Being Poor is Hoping the Toothache Goes Away.

For want of a dentist

Maryland boy, 12, dies after bacteria from tooth spread to his brain

Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren’t so hard to find.

If his mother hadn’t been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte’s own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George’s County boy died.

Some folks will want to blame the insurance system in the US. Some folks will want to blame the dentists. Some folks will want to blame the government. Some folks will want to blame the mother. Some folks will blame some combination of any or all of the above.

I’m not particularly interested in whom to blame. You all can argue about that. I just think it’s a shame that ultimately this kid is dead for no other reason than because he was poor.

139 Comments on “Being Poor is Hoping the Toothache Goes Away.”

  1. Indeed. The important thing to remember is that, regardless of cause, the effects of poverty are felt hardest by those least able to defend themselves: children, the elderly, the sick.


  2. *shudder*

    John, this is one of my biggest fears for my kids. That when I decide to just wait an illness out 24 more hours to avoid medical charges before deciding to go to the doctor, that I will screw up and be wrong and will not have prevented a preventable illness, injury, or death.

    I am the working poor. My kids were on Medicaid the first year of their lives. It was actually the SCHIP program. And it took me weeks and weeks to find a doctor that would accept them. They got kicked off because we were a family of three with one adult and two children, rather than two adults and one child like they originally thought. Two adults with one child get to make more money before they are cut off. Does that make a bit of sense?

    Then, I tried to apply for some kind of subsidized family insurance for the working poor that aren’t quite as poor as those two adults with one child. Or whatever. But they said that A) I had to be uninsured for at least a year before I would qualify (since the kids had medicaid, that counted, b) then when I applied I had to have a policy ready for my kids to be covered under. My employer (the State, ironically) covers me but not my kids. And c)after meeting all of those requirements, there was a 2 to five year waiting list. So total my kids would be uninsured for up to six years.

    Not good enough. So now they each have their own individual plans that I pay $210/month for. Plus 20% of all bills with a 1000 dollar deductable. So, I am very selective about when I decide to take my kids to the doctor. Fortunately phone calls are free, but it is a concern and I just hope I don’t screw up.

    Notice that that poor kid ended up costing taxpayers probably hundreds of thousands of dollars for his six weeks of hospitalizations and surgeries. Stupid government. Stupid people who fight Universal Health converage.

    Okay, without meaning to I just up and wrote a whole post. Sorry, this is just a really sore subject with me.

  3. John, “too bad he’s poor” won’t do a thing to prevent the next occurrence. Maybe there was no dental college near where he lived — most of those will treat people for almost nothing.

    But saying “he was poor” or “his mom was ignorant” or any general thing like that won’t keep the next kid alive. If it’s up to Bush, that child is gonna have lots of company in the angel choir.

  4. Ironically, I had a conversation with my dentist this morning about the fact that when I was a kid on welfare and he was just out of dental school, how much we appreciated his dedication and professionalism, as opposed to the second class citizen treatment we received from physicians.

    At the turn of the millennium, I saw a list of the most common reasons for death for Americans in 1900. ‘Abscessed tooth’ was in the top two or three (scalding was one that seemed to claim children but not adults).

    As we move with abandon towards grinding the middle class out of existence, expect to hear more of these horrific stories. It is simply unacceptable that any kid in a country with this much wealth should die of something as medieval as an abscessed tooth.

  5. I was just into the dentist a few hours ago to get a prescription for painkillers, in the wake of a demand for attention from a tooth that needs to be pulled. Of course, he mentioned this article.

    Something that no-one here has mentioned, and that the article barely addresses, is that the dead child had kept his peace.

    Why? I don’t doubt for so much as an instant that he knew the thought of the expense would send his mother into conniptions.

    Poverty makes kids grow up too fast. And on poverty’s account, some never get to grow up at all.

    Nor is government the answer, only part of one at best. What government in history has ever really done as well by its citizens as it ought?

  6. I’ve thought a lot in the last few years about the way dental care reinforces the class system in this country. When I was a kid, there was this attitude that having good teeth was some sort of moral virtue; if you had a lot of cavities, it was because you didn’t brush.

    My kids have terrible teeth. The teeth erupted with flaws in the enamel, and they have had cavity after cavity. Fortunately, I have dental insurance to cover part of it, money to pay for the rest, and an excellent, patient dentist who re-does fillings free if they fall out or otherwise need to be redone (which happens a LOT with a small kid, because they’re wiggly when you do the filling in the first place).

    Anyway, I’m really aware at this point of the extent to which good teeth are the result of first genetics, then money, and only then hygiene. If you never brush, yes, your teeth will rot. But there are a lot of people out there who will have lots of cavities no matter how carefully they brush and floss. If they have money, they will get fillings, root canals, crowns, and (in extreme cases) implants. If they don’t have money, they will have visibly rotting teeth and, later, missing teeth. And people will avert their eyes, and talk about their tooth-to-tattoo ratio.

  7. When this kind of thing hits the news fingers do point and someone inevitably accuses someone else of fomenting class warfare. But, just as an intellectual exercise, go read the story linked at By the Way about the $1,000 brownie. Then ask yourself: WTF?

  8. That story pulled at the very core of my being when I first read it this afternoon.

    For what seems like a lucky majority mentioned in that article, 80 bucks was too much to save a priceless life.

    I’ve always believed that with wealth should come charity and humility. Yet, there are more and more cases of people who wallow in their apathy.

    Humanity will never progress should we continue to treat each other with such callous indifference.

    Sleep well Deamonte Driver.

  9. A couple months ago my girlfriend, who has no insurance (her university doesn’t offer any dental insurance) had developed an abscessed tooth (one that had been filled in previously but should definitely have been pulled, different issue). It had been seriously hurting her for days, and as she has a scary high pain tolerance it takes a lot for her to actually get to that point.

    We went to the local ER, who said that because there wasn’t anything showing outside of the tooth or gums they couldn’t do anything and sent her home (a prescription for antibiotics would have been nice) but did tell her she needed to see a dentist. The state does have state health insurance, but it is incredibly hard to get as they have a set amount of funds per year and thus limit acceptance. Finding a dentist that will see someone with NO insurance is pretty freaking impossible. I know, we tried. Finally having enough I dragged her to the one hospital in the area (area being 2 hours away) that had an emergency dental clinic attached to it. The dental assistant saw her, told her there was definitely something wrong but since the ER at the other hospital couldn’t conclusively say it was an abscessed tooth (as a side note, by now there was actually a very visible protrusion along her gums where the tooth was) my girlfriend couldn’t be seen by the dentist there.

    We finally found a clinic that would see her despite her lack of insurance (one of those idealistic dentists who actually believed in the oath he took to help people) and the dentist wigged out, got immediately pissed about the dental assistant turning my girlfriend away, lanced the exposed abscess, proscribed antibiotics, and told my girlfriend how to treat it until she could afford to get a root canal at the dental school we hadn’t known about (she was told that so long as she treated it she could avoid having the tooth pulled and wait until she got the root canal).

    So I guess long story short, I can appreciate how difficult it is for someone to get seen when suffering from this sort of thing. It took days and literally hundreds of phone calls to finally find someone who would. Anyone can walk into an ER, but if you have a problem that requires a dentist you are screwed. Heaven help you if you have major eye problems, because you won’t ever get seen for that.

  10. Lisa, my thoughts are with you.

    I was a teacher’s kid back in the day when teachers didn’t get much in health benefits. I developed an abscessed tooth.

    It got pulled (parents couldn’t afford a root canal, and my mother was the family’s primary breadwinner back in the day when teachers got paid even less than they do now).

    Geez (shaking head, slowly).

    Sad thing is, I have a number of students who could easily fall into this category as well.

  11. It simply should not happen in this country, particularly while we spend millions on bullshit, and worse.

    I respect and admire each and every person who struggles through similar circumstances, and worse.

  12. One thing people seem to forget is that kids grow up to be adults. I always thought I was very lucky, as a kid, that I had healthy teeth. Lucky, because my parents couldn’t afford to take us to a dentist. They were smart enough to take us to the doctor if we had an emergency, but the money was very tight so “frivolous” visits just didn’t happen. Time doing what it does, I’m now in my 30s. I’ve got 6 teeth now that are in pieces and need to be pulled. 1 has already been pulled. Two of them are the very front teeth, and have been messed up since I was 25. I made the difficult decision when those teeth first began to fall apart, whether or not to give up college so I could get a job and afford dental insurance. I chose college. NOW I have a college degree, but am having a very difficult time finding a job because of my teeth.

    Most of my problems could have been prevented with childhood dental care. Impacted wisdom teeth could have been detected and prepared for, rather than busting up every tooth in the back of my mouth. Overlapping front teeth could have been dealt with, instead of wearing thin and finally breaking at the contact point.

    What is the ultimate cost of a parent not taking their child to the dentist? In the case of the article you linked (which I had just read elsewhere), the kid died. However, in a best case scenario, the cost is hugely inflated dental costs when that child grows up. In my case, it may be costing me my career. People can’t look past the gaping hole in my mouth. I’m told that isn’t true, but I also am the one who has to hear EVERYBODY who meets me comment at some point about my teeth. When I had student loans, I was tempted every time just to blow them all on dental work – but then I wouldn’t have made it through college and got my degree. I have given up teaching (which was my first goal in college) because I discovered (as I was warned when I was hired at a tough school) that the kids can’t look past such a problem.

    Why am *I* writing this length post? I don’t compare in suffering to the family that has lost a child in the way that this kid’s family did. But I *do* know how frustrating it is to have grown up poor. There are a lot of things that you just “hope it don’t happen”. Even now, I experience issues with dentists discriminating. I have easily found dentists who will take cash – if you have enough of it. However, when I have approached dentists about using a discount card purchased from a reputable company (Aetna), I have been told several times that I would actually pay MORE if I used the discount card since they basically have to make what the discount costs them! How is anybody poor supposed to navigate such a system?

  13. That’s just tragic. And sadly, I know several people who are in a similar situation, lacking the appropriate dental care for their children. I know there are flaws with universal health care–I have a friend railing against it because her grandmother recently was denied care at the end of her life and the UK system chose to give the transplant operation to somebody who had greater chances–but I think that it could save so many more people than it loses. Certainly now, a LOT of people seem to be slipping through the cracks.

  14. This is the part that gets me: “DaShawn saw a dentist a couple of years ago, but the dentist discontinued the treatments, she said, after the boy squirmed too much in the chair.”

    Because, you know, God forbid you should work to establish a rapport with your patients. Nah, just cut them loose when they’re too inconvenient for you and you can save the seat for an insured white-collar professional who sits still.

  15. I read the “Being Poor Is” thread and I’m crying. I have been incredibly lucky that my kids aren’t terribly picky and that things seem to work out in the end. To that I’d like to add: Not being poor enough. Not being poor enough is not being able to afford a decent house, a running car or utilities, but not qualifying for help because “If you can’t handle your bills move some place cheaper and cut your bills”. We get medical insurance for our kids, which is a huge massive weight off our chest, but we have been repeatedly denied for any other help, even when we had an $800 heating bill (at 60*, off at nights) even when we had 4 people living off WIC and $20 for two weeks of food, even when my husband worked 3 jobs because my son is autistic and can’t stay in a daycare and we have no relatives in town. I cannot stand that people thought we were just being lazy because we had to ask for help. It kills us not to be able to do it ourselves.

  16. “I have a friend railing against it because her grandmother recently was denied care at the end of her life and the UK system chose to give the transplant operation to somebody who had greater chances”

    yeah, I’ve heard this complaint. But the issue there is scarcity of organs for transplantation. In the UK, they may ration using the criteria of chances of survival, here we ration using the criteria of money. Until we somehow overcome the supply problem for organs, they will have to be rationed. As sad as it is when it is your grandmother who doesn’t get picked, I think it is more unethical if your child didn’t get picked because of lack of ability to pay. A few years ago I knew a lovely 20 year old girl with cystic fibrosis who was denied a lung transplant because medicaid didn’t approve it. She died. If we have to ration, what is the most fair?

    (Pixelfish, I know it wasn’t YOUR grandmother, but I just felt the need to respond to your friend’s complaint.)

  17. In a previous topic I was complaining about the 50% tax hit I take living and working in Austria. The majority of the taxes go to the Social Services system. Of which everyone has health care everyone has dental care. No matter what Social Class you fall in. I will never again complain about the tax hit. Knowing that I contibute to the prevention of these siuations. And I think that these situations are rare in Austria and throughout the E.U.
    As for who is to blame? I am not sure why but the movie “V for Vendetta” comes to mind. Hopefully upcoming elections in the U.S. will be focus on the current Social crisis in the U.S. and less on things like how the Dept Of Homeland Security is protecting Americans. Or more preventive strikes on the Middle East, or, or, or….

