From The Archives Health Healthcare NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Emergency Room, 1977

Last December Robert Baldwin was brought to Kings County Hospital with lumps, bruises, and facial lacera­tions. The nine-year-old boy’s father wanted him treated quickly and released. The boy’s doctors wanted him kept at the hospital. They suspected Robert was the victim of parental abuse.

The doctors frantically tried to locate a Social Service worker to intercede on behalf of the state, having no power themselves to hold a child without the parent’s consent. But no one was on duty. Six of the 11 Social Service workers assigned to Kings County had been lost through budget-tightening attrition. Robert Baldwin went home.

A month later he was back in Kings County — dead on arrival. His head had been bashed in. His father was indicted for murder.

Robert Baldwin was one of over a million people who last year came to Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush seeking medical attention. In New York City, if you are poor and sick, you go to one of the 17 city hospitals. In Brooklyn, for many, that means Kings County.

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At least 50 per cent of the patients at KCH, as it is commonly called, use the institution as their family doctor. The hospital treats them for anything, from a common cold to lung cancer. The majority of the patients are minorities on Medicaid, many are old. Few middle-class whites go there by choice. Those who do are usually accident victims.

On a freezing Friday night I visit KCH. Depression hits as soon as I walk through the front doors. The walls are chocolate brown, and hard fluorescent lights bathe the large lobby. Vending machines offer a selection of processed junk — soda, candy, potato chips, bad coffee. The information/registration booth is jammed with seven staff people watching television. Off to the left of the lobby is a door leading to the long corridor of the emergency room. A sign bears the legend: HOSPITAL STAFF ONLY: NO VISITORS ALLOWED. I walk through the doors, no questions asked.

The long corridor is in a state of commotion. An old man being administered oxygen through a face mask is wheeled by. Nurses carrying clipboards try to meet the demands of the patients and their friends and relatives, who are clogging the corridors. NO SMOKING signs are every­where. So are people smoking: cops, patients, doctors. Three doctors are leaning against the wall outside the X-ray room, waiting for negatives. A badly battered black woman is wheeled by on a stretcher. She looks like she has been beaten, for both her lips are badly swollen. She is wheeled into the Female Treatment Room.

“The chicks that come in here,” one young doctor says. “Christ, you’re lucky if you can find one that isn’t all used up. It’s as hard as finding a good car at a police auc­tion.”

The other doctors laugh.

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A Hispanic man in his mid-thirties limps toward me. He hands me a set of papers. He assumes that because I am white I am a hospital official. It isn’t a bad assumption. The only other white faces belong to cops, doctors, and nurses.

I take his papers. His name is Miguel Avilla. On the form his ailment is recorded in a chicken scrawl of medical jargon. But I manage to make out one word — kidneys. I ask Miguel if his kidneys are bothering him. He nods yes. I ask how long he has been waiting. He tells me since 7 p.m. It is now 10:15 p.m.

I walk over to a group of cops hanging around. Some are here with prisoners. Two of the cops have suffered injuries while making an arrest. Nothing criti­cal — a dislocated shoulder and a sprained hand. Patrolman Gene Getlin from the 71st Precinct is taking a statement from the two injured cops.

“They’re never gonna believe this statement, you know,” Getlin tells his colleagues. “I mean you guys were assigned to community relations tonight and you wind up rolling down a flight of stairs with a couple of punks. You gotta write it down in plain fuckin’ English or else the dummies at the review board will break your balls.” The two cops tell him that shots were fired but no one was hit. It is unclear who did the firing. One of the injured cops is infuriated because the doctor is treating his prisoner, and he wants to go home.

There are two prisoners. One is black, no more than 18. His face is badly beaten. The other is a Hispanic, also badly beaten, wearing torn leather shoes without any socks. He has on a T-shirt and a ski jacket. Both are handcuffed behind their backs as they are being examined.

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I ask a nurse if keeping prisoners in shackles is standard procedure. “I’m afraid it is, honey,” she says.

The injured cop is now ranting: “They’re not even supposed to examine prisoners and arresting officers in the same room, for Christ sakes,” he says. “That directive came down last year. But there they had me sittin’ on one bed and the two punks on the other. The doctor, he asks the Spanish guy, ‘What did he hit you with?’ The spic tells him, ‘With everything.’ I shoulda hit him with a tank, the prick.”

