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Ringing in a New Year in Health Reform: For Whom the Bell –Still– Tolls

Posted Jan 01 2010 12:00am

1895_liberty_bell_expoAs we come upon this new year and the prospect of House and Senate Bill reconciliation,  I find myself taken by the process. The length of it–the depth of it–or perhaps more precisely, the lack of depth thereof. Back in the dog days of summer I wrote this:

The debate wandering to and fro and fueled by hyperbole, the desire for “victory” (whatever that may mean), and lobbyist dollars descending upon the corridors of Washington until they have become, in the words of T.S. Eliot,  ”Streets that follow like a tedious argument / of insidious intent.”

The words, unfortunately, seem as apt now as they did then. The passage of time harboring more of the same as the process “followed” into the need for 6o votes and the compromises (if not betrayals) necessary to garner the same.

“Had we but world enough and time/ This coyness, Lady, were no crime”

This article published back in September is worth considering

Research released this week in the American Journal of Public Health estimates that 45,000 deaths per year in the United States are associated with the lack of health insurance. If a person is uninsured, “it means you’re at mortal risk,” said one of the authors, Dr. David Himmelstein, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The researchers…determined that the uninsured have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those with private health insurance as a result of being unable to obtain necessary medical care. The researchers then extrapolated the results to census data from 2005 and calculated there were 44,789 deaths associated with lack of health insurance.

Last New Year’s Day I wrote this in anticipation of the continued economic meltdown as it regarded Health Reform:

As we ring in the New Year and begin to contemplate the inter-relatedness of the macro-economy and commence what may well be the “fall into a ‘death spiral’ of unemployment, disfiguring ailments, and a tendency to be underemployed due to such ailments,” it might be worth a moment to consider the often sudden and unexpected nature of both job loss and catastrophic illness– and John Donne.

The bell which John Donne refers to in his most famous quote is “the passing bell,” tolled by the Church for those who are dying. As Donne lay very ill in his bed and heard this bell being tolled, he wondered if he were, in fact, sicker than he thought. And that perhaps that bell was being rung for him personally. He came to realize, however, that whether that was the case or not was largely irrelevant because

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

In the midst of the year long “tedious argument / of insidious intent,” that bell tolled for thee another 45,000 times.

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