  18. Lisa:
    Until we somehow overcome the supply problem for organs, they will have to be rationed.

    That’s an easy one to solve, but political suicide for any government that does it. Just change our current “opt in” donor system to an “opt out” one. At least there have been advances in that a person’s family no longer have the option to withold consent if the person carried a donor card, well in theory, in practice most doctors defer to the family’s wishes.

    Personally I’d change it so motorcycle helmets were no longer required, but all motorcyclists were automatically considered to have given consent for organ donation.

  19. Something evil this way comes.
    A complete and utter sadness envelopes me when I hear things like this. I live in Australia, with a public health system, one that is broken and ruined by the conservative governement we have, but at least it is one. How Americans live with themselves – to deny another Human being the right to medical treatment is beyond belief. How did it end up that way? I think we (Austalians) need to know how you ended up like this so that we can make sure that we do not follow your lead.
    Our own little Bush over here would love nothing more then to further ruin and restrict our public health, schools and anything else that may give the poor some hope of a better life.

    Thank you John for providing a forum for this and for your post in 2005 (which I just read – although not all the comments)

    Being poor is something we should strive to eradicate not encourage.

  20. This is, indeed, a tragic tale. But I’m sorry: That kid died because his mom is stupid and should be charged with criminal negligence. With all the free programs available to prevent that very thing from happening, especially in Maryland, this was a case of extremely bad parenting. This is NOT the government’s job. This is simple human responsibility.

  21. FWH, bullshit. The Mom knew what needed to be done, and worked the system, but had to make the choice between kids because she’s poor. So she made the choice to help the one, hoping the other could hang on until they could get him help. This wasn’t neglect (if it was, the kid would have died at home).

  22. Tell you what, FWH, go read that article. Go to the second page. Still think the mother was negligent? If you do, we can have a discussion about it.

    The system is broken and it never worked well to begin with.

  23. Yes, Steve, I do. If she was a competent mother, she would have done something about those kids teeth long before they became a health risk. And as far as the lapsed insurance, I happen to work for one of the managed care companies that provides coverage for Medicaid children in MD, and can tell you, there is no “Oops, I didn’t know” there. The state mandates that all reasonable means of contact are made to a member and can be reinstated easily in the event of a lapse.
    The point is not whether she is a bad parent, but that the system somehow failed. I maintain that it does not. Makes it inconvenient? Probably. But my full family coverage is a pain the neck too. All insurance is, IMHO, because of our great litigious society.

  24. Mr FWH,
    Being that you work for “The Man” I can understand how completely removed you are from reality. Do not defend the system because there is no denying that it is broken. Just read the comments from this thread. I guess the thing that also makes me mad about your comments is your utter lack of compassion. But again I am sure that whatever insurance company you worked for has “conditioned” you no not have any empathy, or compassion. Because insurance companies are more profit driven than anything else these days.
    Let us just hope that your “full family coverage” does not let you down. And as far as your inconvience, your 50.00 USD deductable is a lot better off than dead children.

  25. Very nice. I respond to your argument with login and fact from a knowledgable position. You attack it with emotional insult. I repeat that it is very tragic that the child died. If you want an emaotional outbusrt, how’s this: That woman should be held accountable for putting her children at such risk. You can’t tell me, as a father of 2, that any decent parent wouldn’t know there waa a life threatening problem that needed to be fixed immediately.

    But I tried to present an unemotional response based on my personal experience. Yes, I work for “The Man”, as you put it. But what kind of moron would I be to view their “conditioning” as anything more than party-line. I am an intelligent, reasoning human being first. I work hard to support my family and ensure their lives are not in danger. I do not deny that the system is broken, it certainly is. But I do deny that accountability is being pointed in the right direction. I thought the enlighted readers of this forum would appreciate an insider’s view.

    And by the way, when did personal accountability become passe?

  26. And by the way, when did personal accountability become passe?

    When people like you started using it to wriggle out of any obligation to compassion or connection to our fellows, and to blame those who the system hurts worst for their own poverty, ignorance, or hardships.

  27. A couple posters have mentioned this in passing, but I wanted to reiterate it because most people don’t realize this and it’s a good thing for people to know:

    Dental Schools (like the one in my town) will see poor patients for very low prices or for free. The downside is, you’ll get worked on by a student. The upside is, that student will be supervised by a faculty member, so if something weird is going on, it will get spotted. And it’s very cheap, if not free.

    So if someone you know is going without needed dental care because they can’t afford it, tell them to look for a dental school.

    (This is not criticism of the woman in the article; she may well have tried this or it may not have been an option. It’s just a public service announcement.)

  28. FWH, I’m still researching the issues there in Maryland. Teasing out various data points to specifically either that state, or for the specific issues here are difficult (I am, after, trying to work for my employer as well). So far the trends I see are poverty rates, as a percentage of population, are increasing in Maryland. Those becoming eligible for state covered insurance is increasing at a good clip. You should be very busy. The only pertinent stat I can find, but can’t verify (as I see the abstract, but must have a paid subscription to read the data, this is for four sites that carry medical information) is that 1 in 3 children eligible in Maryland for state covered dental care actually have it. In Ohio we have a 58% rate of coverage for those eligible (for all Medicare programs, only children) and we think that’s abysmal.

    The US Census has charts for lack of dental care by age and income, but I haven’t been able to tease out just Maryland. The CDC’s Mortality and Morbidity Weekly doesn’t track dental issues or poverty issues (unless I’m only quickly reading it and missed those categories). And my google-fu isn’t producing quick results. There’s a host of other organizations (include Maryland State Health) that have statistics, much of which is hidden behind whole pages of caveats and would require my full attention for several hours to tease the needed data out.

    Two, you may want to read the article (because it doesn’t appear that you have). She was working the system. She was having problems finding doctors that would accept your medicare payments and then getting appointments. For those people who are the working poor, these are nation wide issues.

    So while I’m sure you are proving the best you and the system can, there may be institutional barriers or prejudices that are hindering your goals to provide everyone the best care they can get and the insurance carriers can give.

    Also, the litigious society crap doesn’t work with me. In Ohio we have reduced patient’s rights, reduced tort liability, etc, and medical and health insurance increases are still a joke.

  29. alsafi, thanks for the insult. I believe that personal responsibility is every bit as important as personal freedom. And even though I feel very strongly toward that unfortunate child and the bad decisions forced on him, I do not have an “obligation to compassion”, I merely have compassion for him as a fellow human being.

    Steve, thanks again for calling me ignorant, this time more directly. I did indeed read the article, rather pointless to hold a position in ignorance, don’t you think? And I’m sorry that your world-view of the causes of medical costs don’t include the massive lawsuits of recent years. Don’t immediately believe that I don’t think many are not warranted. Furthermore, I am sorry that my comments, that I felt were made in an attempt to provide information from inside the insurance world, were taken as an attack of your personal values. They were not meant so.

    With that I bid adieu. We have reached theological debate stage and such I can no longer add anything of value. Thanks for you time.

  30. Yeah. First off, I know how the Medicaid HMO’s work, I work in a doctor’s office. They delay and deny, its the only way they make any money.

    The whole reason Medicaid was farmed out to these heartless fiends was to save money. How do you save money in these situations?

    Let’s see, you make it so a patient can’t switch providers without a lengthy period, (HMO’s require you select a provider) even if your current provider can’t see your kids for months.

    You deny access to common medications, because your formulary is the most restrictive. You sit on referrals to specialists (like oral surgeons)for months and force people to use mail order pharmacies. Note, poor people move around a lot. You send out letters which the patients must respond to, knowing your patients move around a lot. When the patient fails to respond, you switch their doctor.

    You also make your patients feel stupid by using insurance-ese instead of English. They typically fail to explain how to obtain benefits, though this practice is used in all medical insurance. The poor are typically the least educated, so they have the worst time navigating this crazy system.

    It’s a crime to be a parent and poor in this country. You can get your children snatched by the state for things like not maintaining an environmentally suitable home or failing to provide medical services. I speak from personal experience, it was easier to get children placed into foster care than it was to get funds to help families repair their homes.

  31. Blaming the mother is denial at best and heartless at worst. Remember, the “just world phenomenon” is in fact a cognitive bias, and even the most loving and diligent of parents sometimes have to watch their children die.

    It’s “Deliver me from evil, O Lord”, and not “I keep myself free from evil because I work hard, O Lord.”

  32. FWH:

    “That kid died because his mom is stupid and should be charged with criminal negligence.”

    That’s a pretty serious accusation, and I think you’d be very hard pressed to back it up, particularly because, as the article notes, she persistently tried to find medical care. But if you have evidence that she didn’t, please detail it.

    This is not to suggest the mother could have not done more; there is a good argument there. I think laying it entirely at her feet and making it entirely an issue of personal responsibility is likely to be inaccurate.

    One thing worth noting is how many things she needed to do get dental care for her kids. If my kid gets a toothache, all I do is schedule an appointment; the one time she needed an orthodontist’s referral, it was a trivial thing to schedule. I have good dental insurance, and even if I didn’t, I could pay for most dental work, basic or otherwise, out of my own pocket. Essentially, there never has to be more than one step for me. Poverty in the US increases the number of steps one has to take for basic coverage, and not all those steps are simple or easy or quick to overcome.

    I wouldn’t mind living in a place where parental stupidity and criminal neglect is the only reason a child dies because of a toothache. I don’t think I live in that place.

  33. Why didn’t she teach this kid to brush his teeth?

    There is no freedom without responsibility.

  34. Lord, have mercy.

    I don’t have dental insurance.

    You can get treatment without it, and frankly, my dentist has cut his rate for us because he doesn’t have to deal with the insurance paperwork.

    When my daughter developed an abscess last year, he treated it for free, three times, until the infection was gone.

    I don’t say this to blame the mom or the system. It’s just a fact – dental services are out there.

  35. This issue hits close to home for a number of reasons, so I have a number of comments.

    Lisa – Thanks for sharing your story. Your experience highlights why we DO need to figure who to blame for this situation, so that we can make effective policies to get people medical care!

    Economists and social workers will tell you that the way SCHIP is structured in certain states provides various disincentives to its use. What it comes down to is that SCHIP is underfunded. Here in Illinois, the state anticipates running out of money to cover all the SCHIP eligible kids sometime this spring. From that point until the end of the fiscal year in the summer, kids will be screwed.

    What we need is to demand that SCHIP be fully funded by the federal government, so that all kids can be covered. What it will take is you and me contacting our senators and representatives and telling them you want full funding for SCHIP, and either they need to raise taxes, or perhaps, I don’t know, get our fucking troops out of Iraq and stop spending billions of dollars trying to prop up a country that seems to want a civil war. You know, so that our own children don’t die because of an infected tooth. Those rat fuckers in Washington who don’t care are the same ones who have great medical coverage and cush pensions.

    John – Again, it is important to find out who to blame, so that we can correct the problem.

    ben – In this case, because many individuals are not able to manage the cost of dental procedures (and medical procedures more generally), then this is the proper place for government to come in and share the burden by helping.

    Naomi – You are right about how people judge you on your teeth. One thing I do at my job is help individuals who are homeless find work. Many of them have suffered from poor health care for a while, and as a result, are missing teeth. It’s pretty damn hard to make a positive first impression at an interview with missing teeth, even if you are the best qualified applicant.

    Josh – Amen to your story as well. I’m glad your girlfriend came out all right. Anyone else in the same predicament, I advise just go back to the ER again and again until they give you an antibiotic prescription. Then, when they send you the bill, talk to their billing department and tell them you can not pay due to economic hardship. If they refuse, put some pressure on them by letting them know this might be a great news story for your local paper.

    Alvin – I’m sorry. That is a damn shame. Is there an agency that can help you in your area?

    FWH – First, why don’t you post with your full name? Second, you have proven nothing. You have made an assertion based on your experience, which is anecdotal. However, your attitudes seem to fit well with a well documented and researched bias, called the “fundamental attribution error” or “blaming the victim”. Third, your lack of compassion is appalling.

  36. Why didn’t she teach this kid to brush his teeth?

    Sometimes brushing doesn’t matter.

    I’ve always brushed my teeth, have always drunk lots and lots of milk, rarely drink soda, got fluoride treatments as a child, and still have a mouth full of fillings. Through bad luck I ended up with cavity prone teeth. That isn’t my parents’ fault and it isn’t my fault, it’s just the way things are.

    And for those who are advocating Dental schools as the panacea for dental problems–they are a huge help BUT (at least around here) you have to sign up at the beginning of the semester. One of our graduate students just tried to get his kid into the school dental clinic, but was told it was too late in the semester. So now he has to come up with the money to go to a regular dentist.

    So it’s a “yes–but” kind of thing.