A sobbing black man hobbles along. His sneakers are untied and the laces are wet with mud. His face is a moonscape of deep pockmarks.

I ask him his name. Between sobs, he manages to tell me that it is Jackie Green and that he is 47 years old. I give him some tissues to wipe his eyes and nose. Instead he hocks up an inch of oxblood-colored phlegm and spits it into one of the tissues.

I ask him why he’s here.

“Gimmie a shot, gimmie a shot, gimmie a shot,” is all Jackie Green says.

“A shot of what?” I ask.

“A shot of… for my equal librium.”

“You have to see a doctor,” I tell him.

“I already seen a doctor. I walked out because I know they’ll put me in that other place. Where they put me before. The place with the bars on the windows. But I didn’t do nothin’ wrong. I can’t breathe and I’m shaking in the morning. So I’m goin’ home.”

“How far do you live?” I ask him.

“Near Burger King.”

“Which Burger King?”

“The one near where I live.”

I tell him to sit while I go to get him help. I ask a nurse if someone can treat him. She tells me that no one can understand what he’s talking about. When I return to the waiting room, the chair where he was sitting is empty — except for the two used tissues.

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Karl Adler, an energetic man in his early forties, has been head doctor of adult emergency for the past two and a half years. I ask if staff morale is hard to maintain.

“It isn’t easy,” he says. “We’ve suffered major cut­backs. When you run out of certain medicines and materials — along with a total lack of ancillary care or support services — it can become unbearably frustrating.” There have been cases in which a patient was prescribed antibiotics when they were not needed, because there was no microcosmic urine analysis or no patient case history. Records are not kept. In fact, one of the major problems at KCH is record-keeping. The people who once kept records here have all been lost through attrition. So there are no statistics on things like gunshot victims, knifings, rapes, malnutrition, drug overdoses, or suicides. But Adler insists that health care at KCH is good — “as good if not better than most private hospitals in the city.”

“Sure there are long waiting times and the amenities might be awful,” he says. “But everyone is treated the same. In fact, when President Ford was campaigning here in Brooklyn, someone from the Secret Service came in and asked what kind of treatment Ford would get if he was injured. I told him he’d have to wait like everyone else.”

Clarence Darden is sitting in a wooden wheelchair. He tells me he has been awaiting treatment, since 9 a.m. It is now 11:30 p.m.

“I’m hungry enough to eat me a fuckin’ kangaroo,” Clarence says. “I’ve been sittin’ on this hard-assed fuckin’ chair all damned day and they ain’t give me nuthin’ to eat, man. Shit.”

I ask him what kind of work he does.

“I made manhole covers,” he says. “You know, them round metal manhole covers. They make the manhole covers out of melted-down guns that the police take away from criminals. Well, one of them hit me right in my teeth as it was spinning down the belt, like, I can’t explain just now, but a manhole cover hit me in my teeth and knocked all my teeth outta my head. Then I broke my back last year, too. I spent four months in this place. Lost my job ’cause I broke my back.”

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Clarence receives $47 every two weeks from welfare now. His monthly rent is $52. He takes out his wallet to show me his Medicaid card. There is a photograph on it of a man named Clarence Darden who doesn’t look a day older than his 35 years, dressed in the quality clothes you wear when you have been working for awhile. The man in the wheelchair has aged 15 years in the past 12 months.

I ask him what is troubling him now.

“My back again,” Clarence says. “I was comin’ home from my uncle’s funeral. My uncle was mugged and got himself stabbed to death. He was an old man, they didn’t have to kill him. You know what I mean, mugged? Well, I’m comin’ home and I slipped on some ice and I hurt my spine or my back, I don’t know which one. It hurts like a sonabitch. You heard about my uncle right? Everybody in the neighborhood did.”

News travels slowly from Bushwick these days.

