Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An "Obamacare" Tale

I almost forgot that today is the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Fortunately, the Rude Pundit remembered, and today told a story that puts in in perspective for us all:

So Dallas Wiens was working when it happened in 2008. He was standing in a cherry picker, painting a Fort Worth church. That detail seems kind of important, considering. His head hit a high-voltage power line, and it pretty much incinerated his entire face off. A series of miraculous operations got Wiens to a point where he had skin on his face, but no nose or lips. He went blind in one eye, and a skin graft covered the other eye. He pretty quickly started seeking out how to go about getting a face transplant just so, as he says, he could smile and feel his now 4 year-old daughter's touch on his face. Also, so he doesn't look so godawfully disfigured (let's be brutally honest here).

Now here's where we veer into the lesson: Medicaid paid for his hospital care and other expenses until his disability payments got too high for him to qualify. His parents set up a fund to take contributions for the incredibly expensive operation and recovery (not to mention the six months of being in Boston for treatment). But in two years, the guy who had his face burned off while painting a church did not collect enough money for the operation from people who might, you know, follow the teachings of one church or another (or, truly, from any of us).

And that might be the end of the story, except for one thing. See, the president when Wiens got injured was George W. Bush, and George W. Bush couldn't have given a jolly rat fuck about anyone's medical care unless it involved bizarre pharmaceutical donuts. However, Barack Obama became president, and that situation changed.


But here's the deal: Dallas Wiens got a face transplant because of it, not because good, conservative, church-going folk stepped up and had cookie sales, not because the myriad organizations that have "family" in their name gave a goddamn. No, Wiens received the first full face transplant in U.S. history because of the government. The operation itself was paid for by a grant from the Defense Department, which is looking for ways to help soldiers who get horrible scars from combat. And the $1300-$2000 a month in drugs that he will need to take for the rest of his life to prevent his body from rejecting the transplant will be paid for by his father's insurance. That's because Wiens is 25. And that inhuman law mockingly called "Obamacare" raised the age that a child can stay on a parent's insurance to 26. Wiens will turn 26 in May. In June, again, because of changes in the law, he will qualify for Medicare as a disabled person.

No, the Affordable Care Act (and above is the first and last time you'll hear me call it by that  insulting and demeaning term, "Obamacare") isn't perfect, and it damn sure has room for improvement, but here's a positive, concrete example of how things are getting better. These are the kind of things that a just, mature society does for its citizens, the kind of things that are remembered in the heart, if not in the history books.

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