  37. My apologies, the above posting was mine.

    To further respond:

    Cassie – Dental services are available, some places. What if you live in urban Chicago, and you don’t have money to take buses out of your neighborhood? And your neighborhood is blighted and has only 1 dentist? And he can’t/won’t take you? The individual circumstances of poor families are often like this.

    damaged justice – How about posting with your real name? I’m really tired of reading arrogant quips that claim to have the answer, and you don’t even have the chutzpah to put your name out there. Consider this – some people can brush every day, but because of genetic factors, they still lose their teeth. Like, you know, my dad. Also, it’s possible some families have to choose between toothpaste or food.

  38. Why didn’t she teach this kid to brush his teeth?

    Question for you, ‘damaged justice,’ if somebody with dental insurance and a 6-figure income doesn’t teach their kids good dental hygiene, is it the same crime? Or is it a crime only if you are poor and uneducated?

    It never ceases to amaze me the standards we hold the poor to. Funny how the standards don’t seem to apply to those who can afford to correct their mistakes later in life, eh?

    The question was asked somewhere above, how in a country as rich as the US can kids still be dying of an abscessed tooth? Simple, comments like those from damaged justice and FWH are the majority opinion – it’s the poor people’s own damned fault, they shouldn’t be poor in the first place.

    Scalzi, maybe a nice counterpoint to the “Being Poor” topic would be a “Being Rich” topic. I’ll even spot you the first entry: Being Rich is being able to afford the warm feeling of smug arrogance that comes from blaming the poor for the tragic deaths of their children.

  39. Damaged Justice:

    “Why didn’t she teach this kid to brush his teeth?”

    Why do you automatically assume she did not?

    My sister and I brushed our teeth pretty exactly the same amount growing up; she had a mouth full of cavities while I didn’t get my first cavity until I was an adult.

  40. Sounds like the mother did all she could to work the system. Bad enamel not withstanding (I have that problem myself) her kids were not taking care of their teeth and that is part of her responsibility. While they still would get cavities, rotting teeth and abscess’ indicate a real lack of oral hygiene. Who would reasonably think that that could result in a death sentence?

    But the system is not easy. I am very affluent and retired and we have been having run ins with the insurance industry. My kid is an out of treatment oncology patient and while we were on my wife’s health insurance everything was simple. She retired and we Cobra’ed her coverage (required so my daughter can qualify for the hi risk HIPPA pool). The transition to Cobra took 4 hours of phone work and 7 letters to get properly resolved.

    That ran it’s course and we had to move to CalCobra (again required) and that is were the real fun begins. The insurance co. sends a letter saying we qualify and then starts sending new insurance cards; 7 sets of them over 2 months all slightly different. They do not send any other confirmation, the do not return phone calls, the customer service personnel are completely useless and do not know what he are doing or saying; they take messages and “accidentally” hang up when a supervisor is requested; it takes 10-15 minutes on hold just to speak to the useless ones again.

    We pay our $860 per month premium and on 2 different visits to the hospital (one ER visit for stitches and one oncology visit for what turn out to be a swollen lymph node (all lumps are scary)) we are told we have no insurance which starts all sorts of fun paperwork escapades and delays in service. What should be a couple of 2 hr visits (10 minutes of face time) turn into all day events; good thing we are retired and have the time. There have been 5 hours of phone calls half a dozen letters, and I am about to retain legal counsel to deal with it, but then again I can afford it.

    I don’t buy the “system is complicated” excuse. If you worked in a fast food joint and screwed up on tenth as much you would be fired instantly. If this number of mistakes were made in any job one would be fired. The system is rigged so that unless you read the real fine print and are smart enough to comprehend it (I have a degree in applied physics and my wife is a speech pathologist and we’re confused), you will make a mistake and not qualify. The layers of representatives are difficult to penetrate and are design to make you give up and go away. Free market health care does not work well for patients or doctors and system needs to be fixed. I could go on and on but this enough now.

  41. Cassie, and I say this honestly, I am glad that you had access to a dental service provider, I’m glad you had the cash on hand to pay for the service (even if you had to scrape it together and shake down the couch to make the difference), had a mode of transport to get to the office, and had the time off of work to take your child three times in short order. I’m also glad your dentist was a good person.

    Not everybody has all these five things. I hope you can see that.

  42. Steve, I do see it.

    I think that there needs to be a change, but I’m not in favor of nationalizing health care.

    I think we should abolish insurance.

  43. Cassie, as a receipent of $40,000+ of reconstructive surgery for a broken leg, of which I paid a little more than $9000 out of pocket, all within an 8 month period, and which it took four years to get beyond economically, I would be against it’s abolishion. Reform, yes. I’m all for that. Including removal of the Tort Wall and allow damage awards if someone is forced to sue their health insurance company.

  44. A few random notes:

    Working the system is harder when you are poor. If you look at the SCHIP website, it makes like this is all so easy and anyone who is making up to around 35K can get insurance for their kids. This is not the case. In my state, The requirements for SCHIP are the same as for medicaid–poverty level–its just that the state uses the federal SCHIP funding for some of the children. Also, there are times when you think you’ve done everything right, but you are not informed until it is much too late that you’ve lost coverage.

    Example: Once due to a clerical error, my employer didn’t pay me for an entire month. the next month, I got a huge check to make up for it. Because IN THAT MONTH I got above poverty level earnings, even though the previous month I got none, I was cut off from medicaid. I was not TOLD until after that month. And then I had to wait three more months to reapply. Month by month earnings are used a lot for social services, which makes life really unstable for migrant workers or people peicing together different work.

    Many times, you are required to show up in person to apply or take care of problems. This often requires a good chunk of a whole day. Have you ever been to a social services office? It is the most slow, packed dreary office you will find. This means, taking a whole day off work. Or more, if your problem doesn’t get resolved. In bigger cities, you could end up waiting with a number the whole day and they won’t get to you. IN order to keep your number, you have to come back early the next morning. Sometimes this is impossible for people in order to keep their jobs, so then they come back some other time and start all over again.

    If you are comfortable financially, do you think something like this wouldn’t happen to you? My mother worked all her life at a well paying job and paid insurance premiums. Then at 54 she got laid off due to a company merger. She bought a cheap simple medical plan, thinking it would tide her over until my father retired a few years later or she found another job. Then she would be eligable for his railroad retirement insurance. In that time, she developed brain cancer. She had ten months of intensive treatments before she died. Her insurance cap was 250K, and her expenses were over 500K, got help us if she would have lived longer. I love how well off people have this false sense of security like they’ve done everything to ensure that THEY would never be in a situation to be denied medical care. The system is so fragile that we are all affected.

    And for those who want to abolish insurance, what a sense of immortality you must have! Even if costs would decline, what if you got into a car wreck and had a spinal cord injury. My SO is a quadriplegic. He is on tricare, military insurance. His medical costs since his injury 15 years ago are well over 15 million dollars. Still want to pay out of pocket or with a health insurance payment plan?

    As for the whole she should have taught him to brush his teeth business, others have already noted that this is just entitled garbage talk. Teeth brushing does not ensure good oral health, and even if she didn’t always get around to making sure the kids brushed their teeth…(because she was working two jobs or long hours or wasn’t there when he went to bed due to work or she was exhausted or whatever the reason may be)does that mean her kid deserves to die for it? Do the rich people who don’t make sure their kids brush their teeth have to face the same consequences?

    Lastly, about the organ transplantation thing mentioned earlier, I was actually thinking of things like stem cell research or artificial organs or other medical advances in regards to organ supply, not that we would force people to donate organs.

    Okay, I’m done.

  45. Re: medicaid dentists.

    My mother is a dentist who works for a Dayton dental clinic that specializes in medicaid patients.

    The Boss she works for is shady in the extreme. She says that reimbursements for medicaid patients are so low that you lose money on most procedures you do. This is an incentive to do as little care as possible as her boss gets paid a tiny amount of money per patient every year whether or not they get treatment. Also it is incentive to perform everything as quickly as possible.

    Recently he overuled her 25 years of experience and said that a patient only needed two fillings rather than the SIX my mother recommended. Needless to say my mother went on an immediate job search and just put in her two weeks notice on Monday, as incidents like these are commonplace.

    She also told me this morning that referring kids to pediatric dentists is routine. Some children (not just poor ones) will move around, open and close their mouths at random, spit, slap, cry, and other behaviors so much that it is impossible to treat them without sedation. She has several scars on her fingers from being bitten to prove this point.

    If a child will not sit still it just is not safe for dentist or patient to have drills, needles, and etc near their head and mouth.

    Unfortunatly, sedation dentistry is expensive.

    There are so many people to blame in this story. The ones LEAST likely to be culpable are the mother and child.

  46. oh, damn! I’m not done:

    About the dental school thing. It is a good resource, but you have to have one in your area. And at mine you have to sign up at the beginning of each semester, and you have to commit to a four hour appointment. They also only do basic cleaning, fillings, etc. Anything in the orthodontics or oral surgery range, they refer you outside. So, there are limits to that resource.

    Unless you have ever tried to find a doctor/dentist with no insurance or medicaid, you may not know how next to impossible it is. There are doctors who will sometimes take the uninsured, but they are few and far between and even then, they usually set a quota for their practice. Free clinics are sometimes available for shots and basics, but not much else, and the wait time problem applies there as well. All of this varies wildly on a persons geographic location and their means of transportation as well as their ability to take off work.

    Being poor and working the medical insurance/health care system is basically like pinball, you get knocked around from wall to wall and try to keep going. Eventually, you’re going to not be able to keep yourself going and fall into the hole.

  47. I could post my opinion. But everything that needs to be said was said better, a long time ago.

    Matthew 25 41-45:

    Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

  48. Eric – You know, I’m Buddhist, but I do agree with that passage. I don’t understand Christians, especially those in politics, who are willing to spend money on defense, but then come up with all sorts of reasons why those who are in need shouldn’t be helped by the government.

  49. Todd Stull-I’m neither a theologian nor a Christian, but the response many a Christian would provide to your last query would be that charity, as referred to in the Bible, can only be characterised as such when it is done voluntarily, i.e. through private means rather than by the government.

  50. Yeah, how well is that whole voluntary private charity thing working out?

    Has anyone done an organized comparison study of other countries’ socialized health care systems somewhere? Surely the U.S. could cobble together a better system out of those?

  51. “One wonders if Jesus will buy such a legalistic rationalization.”

    Neither legalistic nor rationalization, but it cuts to the heart of morality. If I give out of charity, it is a moral good. If I am forced to give at the point of a gun, it is theft, and a moral evil.

    If you sent 10 $100 bills to charity to alleve the suffering in Darfur, you have done a good thing. If I come into your house, point a gun at your head and say “Give me $1000”, it is irrelevent that I’m going to send it to Darfur, what I did would be wrong.

  52. Papapete, so are you equating taxes to theft?

    And how many people here belong to service organizations? I used to belong to Ruritans, until my job and council duties made it impossible for me to make regular meetings (a requirement for membership). I still give my time and talents to them. One of the many things we did was work with a local eye doctor to help kids get glasses. The doctor gave us a price break because he knew we would pay with a check, and we would cover many kids, and because he’s a good guy. We averaged about 4 exams and glasses a month. This is for a several community base of

  53. Papapete:

    “If I give out of charity, it is a moral good. If I am forced to give at the point of a gun, it is theft, and a moral evil.”

    I find generally that people who front a “taxes = theft” argument in a democratic society where citizens elect the people who legislate taxes, have a remarkably bad argument that is not even vaguely worth considering, so if that’s the direction you’re going, you should stop now before I’m compelled to mock you for your ignorance and your stupidity.

    Seriously. No “taxes = theft” crap in this thread.

  54. Papapete, so are you equating taxes to theft?

    I don’t know Papapete’s political stripes, but that’s exactly what many, if not most libertarians and conservatives (at least the economically-oriented ones) would posit.
    I might point out that the original issue here was not what defines “charity”, but rather what defines “Christian charity”. My point was that the Bible (so far as I know) neither endorses nor repudiates governmental social welfare. Personally, being an agnostic, I find the point irrelevant.

  55. Amitava, what part of “No ‘taxes = theft’ crap,” don’t you understand?

  56. Anonymous wrote: “Here in Illinois, the state anticipates running out of money to cover all the SCHIP eligible kids sometime this spring. From that point until the end of the fiscal year in the summer, kids will be screwed.

    What we need is to demand that SCHIP be fully funded by the federal government, so that all kids can be covered.”

    This is the same Illinois where the Cook County hospitals are so mismanaged by politically-appointed flaks that it neglected to collect $250 million from private sources, and had 39% of public claims rejected due to poor internal controls, all within one year. How about we do a bit more locally to make sure public health money isn’t being wasted before blaming the federal government?

  57. MWT:
    “Has anyone done an organized comparison study of other countries’ socialized health care systems somewhere? Surely the U.S. could cobble together a better system out of those?”