Across the lobby is the pediatric emergency room. A doctor tells me that many children suffering from cold weather afflictions such as exposure, frostbite, and asthma are being brought in. One very young black child, in her mother’s arms, is coughing and wheezing heavily. Congested, impacted phlegm is mauling her small lungs. She cries in bewilder­ment. The mother speaks into a pay phone, explaining to a friend in a melodic Jamaican accent that she is at the hospital because her apartment is so cold the child became ill. “I haven’t been as warm as I am right now in weeks,” she says: “You know, I hate to say this, but I wish my baby was even sicker. I wish she was sick enough so they’d have to admit her into the hospital. At least then she’d be warm.”

Healthcare THE FRONT ARCHIVES The Harpy

Elon Musk and the Cult of the Celebrity Savior

On Wednesday, Elon Musk — celebrity tech genius, aspiring space mogul, and Tesla chief — made a dramatic announcement: He was going to help the people of Flint, Michigan.

It was an unexpected development in an ongoing crisis; two and a half years have passed since the initial declaration of a state of emergency in Flint, in January of 2016. In April, Michigan ended a program distributing free bottled water to the city’s residents, though by the end of June, only 37 percent of the lead pipes in the city had been replaced.

Musk’s concrete plan remains unclear, though he added that he would organize a weekend in Flint to “add filters to those houses with issues.” The proposal rapidly rang up likes, and replies oozing with admiration, including one Twitter fan who expressed concern that Musk was letting his humanitarian impulses interfere with the work of creating very expensive electric cars. “You’re the most influential person on earth right now and you’re already working on some of the most challenging problems facing mankind. If you don’t stay focused, it will take you longer to achieve,” the fan remonstrated

Elon Musk’s adoring fans — who flock to his Tweets in the hundreds, laud his successes, and even write erotica about him — typify a deeply American idolization of the wealthy. His direct engagement of fans and foes alike gives him an outsize footprint online, even for a much-lauded Silicon Valley billionaire, and fans have responded in kind. Musk devotees savage his detractors, portraying him as a savior, someone on the verge of changing humanity’s future. An individual who has made good — even if the foundation for his fortune came from his father’s emerald mines in Zambia — can do little wrong. Musk’s fans (Muskrats? Elon Rangers?) seem to identify so strongly with him that they want to become him: In their ordinary lives, they are, to paraphrase John Steinbeck, merely temporarily embarrassed billionaires. 

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Musk’s instincts as a showman help cultivate this slavish following. His announcement about Flint marked the second time in a week Musk had stepped in to a well-publicized crisis with the goal of playing savior. Five days ago, as the world fixed its eyes on twelve boys trapped in a cave complex in Thailand, Musk began ideating to his 22 million Twitter followers about ways he could contribute. “Maybe worth trying: insert a 1m diameter nylon tube (or shorter set of tubes for most difficult sections) through cave network & inflate with air like a bouncy castle,” he wrote on Twitter.

As rescue efforts got under way, Musk was working on a small submarine, designed for underwater rescue. On Twitter, he posted brief videos of a child-size, torpedo-like tube, dragged by divers through the crystal waters of a Los Angeles pool. Meanwhile, skilled divers from the Thai navy rescued all twelve boys. Perhaps it was a newly ignited messiah complex — or just a simple taunt — that led to Musk’s new overture to Flint residents. His initial pledge was in response to a simple challenge: “Hey @elonmusk I heard a bunch of people saying there’s NO WAY you could help get clean water to Flint, Michigan,” wrote twitter user @DylanSheaMusic. With his boy-size submarine marooned in Southeast Asian waters, the billionaire had found a new puzzle to solve, closer at hand.

It seems more fitting that Musk would be able to enact his desire to rescue desperate people in America. We’re a nation that perhaps uniquely relies on infusions of cash from strangers to meet our basic needs. Americans without health insurance, or health insurance inadequate to meet their medical expenses, routinely turn to crowdfunding sites to appeal for cash. Between 2010 and 2016, $930 million was raised on for medical campaigns — nearly half the entire amount raised on the site during that period. In the wealthiest country in the world, hundreds of thousands of citizens hope for haphazard, unpredictable public philanthropy to provide them with blood, breath, and water.

Others have appealed directly to celebrities to deal with financial troubles — including those who number among the 44 million Americans who hold a collective $1.4 trillion in student debt. The rapper Nicki Minaj has paid off thousands of dollars in student loans owed by fans who have appealed to her directly on Twitter. Taylor Swift sent a check for $1,989 to help pay off a fan’s student debt shortly after the release of her album 1989.

