like a story straight out of the movie SiCKO.
pretty 17-year-old California girl needed a liver transplant, but her insurance
company, CIGNA (based right here in Philadelphia), said they would not pay for
public caught wind of this, and the public protested. As a group of nurses and
other citizens rallied outside CIGNA's office in Glendale, California, on
December 20, the company decided to reverse its decision.
it was too little, too late.
Sarkisyan died just a few hours after CIGNA's reversal, after having spent
weeks of her short life in a vegetative state.
Nataline's family is planning to sue CIGNA, as well they should. They have
hired superstar attorney Mark Geragos, who plans to ask the district attorney
to press murder or manslaughter charges against CIGNA in this case.
CIGNA uses the slogan "A Business of Caring" in its advertising and
on its website. But they didn't seem to care much about whether Nataline lived
this case demonstrates, and as filmmaker Michael Moore illustrated through
several similar cases in SiCKO,
the U.S. health insurance industry is more concerned with their own profits
than it is with the health of its policyholders. If people must suffer and die
so that their insurers can make money, then so be it.
no coincidence, then, that the United States ranks 37th in the World Health
Organization's rankings of the world's health systems (below Malta, Iceland,
Saudi Arabia, and numerous other countries that might surprise you). Yes,
apparently you can get better health care in the United Arab Emirates than you
can in the good ol' USA.
got good medical technology. We've got good hospitals. We've got good doctors
and nurses. But the insurance companies get in the way.
is not just a medical issue or a political issue. It is a human rights issue.
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that
"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health
and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing
and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in
the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other
lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."
that? Medical care, and security in the event of sickness or disability. But
not for Nataline Sarkisyan. Because CIGNA needs to make big money.
raked in $16.5 billion in revenue in 2006 (yes, that's "billion" with
a "b"), but they couldn't afford to give Nataline a new liver when
she needed it.
U.S. is considered the richest country in the world. Clearly those riches are
not distributed in interest of the common good.
given Congress's lack of a backbone with which to stand up for the rights of
the non-rich and non-powerful, I don't hold out much hope for change. And I
wonder how many more Natalines will have to die so that corporations can
continue to rake in their obscene, bloody profits.
Mary Shaw is a
Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights,
and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the
Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views
appear regularly in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites. Note that
the ideas expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect
the opinions of Amnesty International or any other organization with which she
may be associated. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.