    Was that an attempt at humor? I think the Government from the top down has done a billion studies already. How many Politicians have ran on that ticket already?
    If you scroll up to my first post you will see that I am a U.S. Citizen living and working in Europe. Why is it the E.U. can provide to all the working class (health, dental insurance)and use the services ON DEMAND? Without meaningless paperwork and processes that loop unto themselves?
    Well, I can tell you why. Because people still have power here. And they do NOT fear governments. In the U.S., money has power. And money runs the government.

  58. So gerrymander, your argument is that before we add more funds to a program that’s going to run out of money in short order, that we instead fix a billing issue at a hospital that would drain that fund faster in the future? Now, if you’re a resident of Cook County, and just in general, I’ll support you saying this hospital needs to get it’s act together, but when they do, they’re going to be hitting that fund harder which means it will need even more money in the future.

  59. John Scalzi | March 1, 2007 05:25 PM

    Amitava, what part of “No ‘taxes = theft’ crap,” don’t you understand?

    Beg pardon; I started writing my remark before you put forth that rule, and therefore didn’t see it.
    In any case I wasn’t trying to promulgate the idea, but to illustrate to Mr. Buchheit that for better or for worse, many folks do indeed follow such a line of thinking.

  60. John, picking up on your assertion that “this kid is dead for no other reason than because he was poor”, it seems to me that a reasonable question to ask would be “Why was he poor?”

    I would first respectfully suggest that what you meant to say is that the kid is dead because his family is poor. I am an attorney in a firm that has an estate planning practice, and it is extremely rare for minor children of even the very affluent to own assets outright; they are usually bound up in trusts until the kids are 18 or 21 or older. Therefore almost every kid in the country is technically “poor.” Thus the relevant question becomes, “Why was his family poor?” The story gives us two powerful clues:

    1) Nowhere in the story is there any mention whatsoever of Deamonte’s father. The mother, Alyce, is referenced throughout the story. If Deamonte’s dad has any role in his son’s life, then the Washington Post reporter utterly failed to mention it. Having recently had the good fortune to meet and get to know Roland C. Warren, the president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, and having read some of the research funded by his outstanding organization, I think it is a safe bet that Deamonte’s father has no role whatsoever in the child’s or the family’s life.

    2) The second page of the story contains this very troubling passage, “From there, three of Driver’s sons went to stay with their grandparents in a two-bedroom mobile home in Clinton.” Not “Driver’s three sons”, but “three of Driver’s sons.” The clear implication of which (again, assuming the WaPo reporter is a competent writer) is that Driver has more than three sons.

    It seems to me, John, that this family is poor not because of forces outside of their control (capitalism, racism, etc.) but because Deamonte’s father apparently made the choice not to be involved in their lives (unless he is dead, and even though I would be interested to know the circumstances – i.e., whether he died of a drug overdose or in a workplace accident) and because Deamonte’s mother made a series of bad choices in electing to engage in risky behaviors that left with more children then she could support or handle.

    But should being poor carry a death sentence? Of course not. One would think that there would be charitable or governmental safety nets to handle cases like this. I don’t have the time to investigate what private sector options there might have been for this family, although prior commenters came up with the treatment at a dental school idea very quickly. On the governmental side, it would seem relevant to note that Maryland has been a stronghold of the Democratic party since, well, forever. Which likely means that in theory there are programs by the buttload to “help” people like Alyce and Deamonte, but that – like ALL government programs, REGARDLESS of the party in power – they are managed at best inefficiently and at worst corruptly. And likely a toxic mix of the two.

    In the end, saying the kid is dead because he was poor is as mistaken as saying (like the reporter did) that he died from a toothache. Both the poverty and the toothache were symptoms of a more insidious disease process working below the surface. Until that is addressed, things like this will continue to happen.

  61. Amitava D., I understand, and I’ve heard that argument before (as a councilman, you hear the strangest ideas), and I feel the way John does about it. I was just tryiing to cut through some of the rhetorical garabge and to the main point they were making. Because, as John pointed out, then it would be good fodder for ridicule.

  62. Ray: Not so much humorous as frustrated, I suppose. Same as your ensuing comments about the lack of paperwork to do all of the same things in Europe. Do people over there have the same sort of “Every man for himself” mindset as the U.S. seems to?

  63. I agree that it is the mother’s fault. She should have figured out a way to be rich. I’m mentally ill, which is why I didn’t even get my kids’ free health insurance renewed this year. It’s on my list, but it seems to be impossible to do. I’m not sure what will happen if one of them has a medical emergency. Of course, *I* don’t have health insurance either. Last summer, I made $850 a month. I can’t even imagine who I would ask for help if I could ask for help. It’s my fault that I’m poor, even though I have a master’s degree and additional training. It’s her fault that she’s poor too. If we’re this poor, we should have made a choice to live in another country where we could get health care. Back when I had dental insurance, my daughter did the same thing when she was younger–she didn’t tell us about the pain until a root canal was necessary. I blogged about this when I ran into a mother who finagled ways to get her kids looked at by a dentist. She had them go through a free evaluation by an orthodontist, and she carefully studied their x-rays to see if she thought they had cavities. I blogged about the experience last October 23rd (Health insurance in the real world classified under parenting), in case you want to read it. I didn’t bother writing to my Republican congressmen, because I’m sure they wouldn’t care. Both Democrats wrote back.

  64. “It seems to me, John, that this family is poor not because of forces outside of their control … and because Deamonte’s mother made a series of bad choices in electing to engage in risky behaviors that left with more children then she could support or handle.”

    You know, that was one of my first few lines of thinking too – that not all of the circumstances that caused them to be poor were necessarily out of their control. However, not all of them were necessarily in their control, either.

    And regardless of how exactly the family ended up where they did, does it matter? We can infer from the article that the mother cares about all of her children now and tried her best to take care of them, given the lengths she went to find adequate dental care for the other son.

  65. Benedict:

    “John, picking up on your assertion that ‘this kid is dead for no other reason than because he was poor’, it seems to me that a reasonable question to ask would be ‘Why was he poor?'”

    Actually, that question is entirely immaterial to the fact that the kid is dead because he is poor. It doesn’t matter how the kid became poor; the point is because he was poor, he’s dead of something that wouldn’t have killed a child whose parent had more means. Asking why he’s poor doesn’t change the fact he’s dead because of it.

    What you’re doing in attempting to draw the conversation away from the fact he’s poor and looking for the causes of the poverty is looking for a set of circumstances in which it’s acceptable for a poor child to die because of poverty, and under which you can deny he’s dead because of poverty at all.

    In this case, you’ve apparently decided that by asserting that the child’s poverty is caused by what you believe to be parental neglect of one or more sorts, then that death by poverty is acceptable, and indeed it’s not death by poverty at all. This is of course absolute nonsense; a child of a single parent with a good dental plan who had shown the same level of parental care would not have run into the same difficulties in addressing her child’s medical needs. The kid’s dead because he’s poor, not because of parental neglect.

    It’s nice that you say that being poor should not carry a death sentence, yet at the same time you say that as long as certain conditions specified by you continue to exist, this will happen again; i.e., you’re setting the conditions under which you find child mortality via poverty in some way unavoidable (and thus, outside moral purview). What you’re doing, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, is creating a moral enclosure in which you can place dead poor kids without guilt. “As long as I can find a way to make the parents the guilty party, I need not address this.”

    Needless to say, once this magic formula exists, it will be used regardless of its true application, which is why so many people — particularly conservatives — are quick to decry neglectful parents; it allows them to give the appearance of moral rectitude without obliging them to deal with the immediate problem at hand, which in this case is a poor child who did not deserve to die merely because he was poor.

    Let me suggest that however a child finds itself in poverty, it is almost certain he or she is not the causative agent of that poverty. Regardless of the causes of the child’s poverty — and independent of any putative blame or solution for the poverty — we should ask if it is moral that a child dies because of the condition of poverty in which it exists, and for a cause which would not kill a child of better means.

  66. Jim Wright wrote:

    The question was asked somewhere above, how in a country as rich as the US can kids still be dying of an abscessed tooth? Simple, comments like those from damaged justice and FWH are the majority opinion – it’s the poor people’s own damned fault, they shouldn’t be poor in the first place.

    The Rich See What They Believe

  67. [deleted because poster is making a “taxes = theft” argument, whether he’s aware he is doing so or not, and as noted above this is not the thread for that]

  68. Gaaaah — now I have doubts it was a “taxes = theft” argument. Papapete, feel free to repost your argument. I may have been hasty in deleting it. Sorry.

  69. Why didn’t she teach this kid to brush his teeth?

    This is a position of ignorance (note: I am not saying you are stupid, just meerly not knowledgable about the subject). The quality of a person’s teeth are only partially effected by dental care habits. A great deal of it is based off of inherent biology of the person in question, specifically the makeup of their saliva (thickness of enamel is pretty immaterial; that mearly dictates when, not if). I was horrible about taking care of my teeth when I was a kid, despite my parents’ insistance, and I have never had a cavity in my life because I lucked out genetically.
    Then there is my girlfriend who has always taken fanatical care of her teeth, largely because she is predisposed to tooth problems, but despite her efforts she still has tooth problems. That is because half her ancestry hails from the British Isle. There is some truth behind England having bad teeth (it is a stereotype so there are naturally counter examples) and it is because they have a genetic flaw that effects the makeup of their saliva, making it less effective at preventing tooth decay.
    Whether the child has a predisposition to oral issues is an open question, but based off of his sibling’s issues I would say it is likely. Bad tooth care alone can’t account for that many decayed teeth at once. They both probably could have taken better care of their teeth because most kids don’t do a great job cleaning their teeth even when they do brush (does anyone remember those disgusting red tablets you are supposed to chew that bind to any plaque pointing out where you missed while brushing? Yeah, those exist because kids do a crappy job cleaning away plaque even when they do brush). However trying to place blame on the mother because she might hypothetically not have been as dilligent about tooth care as she should have been is likely undeserved. It also obscures the actual problem at hand, mainly that health care in general, and dental care specifically, require several hurdles to clear for those below the poverty level before care is given.

  70. We can all fight about who is responsible until we’re exasperated and breathless, but what does that really resolve in the interim?

    The point I took from the original post was that a child died because his family lacked the 80 dollars that could have saved his life.

    You forget as you toss your rocks that a mother has lost her son, brothers have lost a sibling, and the world has lost a child who could have made a difference.

    Regardless on who is to blame, it happened. If anything, people need to stop pointing fingers and reflect on what could justifiably be done now to stop this from occurring again!

    So what are your suggestions? What can you think about or more importantly do that will help your fellow man?

    Or will you just sit there and bitch about a broken system and let another priceless life slip through the cracks?

    As you can clearly see: Apathy is lethal.

    Do something. We live in a democratic society. Write your congressman. Demand reform. Volunteer in soup kitchens. Donate. Vote.

    Make a difference instead of being indifferent.

  71. I don’t recall exactly what I said, but in very rough outline here goes:

    “I might point out that the original issue here was not what defines “charity”, but rather what defines “Christian charity”.”

    I’m not saying that taxes=theft, I’m saying that forced “charity” bears no relationship with “Christian charity”, and no moral benefit accrues to either party. When giving charity the giver receives the emotional benefit of helping someone in need and of following the commands of Christ. The recipient feels gratitude toward the giver, and is frequently honored by the receipt of grace.

    Add the government and see what happens. The giver has no connection to the recipient and receives no emotional or moral “payoff”. The recipient doesn’t feel gratitude for the “gift” or the “giver”, but instead feels entitled to the largesse. Instead of being grateful to the person who actually supplied the welfare, his/her gratitude is reserved for the government, and frequently resents the person(s) that the money is actually coming from. So, from a win-win situation to a lose-lose situation in one easy step.

    Sorry, that didn’t come out right, but I’m putting the kids to bed and don’t have time or energy to fix it.

  72. I started a quick comment. It grew into a rather longer screed. So I posted it to my own blog and — with our host’s permission — am putting a link to said screed


  73. I am so angry at some of the comments in this thread that I can hardly think to write this. I found out about Monte’s death from John’s post here. I’m still feeling sick from the shock. I knew he’d been in the hospital, but the last I had heard, he was recovering. This is sickmaking.

    Because I know Necie. Not well, but slightly for four or five years. Yes, she had 5 children, all boys. She worked for my mother occasionally, as does the father of her youngest son, who is now six, with whom she is in a fairly longterm relationship, but not a completely stable one.

    Yes she has made poor life choices, but most of those choices were made for her by her background and upbringing.

    She also works sometimes for her father in construction, as a mason’s assistant, and was in the process of taking education that’s been supposed to lead to better jobs in construction.

    Some of the things I am so angry I don’t want to address, and yet I do know some of the answers, although part of me feels that they are so insulting they don’t deserve answers.

