Commentary: Anger over health care should be directed at broken system

A group of protesters against health care reform picket in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
A group of protesters against health care reform picket in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Richard Sennott/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT

What is it, something like two-thirds of us are supposedly happy with our health coverage?

A few years ago, you could have counted Mary Casey in that number. But then she contracted a rare form of cancer.

Her insurance company wouldn't pay for the drug that her doctor said might save her life. Corporate bureaucrats were the ones rationing health care then — and still are.

And when Casey appealed the decision, she learned of the existence of death panels long before Sarah Palin started mouthing off about the mythical ones in the House proposal.

The company's denial of her appeal left Casey and her family to count the months she had left or slowly go bankrupt because, naturally, the drug that her doctor felt gave her the best chance of survival was also expensive.

I told you about Casey's battle against her disease and a broken system back in 2007. She eventually got coverage for the drug she needed, but only after her story went national and because her husband's employer switched insurance carriers.

Her thoughts about today's rancorous debate:

"People have no idea, unless they have a chronic illness, what happens if they have to go above and beyond going for a physical or needing anything more than a prescription for their high blood pressure."

No, I think we all know what can happen. It's just that some of us would rather fool ourselves into thinking it could never happen to us. Like the shouters at the town hall meetings.

You wonder if they'd like the current system so much if they or someone in their family came down with a deadly or debilitating disease, only to have their insurer dump them.

Three Republican senators came to town this week to rail against government health care at an invitation-only forum. Meaning it was a friendly crowd. Nobody asked Kit Bond, Mitch McConnell or John McCain if they've done without regular medical screenings since becoming members of Congress.

Yet millions of Americans do go without. Faced with shelling out hundreds of dollars in co-pays for a routine colonoscopy, people choose to buy groceries instead.

The shouters rail about "socialized medicine," even the ones on Medicare, ironically enough.

They pop off about rationing, when rationing already exists, as Mary Casey and others know.

But what Americans ought to be hollering about is the fact that, in a country with supposedly the best health care in the world, some of our friends and neighbors are holding bake sales and raffles so sick relatives can get the treatment they need.

If in this health care debate you feel anger rising within you, direct it at that disgrace — and at those who would leave a broken system unchanged.