In this context, the concept of a big-hearted celebrity publicly stepping in where the government has failed seems almost ordinary. There’s a rich seam of tradition when it comes to the wealthy laundering their mixed reputations via good deeds in this country — from Andrew Carnegie papering over his bloody union-busting past with a spate of sponsored libraries, to prodigiously corrupt political operative Boss Tweed distracting New Yorkers by handing out extra coal and Thanksgiving turkeys. Musk’s gesture to help Flint suits his flair for spectacle; it typifies his attitude toward public action, providing a direct gift to both an adoring public and media outlets, who rushed to cover the statement. Jeff Bezos, the famously parsimonious founder of Amazon, tried out a more muted version of direct-to-consumer philanthropy when he asked for Twitter’s input last year in how to direct his vast fortune toward the public good. His request received nearly 60,000 comments, which boosted everything from tech education for women to voter-registration drives to multiple requests for universal healthcare.

But a society run on the benevolence of celebrities — or even the earnest helpfulness of strangers on the Internet — is a society in a state of permanent precariousness. The distribution of public goodwill is an economy not of labor but of attention. Personal fundraisers are ubiquitous on social — for rent, for debt, for hospital stays. A scroll through GoFundMe’s page for leukemia fundraisers is a heart-wrenching endeavor: hundreds of children in hospital gowns, women with shadowed eyes and patchy hair, men holding dogs and smiling wanly, seeking thousands of dollars from strangers. Of course, these are only a fraction of America’s cancer patients, but in a fractured and inadequate healthcare system — in which American cancer patients spend far more and have a higher mortality rate than their European counterparts — the rise of online medical appeals is striking.

Of the quarter-million medical campaigns on GoFundMe each year, which will raise hundreds of thousands, and which will raise none? In 2017, a diabetic artist named Shane Patrick Boyle died alone in Arkansas after coming up $50 short on a crowdfunding campaign for a month’s worth of insulin. In an attention economy, who will live and who will die is at least partly determined by how attractive or tragic they look in a single picture

I do not mean to denigrate the power of public philanthropy. The rush of goodwill on social media toward worthy causes can be phenomenally inspiring; it can transform the lives of cancer patients, desperate parents, and victims of violence. But crowdfunding medical expenses has real and obvious limits. Life and death, debt and homelessness are questions too big to be left to the curious, alchemical happenstance of going viral — or the lucky chance of catching a wealthy savior’s eye.

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In a country which fails to meet its citizens’ basic needs, the public purse is afflicted with a perennial parsimony, opening swiftly to fund war, but hesitating over the alleviation of pain. The “American dream” is one of hard and unrelenting work to make good; its dark converse is the ubiquitous American idea that those who haven’t made good, who struggle, who suffer, who need, simply haven’t worked hard enough. Against all evidence, many Americans believe that hard work is all that’s required to attain stratospheric wealth, a fortune the size of Elon Musk’s.

It’s far too early to judge Musk’s efforts in Flint. They may achieve wild success in a single weekend where the government of Michigan has failed; they may be a flash in the pan, or an unrealized dream, like his plan for a Mars colony. At the outset, it seems unlikely that he will be willing to replace the remaining 63 percent of the city’s lead pipes, a complex, expensive, multi-year process, or to painstakingly rebuild residents’ trust in water that poisoned them for months before the government copped to its contamination. What seems certain is that it should not take the intervention of a billionaire for Americans to have clean water. It should not take deft Twitter skills or soft-focus photos to be able to pay for cancer surgery, or take until retirement to pay off the cost of a college education. It seems to me it is past time to create a political system that doesn’t leave our lives and deaths to luck. That is the potent, secret promise of sweeping social policies like Medicare for All, free public college, and a universal jobs guarantee: It doesn’t have to be this hard, this desperate. Perhaps it’s time for all of us “temporarily embarrassed millionaires,” and real millionaires, and billionaires, too — to see each other as worth investing permanently in.


Even Rightbloggers Admit That Trumpcare Sucks

If you had been listening exclusively to Republican propaganda for the past several months, you’d expect the long-delayed introduction of their Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill last week to be greeted with hosannas, especially by our friends the rightbloggers. But instead the American Health Care Act went off like a stink bomb and has been denounced by nearly everyone — including the AMA, AARP, and even some Republican Senators.