    So, Monte’s father. He died of cancer six months ago. Not of a drug overdose or anything like that. He did try to provide some support for his children, but he’s been dying of cancer for years and unable to work for years. He was in his late 50s or early 60s. Monte’s mother is in her early 30s. Do the math. Figure out how much chance she had given when she had those children.

    About the dental school and other bright ideas. If you don’t have a car at all, and you do have a job, of sorts, (or several jobs) and you have five children, and some of those children are of an age that they can’t be left alone, and some of them are in school, life is difficult.

    Even working for my mother, she had trouble getting there, because she was dependent on rides from people who didn’t have dependable transportation themselves. (The home health care — some of that was my dad who died at the end of August.) Not only was that not income that would provide health insurance, it was a few hours on an occasional basis from people who lived on a limited income themselves.

    But Necie has been out there trying as long as I have known of her. Usually working two or three jobs.

  74. I tried the dental college route as well. Besides the fact that the nearest dental college is 200 miles away, the two times when I applied, they never got back to me. I got the feeling that they had plenty of applicants who didn’t live so far away. Instead, I took a $5000 loan I couldn’t afford, which I still owe over $6500 on, even though I’ve been paying it off for 3 years. I only took out the loan because it was a medical necessity.

  75. @Benedict | March 1, 2007 06:37 PM

    Let me guess: You’re a Republican, right?

  76. John Scalzi, in response to Benedict up thread, that is exactly what is going on here and you hit it way better than I could ever do. Damn, I wish I had some of your logic skills.

    I try to share personal stories to illistrate a point because the poor have such a low representation on the web, and people who have never dealt with the harsh realities of medical care in the US or worked through some of the social services systems just come from a place of utter ignorance. They make themselves feel better by thinking that they would never have that happen to them because they would have brushed their teeth, gone to a free dental school, not let their medicaid lapse, etc. The truth is, they don’t know how they would handle a situation they know nothing about. Its like asking someone how they would handle being abducted by aliens. They can’t imagine or understand the circumstances, so they really can’t say how they would handle it.

    But all that is immaterial because the question is not why he was poor or what his mother did or didn’t do, it is about whether we as a society are willing to let poor children die unnecessarily. That is what you articulated so well in that last comment.

  77. Somewhat tangentially: what sorts of arguments do people in USA have against universal health care?

  78. I’m not affiliated with the health care industry, and personally have mixed feelings on the issue, but I can at least provide some reasons some people would oppose universal health care (to say nothing of socialized or single payer healthcare):

    -Health care’s not a right, it’s a privilege/option/commodity or something to that effect
    -Somewhat tied in w/ the above, it’s not the govt’s. business to provide health care. The most rigid adherants to this would likely maintain that such cases as Deamonte’s are doubtless unfortunate, but a fact of life nonetheless.
    -We as a society shouldn’t have to pick up the tab for dealing w/ peoples’ poor lifestyle choices, such as lung transplants for pack-a-day smokers, gastric bypasses for the morbidly obese, AIDS cocktails for drug users, etc.
    -If I, as a patient, can pay for a procedure, and a doctor is willing to provide it for me, then there’s nobody (i.e., the govt.) aside from the two of us who should have any say as to whether I get that procedure.

    -In countries such as Canada, the UK and Spain, waiting times are much longer.
    -Overall, removal of market forces tends to discourage efficiency, innovation and incentive for would-be doctors to pursue this profession.
    -Poorer quality of care (as opposed to those who *get* care in the US, of course); somewhere I read (though don’t quote me on it) that rates of secondary infections and cancer survival are much lower and higher, respectively, in the US as compared to countries w/ socialized systems. In any case it’s somewhat telling that in Canada, where privately paid-for medical care is illegal, those who can afford to do so frequently opt to go to the US for medical procedures.

    Generally speaking, most opponents will concede that while, say, 15-20% of the population in the US has little to no reasonable access to medical care, for the remaining 80-85% that DOES have said access, the level and quality of that care will be unsurpassed. Whether one’s willing to make a trade-off to bring acess up to 100% depends, I guess, on your socio-economic/political orientation. Again, these aren’t my thoughts, as I have mixed feelings on the issue, but rather what I understand the parameters of the anti-UHC arguments to be.
    In any case, I have a midterm coming up, so I’ll have to try and refrain from voicing any more thoughts. Hope I’ve at least provided food for debate!

  79. “reimbursements for medicaid patients are so low that you lose money on most procedures you do. This is an incentive to do as little care as possible as her boss gets paid a tiny amount of money per patient every year whether or not they get treatment.”

    This is true for nearly every feild of medicine. My father is a surgeon and about 30% of his patients are medicare/medicaid and he loses money on them and now many insurance companies are following suit and undercutting reimbursments for doctors. Yet annother problem with our very broken healthcare system.

  80. Wow. I leave for half a day, and we get some crazy ass comments on this thread. Some responses (also, for those who want context, I am a licensed clinical social worker in Cook County, and I used to be a Chicago school libertarian):

    gerrymander: No shit. I agree we need to fix the County hospital. But why don’t you get off your high horse? I get to watch my clients die on a regular basis because they can’t get quality medical care in the area. Your line of reasoning is: because we have problems locally, don’t bother expanding a program that I have seen help hundreds of kids? The flaws at Stroger hospital do not negate the good that SCHIP does.

    Benedict – Have you ever been poor a day in your life? Because if so, I’d like to hear about it. I could also share some of my experiences with you. Seriously. You can email me privately at if you’d like. Regardless, your reasoning is sickening. Props to John for (as always) explaining it better than I will here.

    Why do poor people not get to have kids? Why is it that if a poor person has some number of children over whatever limit you want to propose, the immediate assumption is the mother engaged in risky behavior, and should have know better? What if she had sex once, and had quadruplets? What if the father of her children is dead, a victim of random violence? What if life was good for the family until some random act of the Universe ripped apart their family? There is so much to this story we don’t know. What we do know is that if society agrees that children should be protected and receive quality medical care, then we, as part of society, share some of this failure that this child died. Maybe you don’t agree with this viewpoint. That’s sad.

  81. “Why do poor people not get to have kids?”

    I can’t speak for the conservative philosophy as a whole, but I imagine many of its adherents would respond in the following way:

    By all means, anyone has the right to have children. It’s only reasonable that they be expected to provide for them should they do so(the whole “rights w/ responsibility” and “personal responsibility” creed). I noticed someone up above was wondering about the “every man for himself” philosophy that seems to characterise much of American thought and policy. That’s actually a pretty apt assessment of one of the distinguishing aspects of American culture, something I think that has its roots in the birth and development of this country, from “frontier spirit” to “rugged individualism”.
    Damn, I told myself I wouldn’t post anything more this weekend.

  82. I’m *extremely* suspicious of the claim that privately paid-for medical care is illegal in Canada; it certainly is not in any European country that I know of that has universal, socialized health care.

    Secondly, I’m dubious about the idea that eliminating market forces would automatically lead to inefficiency; the current US system costs more and delivers less than the socialized medicine in the other first-world countries, for example. (Not to mention the fact that a privately run medical system has to make profit, whereas a government-run system doesn’t.)

  83. He’s not dead because he’s poor. Your premise is wrong. He’s dead because of a bad decision. The same thing could happen to you or I. Put the violin away.

  84. TCO:

    “Your premise is wrong.”

    Ah, bullshit. Merely asserting the premise is wrong doesn’t mean it is. Funny about that.

    “Put the violin away.”

    I’ll put it where you keep your conscience, TCO. Apparently, there’s lots of room there.

  85. Amitava, I think you bring up some very interesting points regarding universal health care. Some rejoinders to the arguments you put forth:


    -I agree, health care is not a right by some definitions. It should, however, be something we strive to provide for all people at all times. If we don’t, despite having the resources to do so, then by many moral codes, we are being immoral.

    -Government should be there to 1) protect constitutional rights, and to 2) provide those services that society agrees is morally necessary, but that the free market will not. One caveat – when morality butts heads with constitutional rights, rights win. I believe health care to the poor and universal health care qualifies as a morally necessary service.

    -Doctors are bound by morality to provide services regardless of whether ill health is a result of personal decisions. If we choose not to fund them, through the government or otherwise, it seems to me we undermine the overall mission of doctors.

    -Providing universal health care does not necessarily mean that the government will be stepping in and interfering with someone who can pay for health care outside of the universal system.


    -In countries with higher wait times for health care maybe that just means each provider is serving more people. Seems fine to me. Sounds like everyone is getting served. The more important question to me: is emergency care available to those who need it in a timely manner? If not, then maybe we need to rethink universal care.

    -I hear the argument often that removal of market forces in medicine causes waste, inefficiency, etc. I claim some ignorance here. Can you point me to some studies? In addition, is medicine (or could medicine be) an area not purely or mostly driven by the profit motive? Ergo, the market force argument is spurious.

  86. On a more indirectly practical level, it seems to me that providing adequate health care and support for the poor will eventually benefit everyone in the long run. Those people would be able to lead happy and productive lives instead of being stuck in constant bureaucratic runarounds. Them being productive means that they’re doing useful things for their communities and the rest of society.

    It also means that they’re not scrabbling desperately to survive by any means possible, including criminal ones. And it makes me wonder – how much crime would go away if there were no ‘bad side of town’? (Not all of it, probably … but perhaps a good-sized chunk?)

  87. Wakboth:

    “I’m *extremely* suspicious of the claim that privately paid-for medical care is illegal in Canada”

    Your suspicion may very well be correct, in which case I stand corrected. My statement was based on what Canadians whom I know personally have told me. The following Wikipedia links are very exhaustive and thorough; unfortunately, I don’t have time to read them in sufficient depth. If I’m not much mistaken, legality is (or was) a provincial/territorial issue (Canada’s in many ways more federalised than the US, interestingly enough).

    “the current US system costs more and delivers less than the socialized medicine in the other first-world countries, for example.”

    Costs more? For the individual in question, probably. For society as a whole, you have to take into account that tax rates in most Western nations far exceed those in America. Delivers less? Depends on what set of circumstances you’re talking about. Again, this brings us back to discrepancy in health care; those who can afford it will get the best quality that exists. Those who can’t won’t. The question that remains is are we willing to possibly give up that level quality in order to even out the distribution? Furthermore, I do stand by my claim that Canadians who can afford to do so often come to the US to have elective procedures done, as well as the comparison of rates of secondary infection.

    Mr. Stull:
    “Government should be there to 1) protect constitutional rights, and to 2) provide those services that society agrees is morally necessary”
    On no. 2 there: many libertarians and economically-oriented conservatives (i.e. those most stalwartly opposed to UHC) would deny this. They would probably say that govt.’s (at least the federal one’s) only responsibility is to provide “absolute” necessities, such as national defense, maintenance of basic infrastructure, national emergencies such as disease outbreaks. Hell, there are probably lots who are opposed to even THAT level of responsibility.

    “If we choose not to fund them, through the government or otherwise, it seems to me we undermine the overall mission of doctors.”
    In somewhat the same vein, many would question why it’s the govt.’s obligation to support said mission.
    “Providing universal health care does not necessarily mean that the government will be stepping in and interfering with someone who can pay for health care outside of the universal system.”
    One should hope not. On the other hand, my father some years ago contracted an infection while we were visiting relatives in the UK. Since he wasn’t part of the system there, he had to go through a whole rigmarole where his sister’s assigned physician (reluctantly) examined him on her “account”. In the US, that wouldn’t have happened (of course, in the US he would have been able to pay out of his pocket, which kind of brings us back to square one).

    “Ergo, the market force argument is spurious.”
    It might be; I myself am not as well-read on the subject as I’d like to be. I suspect, however, that it’s not, since as we all know medical care has its costs, and somebody has to foot the bills. One can’t deny that profit motive tends to spur innovation; that’s human nature, like it or not.

    Okay, now I’m really *really* not going to post anything until Monday afternoon, assuming this discussion’s still ongoing. Wish me luck for neuro!

  88. This kind of thing happens all of the time. Maybe not with tooth decay but with heart diease, diabetes, cancer, ect. These poor people need help and I think those who are able to help should. Maybe from town to town across this very weathy nation we could start giving money to help poor under previlge people with medical insurance. I have 4 kids and they are all on the chip program but that is here in Texas where just about every dentist and doctor takes medicade and chips. But I know from experience that places upstate do not take this type of insurance. Why? I have no idea it is crazy other countries have insurance for people of lower class income I just don’t understand how we as a country can not do the same???? Well to the mother of the little boy that died may GOD be with you and our country morn for such a tragic story that was so preventable…..

  89. Tying in with this, today in the Seattle Post-Intelligncer: a young woman has choosen to go to prison in order to get treatment for ovarian cancer.

    I’m not interested in comments about her lifestyle choices; the reality is that because she is poor she cannot get the medical treatment she needs.

