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Illuminating Health Care for All

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image U.S. power grid. Photo: NASA/DSMP

Flesh & Stone contributor Jeff McCallum uses the analogy of a power grid to describe the U. S. health care system.

“Jeff's right that when it comes to our health care grid, America resembles a developing country,” commented George Trone, PhD, managing editor at The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine where the poem was first published.


We are misdirected on the health care issue, confused by the facts applied to all sides of the great shell game called the health care debate. It seems simple enough:

  • Decide that all are entitled to health care (apparently they are, if you look at existing social programs, the county hospitals and the emergency rooms of countless other private hospitals.)
  • Decide how to pay for it. Don’t get lost in the debate over what it costs, the numbers are too confusing and we are already paying for most of it anyway in dollars or in human consequence. Don’t place the burden on the strong backs of caregivers, they are already in debt, tired of the debate and worn down from years of grueling and expensive education.
  • Decide how to control the costs.

There is one simple model that stands out to me; our utilities grid in states with Public Utilities Commissions. The grid was put in place largely by the government, everyone has access to it and the cost and profits are controlled by the public utilities commission.

The publicly traded companies which dutifully send us our electric bill each month generate a fair profit for their share holders and there are mechanisms in place to aid those who can not pay. There are no exclusions for preexisting conditions, no better grade of service and no $100 million dollar bonuses.

Illuminating Health Care for All

Perhaps you have one on your keychain but
I only carry a flashlight when forewarned the basement will be dark,
The power off, a storm coming, know I will be exploring
boarded up buildings
Or experiencing the wonders of nature by starlight,
Otherwise I am confident all will be well;
When I flip the switch to on
There will be illumination.

I expect dark corners to disappear,
Hobgoblins and shadows to hide when
I flick that switch
After all,
Uncle Sam and I, or least my grandparents,
Paid for the thing,
The whole enormous grid I mean.
Tenement to Tennessee roadhouse
Every nook and cranny’s connected.
If one can afford a wash machine or wide screen HD TV
By God the power is there to make it function.

Life being imperfect, or at least
The machines that supplement life here in America,
Act as though it’s meant to be that way,
Imperfect I mean,
So hospitals and big business have automatic generators.
My computer has battery back up and surge protection,
Hope yours does too.

I expect not to have a heart attack opening the utility bill,
Palpitations perhaps,
Due to the fluctuating price of fuel oil, the cost of the war
And the resulting state of the economy but
I live in a state with a Public Utilities Commission,
Put my kids through college with dividend checks from the reigning power monopoly
And the cost, taxed by all governing entities,
Is bearable.

My mother however,
or someone you know, have seen or not seen on a street corner or exit ramp
With or without the sign saying “Homeless, Feed me”,
Or, “Why Lie, I Need a Beer”
Has no health care.
They are off the grid so to speak.

We provide flashlights of course.
Small, weak beamed devices of limited life span
with government issued batteries possibly
from the day-old store or re-issued from the overstock in Iraq.
Some are powered by the love energy of volunteer workers.
Limited, dim and short lived
But flashlights none the less.
Emergency rooms, free clinics, Head Start, a list of programs that change
With the current budget,
All intended to illuminate the path
To better health for those off the grid, or those who just plain
Can’t pay the bill.

Electricity and health care.
One expected to function every time we flip the switch
For as long as we pay the bill,
I imagine it’s the same for the other.

Jeff McCallum is a poet and author of Somebody's Bright Balloon, a collection of poems for cancer patients and caregivers. McCallum maintains a web site here, and can be reached at jeff at wordstone dot net.

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (4 posted):

glucosamine on 12/09/2009 03:11:47
It was my understanding that We are fighting for the "Public Option" because it was the best We could do. Is the "Medicare for all" still something We can push for?
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16gb m2 card on 02/22/2010 21:53:06
Hi ,
We are fighting for the "Public Option" because it was the best We could do. Is the "Medicare for all" still something We can push for?
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currency trading tips on 04/21/2010 00:09:50
It is unemployment benefits or healthcare benefits, there is a very clear correlation between the level at which people are dependent on the government.
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Dean Graziosis Scam review on 05/24/2010 00:17:07
I have seen poem of Jeff McCallum for Illuminating Health Care for All. Poem sound fantastic. Jeff told pain of health in this poem.
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