Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Third World America

Just having visited Haiti, a Third World country in a state of absolute collapse, I am urgently reminded that I am living in a Third World country with delusions of First Worldom.

I don't mean to say that people are starving (yet) nor are in the midst of any public health crises that come anywhere near the scale of the ones that plague Haiti.

Of course, we have roads, clean water, free schools, food that is somewhat affordable and can be nutritious, and topsoil.

Those things make us infinitely better off than the actual Third World, I agree, but we are sliding down the same slope

To illustrate:

A neighbor of mine had to go to three different pharmacies to fill a prescription of a fairly common drug.

A friend with a chronic condition finds herself waiting six weeks to get an appointment with her primary care physician (PCP), for routine care. He's always swamped.

Earlier this year, my husband had to have a complicated dance with our insurance company to remain on a medication that has stabilized his asthma for the past five years. In the end it was changed to a different one because of cost (never mind that the other one worked just fine.)

In fact we had a complicated little dance happening over getting insurance in the first place. For no other reason than my husband's employer changed who was administering his paycheck. So we were able to get a policy through Byzantine Cafkaesque B*** S*** of Vermont after weeks of trying to find out if we could legally do so. We sent so far as to talk to our state senators office trying to find out what to do.

Another friend of mine is searching for a therapist for her daughter who is in need of counseling for some pretty serious trauma. She has insurance AND she has the $$ to pay out of pocket, there's just no therapists taking new patients at the moment.

A friend in Michigan has just been denied insurance because she is "high risk" due to blood pressure issues that respond quite well to a $4.00 blood pressure medication.

I wouldn't be so irritated with all of this, if it wasn't for the fact that I live in what is ostensibly a First World Country.

In Haiti, it is common to see children begging on the street.

In Vermont, we don't have children begging on the street. We do have 86,244 people on food stamps. In a state with 621,000 or so people. We had in 2009, 55,000 children receiving federal school lunches. In a school system that has less that 100,000 students.

So, most (something like 60% !)of the children in Vermont are at or near poverty.

In Haiti, there is a shortage of mental health professionals. Of pharmacueticals. Of scanning machines. Of PCP's (so they're always swamped).

Hmm. Here in Vermont, we have a shortage of mental health professionals, pharmacueticals and PCP's. We have the scanning machines, but they're so prohibitively expensive and apparently so esoteric that it takes a week of consideration to even consider ordering one.

The French are rioting because they see their government as breaking their social contract with the people and looking out for the interest of corporations.

Here in Vermont, there is much contempt among the people who have even heard of the riots. As if paying your taxes and then expecting your government to actually provide those services said taxes are supposed to pay for is somehow suspect.

In Haiti, the expectation is that the government (and any service it provides) is for the rich people.

Meanwhile, it appears that corporations that were bailed out by the US governement have been committing widespread fraud. And we've yet to see any arrests.

Americans are not rioting in the streets over any of this and I have no idea why.

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