So conservatives had to go to Plan B — or, in some cases, Plan B-minus. Either they said they, too, were against the bill — not because it was too stingy like everyone said but because it was too generous; or they shrugged and told followers, look on the bright side, at least it’s a step in the right direction, i.e. destroying all hope of a sane national health care policy.

As anyone who has ever met a Republican would expect, the GOP’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) would take from the poor and give to the rich, strip coverage from millions of Americans, and reduce the quality of coverage from those lucky enough to keep it.

Congressional leaders and administration officials didn’t bother to deny this, but spun it as best they could, which was not very well at all — HHS Secretary Tom Price said “nobody will be worse off financially” (seeming to assume that insurance has no financial value), and Rep. Jason Chaffetz suggested anyone who was losing coverage could afford it by buying more “rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love.”

Some conservatives complained that AHCA gave too much to the poor and the sick, and bestowed upon it the derisive name “RINO care” after an extinct breed of Republican that, it is said, could pass a safety net without trying to shred it.

“Still an aspect of socialism,” said Sarah Palin. “Not a market-oriented plan,” said radio shouter Mark Levin. “…They have embraced the progressive agenda, and Barack Obama and the Democrats have won.”

Objectivist-Republican Senator Rand Paul was displeased that, instead getting only derisive laughter in exchange for their lost Obamacare subsidies, Americans would under the AHCA receive tax credits, which are still socialism. “A family that makes $30,000 a year could actually get $14,000 that they didn’t pay,” he gasped — fourteen grand that could have gone to a corporate donor!

At Conservative Review, Daniel Horowitz raged that the bill did not repeal “the mandated essential benefits” of Obamacare — which include emergency services, preventive examinations, eye care for children, prescription drugs, etc., though Horowitz seemed to think they meant “sex change operations” and “maternity care for men.”

Mainly the hardliners were angry that sick people would be covered and healthy people would pay for it — an essential feature of health insurance.

House Speaker and AHCA pitchman Paul Ryan tried to blunt this criticism by saying, he, too, couldn’t accept a healthcare system in which the fortunate helped the unfortunate: in a much-mocked PowerPoint presentation, Ryan complained that under Obamacare “young and healthy people are going to go into the market and pay for the older and sicker people. So the young healthy person’s going to be made to buy healthcare, and they’re gonna pay for the person who gets breast cancer in her 40s…” Can you imagine anything more unfair and — yes, I’ll say it — un-Christian?

Ryan proposed instead creating high-risk pools for the sickies, which didn’t work when when the feds last tried it as the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) program, perhaps because they didn’t clap hard enough for it.

Still, sociopaths across the nation complained that Republicans were still making healthy people who would never get sick pay for people who had been fated by a merciful Creator to suffer illness. “Who really wants to pay the health coverage of the 500 pound fat woman at home? I don’t,” said Cash McCall. “Who wants to pay for some reckless gayblade that comes down with HIV?”

Required by his exalted position to put it a classier way, David Harsanyi of The Federalist referred to the pre-Obamacare state in which millions of people were one misfortune away from chemo they couldn’t afford or medical bankruptcy as “an imaginary humanitarian crisis,” like flying saucers. Democrats created Obamacare as a fake remedy for a fake crisis, Harsanyi continued, in order to gain “social engineering and coercion, allowing technocrats to dictate how a third of the economy functions,” as required by the Third International.

Nonetheless, Hansanyi sighed, the GOP’s “Obamacare Lite” might have to do, and encouraged readers to look on the bright side: For one thing, at least it stripped funding from Planned Parenthood and ended much abortion coverage, offering Christians hope of a back-alley coat hanger revival. And there was also the prospect of “expanded health savings accounts, and creating real-life illustrations of successes,” such as, perhaps, some scrappy poor kid buying his own asthma medicine with money he would have otherwise wasted on shoes and a winter coat. People are sure to relate!

At National Review, establishment conservatives mainly made excuses for how bad the bill sucked.

Ramesh Ponnuru argued that since “aspects of Obamacare are popular,” Republicans had to give their bill some ugly features in order to avoid a Senate filibuster (though how the non-budgetary parts of the poorly-conceived bill would pass the Byrd Rule is hard to figure).

