Saturday, October 27, 2012

European Leaders Forced Greece to Deny Health Care to the Long Term Unemployed

And Yes, People are Literally Dying

A part of the bailout terms that the Europeans imposed on Greece required that the Greek government terminate health care for anyone who has been unemployed for longer than one year.  The thinking, if one can all it that, was apparently that anyone who is long term unemployed has plenty of money to pay for their own health care.

The result, horror stories such as this one reported by the New York Times.

ATHENS — As the head of Greece’s largest oncology department, Dr. Kostas Syrigos thought he had seen everything. But nothing prepared him for Elena, an unemployed woman whose breast cancer had been diagnosed a year before she came to him.

By that time, her cancer had grown to the size of an orange and broken through the skin, leaving a wound that she was draining with paper napkins. “When we saw her we were speechless,” said Dr. Syrigos, the chief of oncology at Sotiria General Hospital in central Athens. “Everyone was crying. Things like that are described in textbooks, but you never see them because until now, anybody who got sick in this country could always get help.”

Angelos Tzortzinis for The New York Times
Elena, a cancer patient, at a clinic in Athens. Her illness long went untreated.

So what happened?  Here is the explanation.

Things changed in July 2011, when Greece signed a supplemental loan agreement with international lenders to ward off financial collapse. Now, as stipulated in the deal,  if people are unable to foot the bill after their benefits expire, they are on their own, paying all costs out of pocket.

Now anyone with a modicum of common sense or shred of human decency would know that the last people who could afford to pay for their health care are those who have been unemployed for over a year.  And of course the rest of the European policy has been to cause massive unemployment in Greece, so the number of people affected is just going to rise.

About half of Greece’s 1.2 million long-term unemployed lack health insurance, a number that is expected to rise sharply in a country with an unemployment rate of 25 percent and a moribund economy, said Savas Robolis, director of the Labor Institute of the General Confederation of Greek Workers. A new $17.5 billion austerity package of budget cuts and tax increases, agreed upon Wednesday with Greece’s international lenders, will make matters only worse, most economists say.

The results of all of this are nicely summed up by one physician.

“In Greece right now, to be unemployed means death,” said Dr. Syrigos, an imposing man with a stern demeanor that grew soft when discussing the plight of cancer patients.

And while Mitt Romney might approve of the sentiment that in this instance Europe is moving more towards the United States.

The development is new for Greeks — and perhaps for Europe, too. “We are moving to the same situation that the United States has been in, where when you lose your job and you are uninsured, you aren’t covered,” Dr. Syrigos said.

The rest of us are rightly horrified.

And who is causing this?  It is European leaders, safely ensconced in their high paying government jobs with their high quality, fully paid for by government health care.  Sort of like politicians in this country who also want to deny health care to the poor, the sick, the unemployed, the elderly and the unemployed but demand government paid health care for themselves.

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