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.
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.
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. […] __
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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…