The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Message to the sick:
Either pay or go away

May 26, 2003

Hutzel Hospital and Detroit Receiving Hospital are part of the DMC (Detroit Medical Center) system. These hospitals have long been a health-care safety net for Detroit's poor and uninsured. But no more.

On May 20, DMC's director announced that Hutzel and Detroit Receiving will stop accepting all but the most high-risk trauma and childbirth cases. One thousand hospital workers and doctors are to be laid off, and 300 beds closed.

Is this because the health of Detroit residents has suddenly improved dramatically, and there is no further need of these beds and these workers? Hardly! Just as everywhere else, the needs are growing as the economy shrinks. No, the issue is money. DMC says it cannot operate with continuing losses, and federal and state programs do not cover enough of the expense of caring for the poor.

DMC's decision will force the uninsured to seek help at other hospitals, miles away and already themselves overcrowded and understaffed. The DMC director said, "There are other health care facilities in the region. This is not just the DMC's responsibility."

Of course it's true, a lot of other powers and institutions bear responsibility for health care for the population. But all of them are taking the same course as DMC: leave more and more of the uninsured to suffer and die on their own.

The Federal government leads off by underfunding Medicaid and Medicare programs, not covering all who need care, and denying payment for legitimate and necessary treatments. The drug and medical-equipment companies contribute by charging huge markups on their goods. Health insurance companies like HealthSouth and Aetna extort millions upon millions of dollars from those needing coverage – millions that flow into shareholders' and CEO's pockets. And hospital corporations, like DMC itself, tailor their policies to only one measure: are we making money?

The costs of health care in this country have little to do with the actual cost of care. We pay far more to support this host of parasites who milk the system at every turn. And increasingly, when the parasites find no more profits to be gained from the impoverished, their message is clear: "If you can't pay, go away and die. Somewhere else!"