her number was called. “In this country, we shouldn’t have to fight for medical coverage, we shouldn’t have to fight to see a doctor. We can send money all over the world, but we can’t take care of our own.”
[…]
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The crowd included the newly and long-term unemployed, students and people who were homeless. Some of those who had recently lost their jobs had been given the opportunity to stay on their former employers’ coverage out of their own pocket, but couldn’t afford it.
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But many of the people seeking care had full- or part-time jobs that either did not come with health benefits or required them to contribute so much that they were priced out of coverage. Some had health care, but no dental or vision insurance. Those people typically earned too much to qualify for government health programs.
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“We need universal health care. People shouldn’t have to stand out here all night,” said Sharice Gastile, 28, of Oakland, a full-time college student and single mother who was 17th in line. She is one of many Californians who lost adult Medi-Cal dental benefits when the program was cut in 2009…

30 replies
  1. 1
    mclaren says:

    Countdown to the loons and cranks and Obots screaming at you:

    “You’re a firebagger!”

    “Primarying a president in your own party is INSANE!”

    “You’re a corporate shill!”

    “Palin would be WORSE!”

    “You’ve foolishly fallen for the delusion that `the perfect is the enemy of the good’!”

    “You’re insane!”

    …in: 3…2…1…

  2. 2

    Remote Area Medical just did its first free clinic weekend in Northern California

    Some health care reform we got last year, huh?

  3. 3
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    I agree, Anne. Collecting stories, unless you are a historian or a writer, should not be a job that gets creative. I suppose someone could argue it’s the free market at work, but the irony would be way too much.

  4. 4
    Mike S says:

    It’s a shame this is the only way to get enough people’s empathy, because “Anecdote” times “N” does not equal data! People should be horrified by the numbers not the fact that an adorable/sweet child has a disease!

  5. 5
    Violet says:

    @Master of Karate and Friendship:
    Some of the reforms don’t go into effect until 2014. So perhaps some of these people can find insurance after that.

    Geneva Clay, 51, of San Leandro worked as a project manager and had health benefits before she was laid off in 2009. She had been waiting in line since 11 p.m. Friday and was number 282.
    __
    “We are the middle class. We are in need of health care because of the lack of jobs,” she said, trying to keep warm until her number was called. “In this country, we shouldn’t have to fight for medical coverage, we shouldn’t have to fight to see a doctor. We can send money all over the world, but we can’t take care of our own.”

    Clearly she’s a lazy soshulist and wants to sponge off the government. Otherwise she’d have a job.

  6. 6
    Butch says:

    I may be losing my coverage through work and I gotta say what you can get on the private market is terrifying – big bucks each month for a $10,000 deductible….

  7. 7
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Violet: The Master of Karate and Friendship knows that many of the provisions of the have not yet gone into effect. It’s just that, if he acknowledges it, his rhetorical points would be diluted.

  8. 8
    Violet says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    Yeah, I know. Facts can really get in the way of a rhetorical point, can’t they? Damned inconvenient things.

  9. 9
    maya says:

    All fine and good, these personal anecdotal stories, but, we know they all drove down to these free clinics in their Cadillacs. Treagan Party anecdotes will Trump leftist, so-shall-ist anecdotes every single time.

  10. 10
    WereBear says:

    I have a REALLY sad story. They should call me up. AND I support a disabled husband (with his own sad story) and FOUR rescue cats.

    Bring it on.

  11. 11
    WereBear says:

    I told Bernie Sanders my story, BTW. So it should be somewhere.

    When my demographic chip comes up…

  12. 12

    @mclaren: How’s that workin’ out for ya?

    The only loons and cranks are you and Karate.

    I guess it goes to show who wants to talk about health care, and who just wants to use it for a launching point for their expressions of self-regard.

  13. 13
    Violet says:

    @WereBear:
    You can send them your story. Here’s the link: Tell Us Your Story.

  14. 14
    satby says:

    The empathy fail is incredibly high in this country. I’ve talked to many people who think Republican policies are just fine, until it affects them, their families, or someone they know (and like, it has to be someone they like). Then, the angst is overwhelming that these unfair policies can exist.
    So I guess untill everyone’s gramma has to eat catfood or live in a cardboard box, we’ll be stuck gathering heartrending stories of the deserving poor.

  15. 15
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    We can send money all over the world, but we can’t take care of our own.

    Sigh – clearly the problem is foreign aid.

  16. 16

    @Violet:

    Some of the reforms don’t go into effect until 2014.

    Five years into Massachusetts’ health reform, we’re up to 98% coverage, and there isn’t a chance in the world that one of these health fairs will be coming here. They’re simply not needed.

