...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
      ( 9:17 AM )
Rest In Peace, Mr. Schmidt

Douglas Schmidt died this morning. A 37-year old man, with a loving family and good life, was killed by the State of Oregon. No, he wasn't on death row and executed. No, he wasn't in a police shoot-out. It wasn't that easy. The state decided Mr. Schmidt didn't need his prescription drug benefit and deprived him of life-saving medication - and, as a result, the state murdered him.

See, back in early February of this year, the State Legislature decided that to solve our budgetary crisis, they would cut the health care benefits for thousands of Oregonians. This meant that people like Mr. Schmidt could no longer afford to buy the medicine they were receiving with help from Medicaid and other state benefit help programs. One month after the decision, because he did not have his anti-seizure medicine, Mr. Schmidt collapsed in a massive seizure that caused irreparable brain damage and coma. This week his family made the terribly difficult decision to allow him to die in dignity and his life support was ended. This morning he died peacefully - and while that may afford some comfort to his family, it does not erase the fact that he is dead because the state killed him.

Back in January, Oregonians made a ballot choice. The choice was called Measure 28 and it was for a temporary tax rate hike to provide the money needed for the troubled social services sector in this state. But the Republicans brought in the big guns from Washington and did a blitz around the state arguing against taxes (as usual) and the measure did not pass. Democrats and social activists warned that there would be dire consequences of Measure 28 failing. Republicans poo-pooed the warnings. Republicans said they had a "secret plan" to take care of the budget crisis without raising taxes. Of course, after Measure 28 failed, they presented no plan. They insisted that taxes were not needed, but they also refused to consider enforcing tax laws already on the books that were being avoided by big business - PGE, for example, found loopholes that allowed it to pay $10 in income tax last year.

So, when Measure 28 failed, there were dire consequences. Schools had to close up to 3 weeks early. Teachers went without pay. Social workers had to be fired. Elderly were not taken care of. Kids lost their free meals at school (often the only square meals they get during the day). Thousands of Oregonians lost medical care and prescription drug benefits. And Mr. Schmidt was killed.

In irony of ironies, the state has had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars more to care for Mr. Schmidt since his massive seizure in March than it would have had to pay just to keep letting him have his life-saving medication.

In Schmidt's case, the state stopped paying
for two drugs, including Lamictal, an antiseizure
medication that costs $13 a day. He ran out
of pills eight to 10 days before his seizure,
his family said.

His hospital bill for the first five weeks ran
64 pages and totaled $272,364 -- about $7,200
a day. That does not count doctor fees. His
care in the convalescent homes costs about
$7,000 a month, not including several much more
expensive hospitalizations. The total bill is likely
in the $1 million range, his family said.

And the people who thought they were going to be saving themselves higher taxes by going along with the false promises of the GOP and anti-tax folks? Well, now they're as much stuck with the bill as the rest of us.

How Schmidt's medical costs will be paid is not
clear, but taxpayers will foot the bill in one form
or another. Payers include federal Medicare,
because Schmidt was covered by Social Security
Disability, and the state Office of Medical Assistance
Programs. And hospitals may have to write off part
of the bill as "uncompensated care," a loss that
eventually leads to higher insurance premiums
for everyone.

I gladly will pay my part of Mr. Schmidt's bills. Just as I voted for Measure 28 and will vote again this coming February for the tax bill so that I can help my fellow Oregonians live lives worth living. Isn't that what society is about? Yes, the governments screw us. They are bureaucratic and misuse and mis-spend money. But sometimes, there really is nowhere else for us to go but to ourselves. This February, we are faced with another decision. Do we look around us and realize that we too benefit from the good society created when we all take care of each other? Or do we only look at ourselves and our own greed and withhold what we can from others who really need it?

Already, the GOP is bringing in the big guns again. Tomorrow, Dick Armey is coming to town. Why is the Republican from Texas, the former majority leader of the House of representatives, coming to Oregon? Well, he is now Chairman of "Citizens for a Sound Economy" - which translated into truth-language means "no new taxes for any reason." This is the big DC-based lobby group that has backed and provided the millions in funds to Republicans in this state (and other states) to put up a referendum that allows Oregonians to decide not to pay taxes that the Legislature has proposed.

I'm sick and tired of Oregonians being bought and paid for by big business and DC lobbying groups. I'm also sick and tired of individuals who think that a society can exist and prosper by not helping their fellow man and leaving him in the dirt to die. Douglas Schmidt died today. Others like him face death and other horrible life consequences. This is not a decision about money. It's a decision about life, death and the quality of the society we want to build and leave for our children.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Schmidt and to the Schmidt family, I'm sorry that your son and brother died because of selfish politics. The rest of us shouldn't have any peace until we fight back these interlopers and rightists who do not care what's best for us, only for their neocon political views and their selfish, greedy ideals. Today is a sad, sad day for Oregon. It has killed a human being today. Not a precedent I want my state to set. It's time to get serious, people.

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