    I’ve been on welfare and Medicaid; am now on Social Security disability and on Medicare. I’m not going to post my own horror stories of problems I encountered getting proper care during the time I was on welfare/Medicaid. However: I knew people who have died due to the lack of medical care, and/or the incorrect treatment they received at the local ER. Another who have lost the sight in an eye due to an untreated infection. And another whose cancer metastatized because the doctors who would see here couldn’t get tests authorized.

    I’ll shut up now, I could rant about this for hours.

    What matters, the only thing that matters as far as I’m concerned, is that people are denied adequate healthcare because they’re poor. The reasons for their poverty are irrelevant.

  90. gack; I previewed that and still didn’t catch the typos. “has chosen” for “has choosen”, “another who has” for “another who has”. If there are others, I’m not seeing them; that what happens when I type while this upset about things. (And I’ve been a proofreader and an editor. heh.)

  91. I’m lucky enough to have a crappy-paying job that actually has health insurance that I can afford, as long as I’m willing to work 63 hour weeks. So that’s what I do. It keeps my wife in the medication that keeps her alive, and it pays for my ludicrously healthy daughter’s infrequent doctor visits. It’s also got kid’s dental, which is reassuring considering that I haven’t been to the dentist myself since I was 18, 20 years ago. Fortunately, my teeth seem fine.

    I grew up on Medicaid, and I remember spending hour upon hour waiting in the gray sitting room of the Medicaid office for my mom to be able to grovel enough to keep us in healthcare and food stamps so we could keep eating and such frivolities. I also remember her helping our neighbors thru the bureaucracy, since she was a good deal more literate than most of them. It’s gotten a fuckload harder to work your way through the system since then.

    All that anec/data aside, as an anarchist I’m kinda fundamentally suspicious of the idea of letting government run our healthcare, but I’m open to the idea that somebody’s got to and the greedhead fuckers currently doing it are doing such a shitty job that I dunno if the government can really do a worse job. On the other hand, given the current administration’s track record, I dunno if I’d like to risk it. Especially since it seems like putting the fedgov in total control of healthcare distribution and funding would make it pretty easy for them to stomp out all of those uncomfortable healthcare problems like abortion and contraception and alternative healthcare if they felt like it. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but it does make me uncomfortable.

    Yeah, the Canadians and the Scandawhovians seem to be able to make socialized medicine work pretty well, but they seem to be far more functional societies in general, both governmentally and privately.

  92. For those who think our profit-based health insurance system is just dandy, try figuring out what it would cost you if you needed an organ transplant.

    I have a pretty good idea about transplant costs, hospital stays, drugs, and the like, because I’ve been doing research on it since I was told in late January that I’m going to need a kidney transplant in a few years.

    Let’s say $100,000 for the transplant and subsequent 20-day hospital stay. That’s cheap. Then let’s say $20,000 a year for your transplant anti-rejection drugs, the ones you’ll have to be on for the rest of your life. You have insurance, so you won’t need to pay nearly that much.

    But wait! There’s a catch. Your insurance has a lifetime maximum cap of $250,000 on how much the policy will pay for transplants, and that includes the cost of your transplant drugs. At that rate, your insurance will cover the cost of your drugs for 7 1/2 years, and after that, you’re on your own. Got a spare $20k a year? Most people don’t, whether or not they’re poor.

    The state insurance system let this poor child, Deamonte Driver, slip through its cracks, and because of this, he died. Your insurance company, with full awareness of what they are doing, will force you through the cracks after a while, and there’s not a thing you can do about it except to demand universal health care. That same universal health care would almost certainly have saved Deamonte Driver.

  93. “Costs more? For the individual in question, probably. For society as a whole, you have to take into account that tax rates in most Western nations far exceed those in America.”

    You have to take into account what we get for that tax rate: free (or at least heavily subsidised) education that is as good as in the US (the best universities exempted), free (or at least heavily subsidised) and universal health care, including dental work, and so on.

    You also have to take into account the positive effects these programs have on the whole society: pre-emptive medicine is *worlds* cheaper, in terms of both lives and money, than letting medical problems come to head because the poor people can’t afford to have regular check-ups and dental work, for example.

    “Delivers less? Depends on what set of circumstances you’re talking about.”

    The other first-world countries, with universal health care, have longer lifetime expectancies and lower infant mortality than United States. I’d say that’s something, don’t you think?

    “Again, this brings us back to discrepancy in health care; those who can afford it will get the best quality that exists. Those who can’t won’t.”

    The problem is, there are all too many Americans who won’t get even *poor* health care.

    “The question that remains is are we willing to possibly give up that level quality in order to even out the distribution?”

    I think that’s a false dichotomy, in that the best level health care in other first-world nations is only slightly behind American cutting edge, but the level of health care available to the poor and the general public is *better*. And there are *many* more people in need of dental care, for example, than of brain surgery.

    “Furthermore, I do stand by my claim that Canadians who can afford to do so often come to the US to have elective procedures done, as well as the comparison of rates of secondary infection.”

    I’m curious about the secondary infection rates; can you point me towards any statistics?

  94. Okay, this is the last I post this weekend, I SWEAR.

    Wakboth, I should truly like to continue this discussion, feel free to email me should you be so inclined. Out of the many points you brought up, I shall relegate myself to addressing one for now. You mentioned something about longer life expectancies in much of the Western world, I believe. I have no doubt on average that’s true. Would I be correct in assuming you’re European? I might point out, however, that Americans overall lead a disproportionately less healthy and more sedentary lifestyle than their counterparts in Europe. This is even further accentuated by region (coming from the South, take my word that such is the case). Therefore the lower life expectancy can largely be attributed to the choices people make. It should come as no surprise that Americans spend more per capita on health care.

  95. “Somewhat tangentially: what sorts of arguments do people in USA have against universal health care?”

    Honestly? “It’s their own fault their poor.”
    I knew that he and I didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of political issues, but I really didn’t expect to ever hear that in actual meatlife. (I guess I have this weird conceptual block wherein I assume that most of the people on and so on are sophisticated robots or Limbaugh sockpuppets and don’t actually exist outside of the Internet.)
    I just sat there, floored, for about five or ten seconds (which is a very long time for me), and the best my poor abused brain could spit out was something about how obviously he didn’t understand how capitalism works by definition.
    Capitalism is aggregated greed. Jesus didn’t say anything about “personal accountability” last time I checked the Bible, and I keep running into these “Christians” who somehow come out with the “I’ve got mine” attitude the whole religion is against. The Nielsen Haydens keep me sane.

  96. Amitava – I’d be interested in seeing your discussion continue here, if you and Wakboth are inclined. (Not necessarily this weekend; school is important too. ;) )

    I don’t see why there has to be an either/or situation either. Universal health care for all OR best medical care (for the rich at least) in the world? Why can’t it be both? Those who are too poor to afford the current insurance schemes can get the health care they need through the universal system. Those who want better than the universal system can continue to pay insurance for the private, for-profit offerings. Those who hit their lifetime max on the private plans can go to the universal system afterward, instead of dropping out to none whatsoever.

    That lifetime max worries me quite a bit, incidentally. I’m doing my best right now to reap the benefits of preventive care (regular checkups, dental cleanings, etc. that come ‘free’ with my insurance) so that I can try to avoid needing expensive stuff later, but it still weighs on me.

  97. My understanding of how it works in Canada (and this is anectdotal, based on a few of my Canadian friends) is that they can get private insurance on top of universal. For example, my friend works at IBM Canada, and he chooses to get BCBS through IBM. BCBS gets a subsidy from the government (basically what they would be paying for him if he chose to just use the government plan) and he pays the rest. The rest is something like 15 dollars a month for him and his two children. BCBS does have a lifetime limit, but if he exceeds that, he can just go back to universal healthcare.

    One way that this has been an advantage for him is that since he is blind, he has lower job stability than most. A change in computer systems can put him out of a job. With universal health care, he has been able to change jobs with ease, even taking a few months off to update his skills and accomodations with technology. Unlike many disabled people in the US who get on disability and stay there, because if they dared try to work and fail, they would be screwed, screwed, screwed when it came to health insurance. If they have disabilities that require life sustaining care, trying to work might mean risking loss of medical care and even death should their job not work out.

    Also, as I understand it, they cut health care costs by cutting little conveniences, not poor peoples care. For example, when my friend’s wife had her babies, they had to bring their own diapers, clothes and other supplies for the babies. They didn’t have a phone in their room, but a credit card pay phone could be wheeled down upon request. As far as wait times, there are not significantly different wait times for emergency or scheduled services. However, for routine care, there may be a wait time longer than the U.S. Here, it is much easier to leave the doctor and wait a year and make your next appointment a few weeks in advance. There, you make your appointment for next year before you leave. It is just a matter of being more organized.

    The myth about better health care in the U.S. is a bit of ethnocentricity, I think. We do have some specific areas where we are very advanced, like brain surgery, but other countries have their specialties as well. France has done some amazing stuff with AIDS, and Russia has pioneered some specific eye surgeries.

    I think Canadians tend to look at the resources in the U.S. as a bit of an extension of Canada. It is not too much more hassle to travel to Texas as to Vancouver. If they have private insurance, like my friend at IBM, it is a matter of petitioning the insurance company to pay for out of country medical care, or paying out of pocket. If you are dying of a brain tumor, it might be worth it. But more people do need basic dental care, preventative medicine, than need brain surgery. U.S. medical research is paid largely out of the N.I.H., which is largely taxpayer funded and somewhat separate from actual insurance and medical revenue. I don’t see any reason why the NIH would have to go away necessarily and thus our cutting edge medical care would not have to suffer under a universal system.

    I think that there are a lot of myths about universal health care that scare people. Although not perfect, it is not that scary.

  98. Scalzi, you are trying to seize the initiative with knee-jerk emotions and I won’t let you. This woman is a miserable parent and incapable of existing in the modern world. And she made a bad decision. Shit happens. Could have happened to a rich person. Could happen to me.

  99. Scalzi, you are trying to seize the initiative with knee-jerk emotions and I won’t let you. This woman is a miserable parent and incapable of existing in the modern world. And she made a bad decision. Shit happens. Could have happened to a rich person. Could happen to me.

  100. TCO, since you only know what you read in the paper, I’m absolutely sure that if you were in her situation, with only her resources and with her responsibilities, you’d give up in a week.

    Have you ever spent time in a homeless shelter?

    You don’t know anything about her life and you would be utterly incompetent to navigate it. Her life is part of the modern world.

  101. TCO:

    “Scalzi, you are trying to seize the initiative with knee-jerk emotions and I won’t let you.”

    Actually, you’re accusing me of trying to seize the initiative with knee-jerk emotions, which is not the same thing. You’re making the accusation because you have no rational basis for your position, so you’re trying to create equivalence between your lousy position and my rather better one. It’s cute; it’s not going to work.

    “This woman is a miserable parent and incapable of existing in the modern world.”

    And you base this on what? Do you know her? Do you know her situation? At least one person on this thread actually knows the woman in question and has made no claims of her being a miserable parent. If you’re going to make such statement, you need to be able to back it up. I wait for your evidence.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, this is not saying the mother may not bear some responsibility for what happened. Trying to pin it all on her, however, is cheap and ignorant.

    “Could have happened to a rich person.”

    This is an appallingly stupid argument. The child of rich parents would have easy access to regular preventative dental care which would have spotted the trouble with the tooth at an early stage, well before the sort of trouble that lead to this child’s death in question. If the child of rich parents nevertheless somehow managed to get a bacterial infection in a tooth which required surgery, it’s very likely he or she would be speedily referred to a surgeon instead of having to wait months for a consultation, which happened here. The child of rich parents would not need to worry about his or her dental insurance lapsing, and even if it did, the parents, being rich, could pay for much of the child’s dental care out of pocket. I know this because my child has all these things, too, and I’m not rich. The chances of the child of a rich person falling prey to the same set of circumstances as this child are next to impossible, because this set of circumstances arise almost exclusively through poverty.

    “Could happen to me.”

    Perhaps it could; I don’t know your financial situation. However, if you are middle-class and have access to dental insurance, it seems rather unlikely, because you’d had have access to regular preventative care for your children, and the moment your child complained of a toothache, you’d be likely to be able to schedule an appointment quickly. Likewise, you’d likely not have trouble getting time off to take your child to the appointment, and no trouble getting the two of you there. None of these things, incidentally, are contingent on parental quality; they’re contingent on income and the ability to access services.

    Make better arguments, TCO. The arguments you have are terribly bad.

  102. It could happen to me because I’m lazy, don’t take care of my teeth and avoid the dentist. I can afford it just fine.

    Scalzi: If she’s such a good decision-maker and such, why is she so poor? Why are the kids teeth rotting? The government should not need to take care of everyone–that is cradle to grave socialism.

  103. TCO:

    “It could happen to me because I’m lazy, don’t take care of my teeth and avoid the dentist. I can afford it just fine.”

