Friday, August 14, 2009

A few more words about healthcare

The last day I worked as an actress was in 2004. I was working on the Wire as an extra, my first day in a long time. The casting person had been very sweet and was trying to find something for me to do that would work within the limitations of the intractable intracranial hypertension I'd been diagnosed with a few months previously. I was going to be someone who was listening to a speech, sitting down. Good, yes? Except not so much because I now have photophobia and couldn't hack the lights and had to be moved. (This is all post meningitis, which apparently left a lot of scarring which causes a cascade of annoying things.)

I was sitting next to one of the leads but had to move as the light next to him was too intense. Still I got through most of the day, partly because I took some medication to prevent nausea. My symptoms are a lot like having a bad hangover all of the time.

Anyway, during lunch I was speaking with a friend and he told me about a dear friend of his who had had a stroke and was paralyzed on one side of his body. The friend had insurance through the union, through the Screen Actors Guild and so needed to work a certain amount in order to have continuing coverage.

He couldn't do much acting as he was so severely impacted by the CVA. So what happened is that the casting company got him a lot of extra work and my friend and the ill gentleman's wife would walk on either side of him and hold him up and he managed to keep his insurance until he died.

At the time I thought it was a sweet story of solidarity, on the part of the acting community and the casting agency. But as time went on and I thought about it I totally changed my mind.

Here was a man who had to do work that was physically beyond him, helped on by not one but two people, just so he could afford insurance and get treatment for his stroke, which had already severely impacted him.

This isn't a touching story at all. It's demeaning. No one should be dragged from their sick bed and put to work when they don't want to or aren't fit. I hear a lot of talk about rights and what is a right and what isn't a right and I can tell you this isn't right. It's shameful and a disgrace.

We can and must do better for our citizens.

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