October 12, 2011

"O shame, where is thy blush?"

Mother Jones has an article detailing how Herman Cain managed to survive Stage Four colon and liver cancer.

Cain devotes a whole chapter of his new book to his battle with cancer. He never once mentions insurance companies not paying for treatment, skimping on reimbursement, or disqualifying his claims. He never mentions having to fend off threats that his coverage will be revoked. He never has trouble paying the bills or getting to the hospital or into the best treatment programs. Instead, Cain's health care story is a happy tale of selfless doctors and the brilliance of the private sector.

Instead, in his book, he lays out all the ways his privileged status impacted his care. For instance, when Cain was first diagnosed with cancer of the colon and liver and a 30 percent chance of survival, he was told that he should go to a specialized cancer center rather than a hospital, namely the M.D. Anderson cancer center in Houston. Not everyone who wants to go to such a top-flight facility gets to go there, however. Plenty of people with private insurance have died waiting for an insurance company functionary to approve such treatment. It can take weeks to get into Anderson, and it requires traveling at short notice, which can only add to the costs. So Cain called his friend T. Boone Pickens, the oil magnate, who used to be on the board of the center and was a big donor to the cancer center. Pickens made a call, and Cain was in.

Poor people without health insurance have a hard time getting doctors and hospitals to treat them at reduced costs, much less for free. But when Cain, a multimillionaire, needed a second opinion about his cancer surgery, he went to see a doctor in Savannah, Georgia. After giving him a full workup, Cain writes, the doctor "didn't charge me a dime—and he supported me in my Senate campaign. He said, 'There's something greater that you're supposed to do for this country and this is my contribution.'"
After Cain had his surgery in Houston to resection his colon and remove most of his liver, he spent a couple of weeks in the hospital recuperating. He was able to go home a week early because, although he was still weak, one of the companies on whose board he sits dispatched its private plane to fly him back to Atlanta so "we did not have to endure the stress of commercial travel." (Cain notes that he doesn't ID the company because "some jackass might want to make an issue out of it.")

Well, rightfully so, don't you think?

Frankly, I would be ashamed to tell that story. I would be ashamed to boast of how my wealth and privilege allowed me to survive something that so many other Americans, with their lack of insurance and access to specialized clinics and friendly, payment-deferring doctors, would have died from.

That Herman Cain boasts about something like this tells me how he views ordinary people, and how he would treat them if (God forbid) he ever got in the White House.

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