    Which is to say you can choose, easily and efficiently, to have your teeth fixed. Which means in your case if you choose to let your teeth rot, you’re a moron. Someone who is poor and without dental insurance does not have the same choices. Someone who is poor can conscientiously take care of his or her teeth, have an accident involving his or her mouth, or simply have bad teeth, and lack the ability to quickly and efficiently have his teeth fixed, for a myriad of reasons which have nothing to do with laziness or slovenliness or fear of dentists.

    Your problem appears to be that since you see that you have the option of doing damn foolish things involving your mouth, anyone with dental problems must be doing something damned foolish. In fact, this is an error of logic on your part; the fact that your response to people who point out this error of logic on your part is to continue to heap contempt on people who do not deserve your contempt says more about your inability to acknowledge your own perceptual blindspots than their own personal failings.

    “If she’s such a good decision-maker and such, why is she so poor? Why are the kids teeth rotting?”

    I’m not aware of suggesting she made all good decisions, so implying that I had is bad logic.

    However, in the article, we see that the parent in question made repeated attempts to address her children’s dental issues, but that due to the circumstances of lacking insurance and other issues, her ability to do so was compromised. A parent of better economic means addressing her child’s dental needs at the same level of involvement would have found her needs addressed better, because she would have a better ability to find and use that medical care because her economic situation afforded her that ability. This woman had to make repeated attempts to locate dentists and specialists willing to provide care to her children because she was poor; someone of better means wouldn’t have to had jumped through nearly as many hoops.

    So, in essence, you’re criticizing her for not jumping through all the hoops that no one who is not poor has to jump through in an manner that you, someone who does not (nor apparently ever has) have to jump through similar hoops to find basic care, finds sufficient. Leaving aside the arrogance and ignorance that has to be involved in you deciding that you are competent to judge whether this woman was sufficiently devoted to her children’s care, I would ask you to show me how making repeated attempts to address her children’s dental care, and indeed recruiting many outside resources to secure that somehow equates to bad parenting.

    As toward why she is poor, I simply have no idea. However, having been poor myself and knowing (and continuing to know) people who are poor, I can say with authority that someone who wishes to suggest that poverty is simply a matter of personal choice or personal virtue is so laughably ignorant of why people are poor in America that the only way to look upon them is as one would a child, i.e., someone whose lack of experience and understanding makes them say foolish things that no one with any comprehension would ever dream of saying.

    There are many ways to be poor in America, but the number of ways that are caused entirely by personal choice or virtue are indeed small, relative to the ones that involve outside forces that will act to keep even those who are conscientiously working to improve their lives within the grip of poverty.

    All of this is immaterial anyway because as I’ve said before, whatever reason the mother has for being poor, it is not clear why the child should be made to suffer for it. Whatever the causes for the child’s poverty, he is not to blame and ought not be made to suffer because of it. Unless you wish to suggest that children should be made to suffer for whatever reasons the parent finds herself in poverty.

    As I mentioned earlier upthread, the reason people want to fixtate on bad parenting rather than poverty as the reason this kid is dead is because it allows them a comfort zone in which they don’t need to feel bad about a child who is dead because he is poor; their view of themselves as moral human being won’t have to be compromised, and they don’t have to worry their beautiful minds about it. To which I say: Bullshit. This kid is dead because of poverty; trying to palm it off purely on bad parenting is insupportable.

    “The government should not need to take care of everyone–that is cradle to grave socialism.”

    In other words, you’re content to let a child die because he is poor, so you won’t have to be bothered with having an infinitesimally small portion of your taxes going to pay for cleaning his teeth.

    Well, that’s fine if you want to believe that, TCO, but do recall that for the want of basic, readily available preventative dental care, which would have cost a couple hundred dollars at most, the taxpayers are now on the hook for at least a quarter million dollars, which is what is brain surgery and hospital stay cost. Perhaps your argument here is that the child should not have received that care; that he should have been allowed to die without the benefit of attempts to save his life. Be that as it may, this was the cost of his care, all of which will be footed by taxpayers.

    Since you are so focused on the bottom line, perhaps you might grudgingly agree that paying a couple hundred dollars for preventative care early on would have been cheaper than paying a few hundred thousand dollars further down the line. And of course, the chances that the child would still be alive would be much better. If that’s a concern to you at all, which it may not be.

  104. I haven’t commented on this because, at first, I didn’t think, “Ain’t that a damned shame” was a particularly useful comment.

    Then, I held off because I started seeing the idiots come out, but other people were doing a fine job of refuting them.

    What makes me finally comment is that this entire argument is starting to sound a lot like the 80’s and early 90’s when so many people were differentiating between AIDS patients depending on how they had gotten the disease (i.e. those who only had themselves to blame and those who contracted it “innocently”).

    It just seems to me that people who spend so much time assigning blame, do so because they have no interest in solutions.

    I’d have one more comment, but I’ve read the “comment thread rules”.

  105. 1. Todd, sure, just not to things that people are trying to manipulate me into, for cheap socialist points. If John really feels worried, let him donate his $67K to the poor.

    2. John: “I’m not aware of suggesting she made all good decisions, so implying that I had is bad logic.”

    Answer: My comment was in reply to your 1104 post on decisions asking me to back up my point. BTW, I’m not implying anything. I’m asking a rhetorical question. If we’re in agreement fine…then why the heck are you asking me to back up my point? Just tail-chasing for rhetorical games? Or is there a substantive disagreement? In any case, I’m not making any claim to have researched this case…but if you haven’t ruled out the possibility that she was a REALLY, REALLY BAD parent who is RESPONSIBLE for the death, then don’t rule in the “Bush and the Republicans are responsible” meme. Oh..and “bullshit” is not an argument. It’s more emotive silliness. Like the violin up my ass coment. I don’t care how mean you look in your photo or how hard you pound the keys as you type, I care about points. Capisce?

    3. John: “In other words, you’re content to let a child die because he is poor, so you won’t have to be bothered with having an infinitesimally small portion of your taxes going to pay for cleaning his teeth.”

    Answer: In this case, you are the one sticking words in my mouth (as you accuse me of doing to you…but no matter…let’s get beyond the fencing). IOW, I’m ok with some welfare programs, but that does not mean I see them as a crime of society if they don’t exist or are not all inclusive, have some gaps. I also recognize that government can’t cover everything, nor should it and some people are just Darwin awardees or just unlucky. Further, I much prefer private charity and think that government erodes the impulse to have this. Finally, the huge majority of people getting your free teeth cleanings from the welfare office are not going to die of brain rot if they don’t get them. They are just getting a free social benefit, instead of working hard and spending money on the right things. And you are using this case of extreme to argue for more socialism.

  106. TCO:

    “BTW, I’m not implying anything. I’m asking a rhetorical question.”

    You have a poor understanding of what rhetorical questions are, apparently. It certainly seemed as if you wanted an answer to the question, but the question had no logical antecedent, and I felt obliged to point that out.

    “if you haven’t ruled out the possibility that she was a REALLY, REALLY BAD parent who is RESPONSIBLE for the death, then don’t rule in the ‘Bush and the Republicans are responsible’ meme.”

    I have said numerous times that I believe it’s entirely possible that the woman’s parenting skills are open for consideration; however, I can’t help noticing that you’ve avoided answering my previous question of how a parent persistently attempting to find dental care for her children, as the article in question shows this woman doing, is showing poor parenting skills. Is a parent persistently looking for medical care for her children when they need it not a sign of, if not good parenting, at least acceptable parenting? Is this not what we expect parents to do? And if she is doing it, on what grounds are you making a contrary argument? The point to make here is that there is more evidence that this woman was an essentally acceptable parent than there is that she was a bad parent, which has been your assertion.

    And yes, you’ve asserted this; you stated explicitly that she is a “miserable parent” — i.e., you were speaking as if you actually knew what you were talking about. Which is why I asked you to back up your claim. I’m glad to see you admit your ignorance in that particular case. Would that would have admitted such while you were making flat-out statements of her guilt in being a bad parent.

    Moreover, I invite you to point out specifically where I have suggested that Bush and the Republicans were responsible for this child’s death. You’ll have a difficult time finding it, because I didn’t write it. You may be inferring it, but I’m not responsible for what you infer, only what I write.

    As toward your formulation quoted above, you’re trying to counter me asking you to back something you did write by accusing me of writing something I didn’t, and then saying that these two statements must given equal consideration. These are stunningly poor rhetorical skills you are displaying.

    “Oh..and ‘bullshit’ is not an argument. It’s more emotive silliness. Like the violin up my ass coment. I don’t care how mean you look in your photo or how hard you pound the keys as you type, I care about points. Capisce?”

    Capisce? Are you trying to make me giggle with your total poserosity? Unless you were raised in an Italian-speaking family, TCO, you’ve just made yourself look very silly.

    You want better than “Bullshit” for a response, TCO, make a better argument. I give you the response your comments rate. So far, your arguments have been utter crap, and you’ve argued them poorly. I realize that you would disagree with this, but you’d be wrong about this as you’ve been wrong about so many other things in the course of this conversation.

    For someone who claims to care about points, TCO, you have done a remarkably poor job of making them and then of defending them. You apparently come from the school of rhetoric which believes that stating a point and then ignoring the response in every meaningful sense consitutes an argument, as does complaining that that your points aren’t being considered as seriously as you appear to think they ought to be, contrary to the absence of supporting arguments. However, I’m not obliged to actually take you seriously if I don’t see that you have serious points to make, and so far you don’t. I’ve basically obliged you so far because I think it’s instructive for others to see why your arguments are bad, in detail.

    “And you are using this case of extreme to argue for more socialism.”

    I have made no much argument, nor can you show that I have, nor indeed have you proven that I have, other than making unsupported statements to that effect, which have no real rhetorical value. Noting that this child’s poverty has caused his death does not in the least suggest creeping socialism; I merely note that had this child not been poor, he would very probably would not have been dead.

    You wish to ascribe creeping socialism to this notation of mine, I suspect, because being able to write off this observation as having its roots in a desire for socialism allows you to be fine with the fact this child is dead due to poverty. Apparently you are so terrified of socialism that the occasional dead poor kid is a price worth paying to avoid it. Placing all the blame on the dead kid’s mother and then decrying any suggestion that poverty is the proximate cause of the death as a stalking horse for socialism seems to be your own special cocktail of moral avoidance in this particular case.

    For the record, I would be delighted if private charity could have made it so that this child (or any other) received the basic preventative dental care he had needed in order not to have died; I would be equally delighted if some free market solution for providing all children with access to good quality regular health care, regardless of the income or personal situation of their parents, could be found. However, my philosophical acceptance of such free market solutions, without the need for socialism of any sort or kind, does nothing to negate the fact that here and now this child is dead because he was poor.

    TCO, you’ve shown yourself to be an appallingly inept arguer in this discussion, and while I have no doubt you have a whole lot more chest-puffery and bad rhetorical manuevering left in you, I’m not getting much out of this discussion because it’s clear you don’t have the skill to argue your point either clearly or convincingly. So this is me telling you that this discussion is at a close for you.

    You are entirely free to go on believing that this is all due to bad parenting and that I am advocating socialism because it’s clear this is what you want to believe. I just don’t care to watch the gyrations you have to put yourself through as you attempt to justify that belief intellectually. I’ve seen enough.

  107. I’ve basically obliged you so far because I think it’s instructive for others to see why your arguments are bad, in detail.

    For whatever it’s worth: thank you for doing so.

  108. This is tangential, but I had good dental care until my father passed away. Thus I had regular cleanings but no braces, etc.

    Price of paying to have all that done after the fact? $6800 US. After taxes, so call it probably an even $11000 of pretax income. Not to mention having braces / a retainer from age 21 when I got my first job to age 24 and a half. Which was wonderful all in itself.

    I guess my only point is none of this gets cheaper to fix as you get older. So to fit in with my assumed social class post college, I was out a pretty decent amount of money by most peoples’ standards.


  109. ps — for some of the posters upstream:

    My family was solidly middle class until I was 13. Then my father got cancer for the first time. He had cancer for the next 3.5 years, including repeated remissions that didn’t last, before succumbing. Now, at least in part because of when and how they grew up and the social mores of their generation, my father made 2/3 of the income.

    Now, for the sceptics above, could you survive having 2/3 of your income vanish? Especially if the fashion it vanished in was extremely expensive — even with good medical insurance and an understanding employer, being in and out of the hospital for years on end, taking tens of thousands of dollars of pills, etc, adds up. And while he did have life insurance, it frankly wasn’t enough to finish off the mortgage and pay for me and my two younger brothers plus make up the difference in lifetime earnings for the rest of my mother’s natural life.

    So yeah… shit happens. And when it does, most people aren’t really prepared. And things like dental care can simply become less of a priority than a mortgage / rent, food, etc.

