Sometimes Keith Olbermann can be the Stephen Spielberg of television news commentary in that sometimes he doesn't recognize when less is more, and instead of using a scalpel he uses a sledgehammer. The Ben Affleck parody on Saturday Night Live
wasn't really all that far off the mark. You either love Olbermann's bombast or you hate it.
But even if you hate it, if you missed his hour-long Special Comment last night about health care reform, it's worth your time. Start with this clip and then go over to the Countdown site and watch the rest
Olbermann is the kind of rich, famous person who gives Republicans fits, because he hasn't lost his soul just because he's got some money. Here's a man who recently lost his mother to breast cancer, and has spent much of the last month navigating the health care system with his ailing father, to whom he appears to be clinging like a shipwreck survivor clutching at a fragment of deck chair.
It's rare that we see a big hulk of a middle-aged man talking about his parents the way Olbermann does about his. Even after an hour, we still don't know much about his father the way we know his mother after his heartfelt remembrance back in April
. But last night's polemic wasn't about Keith Olbermann's father, but a story of one family's navigation through the health care system in this country -- a family with the resources to do what's necessary to return a sick member to quality of life, and a recognition that millions of Americans don't have the luxury of that kind of peace of mind while dealing with the very real possibility of loss that Keith Olbermann has experienced this month. Because unlike the "I got mine and fuck you" attitude that Republican fearmongers and Democratic Senate whores who are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the insurance industry have succeeded in spreading like H1N1 flu to the frightened, the uninformed, the uneducated, and the willfully ignorant, Keith Olbermann hasn't lost his ability to understand the plight of those who are losing their homes in an effort to save their ill children, who now face death because they didn't have money to get that breast lump checked out, and those who face every month a decision on whether to pay for insurance or pay the rent. He understands that the REAL fear of the people -- not the paid shills, but the actual people -- at the town halls this summer wasn't even ultimately about socialism, or even about ZOMG THERE'S A BLACK MAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE, but about the fear we all have -- the fear of death. This is what Betsy McCaughey is relying on, this is what Dick Armey's astroturf groups are relying on, and the irony is that it is the very DENIAL of not coverage, which is just words on paper, but actual PAYMENT OF CLAIMS that is what kills.
On Monday of next week I am going for another colonoscopy. I am going after three years because there is history in my father's family and I had a benign polyp removed when I had the last one. I made sure to check my insurer's web site and call the insurer to make sure that the doctor and the surgical center are in-network. Yesterday I was looking up dermatologists on the web site and find that all of a sudden, there are no providers of any kind in New Jersey that show up in the provider search. Is it a simple programming error? Did someone accidentally delete New Jersey from the provider database? Or is the insurance provided by my employer no longer providing coverage in New Jersey? Who knows? Try getting hold of someone on the phone with this company. Between myself and my employer, the annual premium for Mr. Brilliant and I is upwards of $12,000. We're lucky. We can pay for this procedure out of pocket if we have to. And it's just a procedure. But can you imagine if, say, your child suddenly fell seriously ill with, say, H1N1. It's after 8 PM, the customer service line is closed, and your insurer's web site lists NO providers in your state? Would you automatically assume it was a system error, or would you panic, wondering what to do?
Labels: health care, Keith Olbermann