    This outcomes matters to people who care about universal health care access, and it’s ignored by those whose interest in the subject amounts to mining it for a talking point to bash the Democrats.

  17. 17
    Brachiator says:

    Among them were heart-wrenching tales of hardship faced by people whose care is dependent on Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

    This is another reason why liberals and progressives are getting their butts kicked by the Tea Party People.

    Your narrative is freaking out of date!

    You desperately need to quit moaning about Republicans reducing the social safety net. If the middle class goes, the entire economic social structure largely collapses.

    If a union worker or someone in the private sector has lost her job and her medical insurance, how does it move her to vote for a program for poor and disabled people? Even if she is sympathetic, she will rightfully ask where is the program to help her crawl back to some level of economic stability.

    Democrats need to emphasize how the GOP platform impoverishes the nation. Where is their job plan? Where is their plan to help all Americans, not just the crony class?

  18. 18
    Ash Can says:

    @satby:

    The empathy fail is incredibly high in this country.

    This, exactly and sadly. No civilized society should have to depend on individual examples mined from the morass of our national health care situation to spur people to see that there’s a problem and to demand that it be fixed. However, if that’s what it takes, then so be it.

  19. 19
    Nylund says:

    Obviously “Master of Karate and Friendship,” is making a stupid point, what with so many provisions still not in affect. But still, I like the reference to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

  20. 20
    Violet says:

    @Xecky Gilchrist:

    We can send money all over the world, but we can’t take care of our own.
    __
    Sigh — clearly the problem is foreign aid.

    When I read that line I immediately thought of the billions of dollars in cash shrink wrapped on pallets that was lost in Iraq. That’s sending money. And it’s military budget, which is a lot of our budget.

    Perhaps she did mean foreign aid. Or perhaps she meant our military, which another way to send money all over the world.

  21. 21
    Violet says:

    These Remote Area Medical clinics need to be done in places where middle class people actually are. Do middle class people go to stadiums or convention centers unless there’s a game on or a convention happening that they’re attending? Not really. And usually not a whole lot of people live right by stadiums and convention centers.

    But put the RAM clinic in a Wal-Mart parking lot or rent out the floor of an office building and have everyone line up through the lobby. That’s the kind of thing that would get the middle class’s attention.

    Then new folks could interview the formerly-middle class in front of the still-middle-class. Might make more of a point.

  22. 22
    WereBear says:

    @Violet: Then new folks could interview the formerly-middle class in front of the still-middle-class. Might make more of a point.

    I sense brilliance!

    (Thanks for linky, BTW.)

  23. 23
    BDeevDad says:

    My daughter qualified for a Medi-Cal waiver and I’d say it has basically saved us over 20k in just co-pays, over the past five years, not to mention medical equipment and nursing care when she qualified. And I have good insurance through my job.

  24. 24
    cckids says:

    @WereBear:

    I have a REALLY sad story. They should call me up.

    Yeah, me too. But I understand that my/my son’s situation, just because it is so extreme & difficult, is truly not the best one from which to make law or regulations. You just can’t.

  25. 25
    Hermione Granger-Weasley says:

    Anne Laurie, ot, but you did a great job on this story.
    Pakistan has asked for US agents to be withdrawn today.

  26. 26
    Brachiator says:

    @Hermione Granger-Weasley:

    Pakistan has asked for US agents to be withdrawn today.

    Wow. I guess Ahmad Shuja Pasha’s ISI really hates competition.

  27. 27
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    @Violet: Perhaps she did mean foreign aid. Or perhaps she meant our military, which another way to send money all over the world.

    Interesting thought – I assumed foreign aid because it’s so successfully been made a boogeyman in the popular consciousness, but the foreign wars angle is possible.

  28. 28
    HyperIon says:

    @Mike S:

    It’s a shame this is the only way to get enough people’s empathy, because “Anecdote” times “N” does not equal data! People should be horrified by the numbers not the fact that an adorable/sweet child has a disease!

    yes, it is a shame.

    but many, many ordinary citizens are not going to examine the numbers (once accurate numbers are presented to them…when will that happen?). but they will listen to (and be affected by IMO) a sad story. and the more sad stories, the more they are affected.

  29. 29
    HyperIon says:

    @Butch wrote:

    what you can get on the private market is terrifying – big bucks each month for a $10,000 deductible

    care to mention a figure or insurance provider?
    i’m thinking about going private.

  30. 30
    different church-lady says:

    I don’t get it: can’t you just get your teeth extracted at Wallgreens?

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