    And on another level, I quit a promising career in science to work in finance. While the latter pays much better, it certainly does less for the world than my previous work in biomath working on multiphoton microscopy, which is mostly used for understanding cellular activities WRT cancer. However, as my and other peoples’ stories have made clear, having lots of money in the bank is really important both for you and your family. I’ll be honest — a good chunk of the reason I do what I do is if bad things happen to your family, nothing beats having a six to seven figure savings account. If you are against national health care in the US, you should reflect on the incentives you are creating for people and whether you like the outcomes you are incentivizing.

  110. ps — that’s really my first after-college job. I worked from the day I was 15 and the labor laws allowed me to do so.

  111. [Deleted for not actually listening when he’s told he’s done talking on this particular thread. Why oh why don’t people listen? — JS]

  112. I apologize for the rebuttal. I was not disobeying you, had just not read that part of your comment.

  113. No problem, TCO. Also, feel free to discuss any other topic in any other comment thread.

  114. Well, I was hoping to hear from TCO again, but his arguments were horrid. I asked TCO about compassion for the following reason: since his logic sucked or was nonexistent, I assumed it was pure emotion underlying his responses. The more we understand about the emotions that underlie an argument, the more we can then connect with the arguer and perhaps influence their perception of the world.

    Here’s a question – I hear the argument over and over that private charity is more efficient that government – based on market principles, shouldn’t private charity have put the government out of business in the realm of social services? Am I misunderstanding something basic here? I would think that if private charity is so much more effective, the government wouldn’t have the demand to meet, because private charity would’ve beat them to the punch.

  115. Todd Stull:
    “based on market principles, shouldn’t private charity have put the government out of business in the realm of social services?”
    What lots of libertarians and economic conservatives, (I’ll just say LEC from here on out) would say is governmental social services wouldn’t *be* necessary in a truly unbridled capitalistic economy (as advanced by anarcho-capitalists), which the US at the moment is not. Of course, reading the comments it’s clear that many seem to take a dim view of capitalism to begin with (“aggregated greed”, if I remember correctly?)
    One thing about TCO, and the mindset that I assume he represents, is that one of the basic tenets of his arguments is misdirected. Specifically, he says the mother was a terrible parent. I think most can agree that this woman at the very least cared for her child, had his best interests at heart and expended the utmost effort that was possible on his behalf. What I think most LECs mean to suggest, however, is that perhaps this woman (and people in general) ought not to have had children that she couldn’t sufficiently support. Up above someone stated that if we had universal health care, this would not have happened. That’s certainly possible. Many LECs would say, however, that other factors could have prevented this from coming about as well, such as the woman’s decision to have children in the first place. This doubtless sounds ghoulish to many folks, but these are relevant opinions notwithstanding. I noticed the poster who knows the mother essentially said that the mother’s poor choices were “made for her by her background and upbringing”. Many would take exception to the notion, myself being one.
    I noticed Mr. Scalzi has described lots of peoples’ responses as being rationalizations that allow them to ignore the tragedy of the child’s death, or something to that effect. May I suggest that perhaps these people are trying to rationalize/explain why the child’s death, while no doubt a misfortune, doesn’t call for government intervention, something which many posters are clearly keen on. Then again, I don’t *know* any of the posters. Just some thoughts.

  116. Amitava – What would unbridled capitalism look like, in relation to health care? I am leery of the idealistic visions some libertarians have put forth regarding markets free from government influence.

    The basic premises that I work from, and that influence my politics are:

    1) Those with capital (power) will only cede that power when forced to do so.
    2) In this country, many of those with power did so on the backs of slaves, or at the cost of someone else’s freedoms. Thus, either directly or indirectly, by my standards many of those with power have it illegitimately.
    3) If left unchecked, those with power would, over time, accrue more and more power until those without power would cry for redress in the form of armed revolution.
    4) Capitalists, as I see them practicing in America, are not very good at long-term planning. If left unchecked by the government, they tend to make choices that can lead to long term consequences where many people lose much of their resources. One example is Enron. Would living in a less regulated environment have made the Enron debacle better?

    So, in short, I don’t trust the rich. I don’t think most rich people are very good at long-term planning. In fact, I think most people, rich and poor, are worse at long-term planning than myself. Maybe that’s an ego thing with me.

    In any case, I am not interested in letting market forces go unregulated and do things like, oh I don’t know, destroy the ozone layer or emit massive amounts of greenhouse gases that won’t be sequestered for decades or centuries. Because I really don’t think the people with power generally think beyond satisfying the short term whims of profit holders and making a crap load of money so they can live their ridiculous lifestyles.

    My politics aside, what incentives would exist in a truly free market that would drive the creation of health care for those with the least money? Or would a truly free market flatten income distribution so it would be less of a problem?

  117. Todd Stull:

    “Well, I was hoping to hear from TCO again, but his arguments were horrid.”

    Well, I have no objection to him discussing things with other people in this thread if he likes. I was simply saying that the particular discussion he and I were having is over. If TCO wants to respond to you, I think that’s fine.

  118. Thanks for the clarification John. Does anyone out there have a free-market solution to universal health care? Otherwise, I’m sticking with the government.

  119. Todd Stull
    Personally, I believe that the setting of environmental standards and enforcement of environmental regulations is one role of the federal govt. that’s indisputably legitimate. There are LEC arguments against doing so, but I’m not as familiar with them, and don’t agree with them in the first place, I won’t bother presenting them. As for health care, as I’ve said I have mixed feelings on the issue. A number of things a “purist” LEC might offer in the way of health care provision would be reliance upon non-governmental means, such as charity, and (this will probably sound pretty heartless) people’s health problems that were borne of personal choice (and the ensuing consequences) providing sufficient incentive to others not to make similar choices. In other words, let those whose health fails as a consequence of their own actions serve as an example to society at large. Now, I don’t know what a LEC’s response would be to a situation where someone finds themselves in dire straits as a result of factors completely beyond their control. Hence my own aforementioned mixed feelings.
    Looking at the four points you brought up, and having forborne voicing my own opinions for the most part, I will say that I have a general mistrust of govt. in general, and the federal govt. in particular, for reasons both philosophical and practical. I would also suspect I have much greater faith in class mobility, and fewer concerns of class/wealth stratification than you do. I’m not saying that it can’t happen, mind you. But I suscribe to the belief that in this country, if you make good decisions and work hard, you *can* succeed. There’s no reason why one need be compelled to die in the circumstances into which they were born. I think one of the defining differences in belief b/w liberals and conservatives in the US is that the former tend to mistrust the rich/’big business’, while the latter tend to mistrust govt. And I have to admit that, for various reasons, I’d probably suscribe to the latter view.

  120. Amitava – Thanks for your response. Let me provide some thoughts.

    Regarding the LEC idea that in an ideal market, people would watch other people make poor choices about health, and would be motivated to make different choices – that’s nice in theory. It seems to rely on the assumption that most people make rational decisions based on costs and benefits that can be measured by some known quantity, such as money. Also, it seems to assume that people can see the links between behavior and results in health.

    But I specialize in working with people’s motivation and readiness for change, and my experience tells me something DIFFERENT. Rarely do I meet someone who watched another person’s health behaviors, saw negative consequences and what they could do to change, and then rationally changed their own behavior in response to disincentive.

    What I DO see is that people usually need social interaction to help reflect on their ambivalence to change, and they need real material assistance during the process of change. I work for a charity, and we provide this. However, charities ain’t going to cut it. Either charities need to expand a massive amount, or demand needs to go down.

    This assumes that people caused their health problems. Rarely can we attribute things so cleanly. A great example is cancer. Did I get cancer from the secondhand smoke I was exposed to? Another environmental carcinogen? A virus perhaps? Maybe I have a genetic predisposition so that my DNA error checking isn’t as great as another person. Is that the fault of the individual? Or my salivary enzymes don’t break down bacteria in my mouth well, so when I eat food low in sugar, it still breaks down my enamel.

    I’ll spot you the argument that if you eat the cholesterol laden food for twenty years and you come down with heart disease, that was dumb. But how do we determine who was really responsible for their health problems, rather than who was only sort of responsible for their problems? Will the market sort that out?

    I have an undergrad biology degree, and one area I was really interested in was social psychology. Humans are extremely deft at deception, to themselves and others, and I fear that a free market system relies too much on a pure form of honesty among all elements that does not exist. I remember seeing some models of behavior that showed in a society involving trade, if just one person “cheats” the system, the entire system can be brought to a halt because the non-cheaters modify their behavior to cheat as well.

    Anyways…I do agree with you that if you work hard, you can improve your socioeconomic situation. I started working poor as a kid and now I’m middle class. However, I remain very vulnerable to many types of medical catastrophes. I don’t believe that the market has enabled me (or the majority) to transcend so far into “la riche” that I am immune to finding myself needing government help for healthcare.

    Oh, and for the record, I don’t trust government much more than the rich. ;) I just think since resources are usually spread more diffusely in the government as compared to companies, government can be held more accountable.

  121. “This assumes that people caused their health problems.”
    Well, obviously if it’s not a direct result of their actions, God’s punishing them for something they did do.
    Aaaand, I’m kidding (sorry, just had to say that). Truth put to it, I think this cuts to the heart of to just what *extent* the govt. should be involved in health care. Of course, that in itself would be contentions, I think, fraught as such a system would be w/ judgementalism.
    In this particular case, I imagine lots of LECs would say this particular case wouldn’t have happened if:
    -Obviously, Mrs. Driver hadn’t had kids she couldn’t provide for in the first place.
    -Or, having had them, handed care of them over to someone who could.
    I’ve made a point of not opining on anything (for the most part) b/c I simply don’t know the very much of this case or the family’s background other than the fact that Deamonte died from an abscessed tooth. Does this sort of thing justify govt. subsidised UHC? In all honesty I don’t know enough to say.

    “I have an undergrad biology degree, and one area I was really interested in was social psychology.”
    You don’t say? So do I, although I wasn’t able to pursue the latter my interest notwithstanding. Oh well, I can look forward to behavioral science in a few months. Just what kind of work do you do, btw? What is this charity? Oh yeah, speaking of which:
    Lots of LECs (I should stop saying that)…
    (ahem) An LEC response would likely be that charitable potential is constrained by the non-capitalist elements of our current system.

  122. I looked into to this cause today cause I guessed this is probably happening to kids and I tht/think their pain should stop or never have existed. I do in fact wish to help. thx Mike Maguire southern Ca. Im trying to email you but dont have time. (951)963-6354 thx–I hope we’re not just throwing lip service here, as in Taunting the ……

  123. OK, I went to the dentist this week because of what happened to this boy. My tooth had been bothering me for some time. I have no dental insurance and limited health insurance. I am a single mom with 2 kids and a not so great paying job. This job however pays just enough that I do not qualify for any kind of assistance. I receive no child support.If my kids need dental/health care they go immediatly but I tend to put off when I need to go due to cost. However, this story woke me up a bit and I went. I left the office with $195 dollars less in my bank account. This was the cost of the emerg. visit, x-rays and extraction. A root canal was quoted at $950, cash up front. I laughed at the dentist when he told me that. We are already eating spaggetios this week because of the $195, We’d be eating them for months or living in the car for the $950.
    I would be better off quiting my job, going on wellfare, and qualifying for assistance. It is very frustrating.

  124. Being poor is not the problem!! I believe the problem is being greedy. There are more than enough resources around to supply the needs of everyone but people want more than they need some much more. And the problem is we are all greedy (and I include myself here but am trying to improve) except the poor but to some level once we stop being poor we start being greedy. How greedy is a matter of debate but it might help by start thinking that if I do this will it help or hinder someone else. I think we have to change the system to become worthy of the name Civilisation to the Human Race because I don’t think the current age is all that civilised. By the way I British but live in Indonesia.

  125. Being poor is not the problem!! I believe the problem is being greedy. There are more than enough resources around to supply the needs of everyone but people want more than they need some much more. And the problem is we are all greedy (and I include myself here but am trying to improve) except the poor but to some level once we stop being poor we start being greedy. How greedy is a matter of debate but it might help by start thinking that if I do this will it help or hinder someone else. I think we have to change the system to become worthy of the name Civilisation to the Human Race because I don’t think the current age is all that civilised. By the way I British but live in Indonesia.

  126. Being poor is not the problem!! I believe the problem is being greedy. There are more than enough resources around to supply the needs of everyone but people want more than they need some much more. And the problem is we are all greedy (and I include myself here but am trying to improve) except the poor but to some level once we stop being poor we start being greedy. How greedy is a matter of debate but it might help by start thinking that if I do this will it help or hinder someone else. I think we have to change the system to become worthy of the name Civilisation to the Human Race because I don’t think the current age is all that civilised. By the way I British but live in Indonesia.

  127. Pingback: How bad is poverty, really? : The Uncredible Hallq


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