His colleague Liam Donovan asked readers to sympathize with the Republicans, for “harsh judgment on the American Health Care Act has been rendered without acknowledging the parameters within which Republicans are forced to work…”

Dan McLaughlin also pleaded for understanding: “A total and immediately effective repeal with no backup plan would create losers who would be angry and sympathetic,” he admitted, so the lousy GOP bill was “driven not by a desire to produce the best plan for the country’s future, but rather by a desire to address the difficulty of transitioning out of the bind created by Obamacare’s entrenchment over the past four years.” You can’t make a libertarian omelette without breaking a few social contracts!

“It is much too early to draft eulogies for this effort,” said Yuval Levin, as one does when things are going great.

strap it on tight called for “Great Communicators” to sell the bill to citizens, then wrote a column disqualifying himself from the job (“Thrilling as it might be to throw the parachute out before the jump, it remains safer to strap it on tight and add in a backup for good measure”).

Others just overtly moved from the now-traditional liberal-tears “Fuck Your Feelings” approach to a “Fuck Our Principles” one: At the Daily Caller, for example, Joe Alton warned that Democrats were “propagating the (false) belief that Republicans are mean-spirited and uncaring” and advised that though “the price tag on Medicaid expansion has been a hefty one… losing governorships, state houses, and, perhaps, even the House of Representatives, carries an even higher price for conservatives and the country.” Insert Blazing Saddles phoney-baloney jobs clip here.

Why did they even roll this out? Gotta start somewhere. We can assume this bill will undergo many changes — not to make it less horrible (any bill they pass and The Leader signs will suck), but to make themselves look like they’re being responsive to the Will of the People instead of driven by campaign donor demands and deep-seated anti-social impulses to ruin the country.

Given citizens are liking Obamacare better the closer Republicans get to killing it, expect the GOP to try a lot of new things to convince us — maybe, for example, sending citizens a free Lord’s Prayer novelty key chain for every essential health benefit they take away — before ramming it through. If not for the millions of people who’ll suffer from it, I’d say it would be fun to watch.


Health Care Horror Stories

As Obama struggles to promote his health care reform ideas against all odds, it’s bringing to mind various nightmares I’ve experienced on the subject–particularly when I didn’t have health care. As fate would have it, that was the one time I needed serious medical attention!


It was way back in the ’80s, when I ended up in the hospital with a head injury (explains a lot, no?). I foolishly had no insurance–I figured I was so young and invulnerable (and cheap)–and I ended up with a hospital bill that exceeded the gross national product of Liechtenstein. A local nightclub nicely threw me a benefit to defray the cost, but that night, after the all-star lineup of bands performed to save my ass, the police raided the club for various offenses and took off with every penny of the money earned. At least that’s what I was told by the owner!

All the scraping, whoring, and begging that followed in order for me to pay my bill is best forgotten, along with the fact that my butt still ached from laying in bed that long.

Your worst health care (or non health care) horror?


Studies in Crap and the USSR’s Ministry of Health Love Themselves Some Gently NSFW Socialized Medicine!

Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.

Public Health and Social Security in the USSR

Author: Either an upbeat cadre of Soviet propagandists or, for you FOX viewers, Obama with a time machine.

Publisher: USSR Ministry of Health
Date: circa 1963
Discovered at: Estate sale

The Cover Promises: Soviet men are so vigorous in all capacities that women must peer upwards, on constant alert, ready to catch the newborn comrades that rain from the skies.

Representative Quotes:

“A uniform system of free medical attention operates throughout the Soviet Union.” (page 14)

“There are increased pensions, depending on the service record, which are granted to teachers, doctors, civil airways air crews, ballet dancers, many categories of circus performers, and people of a number of other professions.” (page 21-22)

Engineered in some Ministry of Smiling Babies & Glorious Sunshine to demonstrate that life in the Soviet Union is, was, and always will be a series of escalating triumphs, this cheerful pamphlet trumpets the USSR’s progress in delivering free health care to its people. The verdict of the apparatchiks working whatever idea assembly-line that pumped this out: everything’s super, and getting super-er.

They back this up with stat after stat in polished English. By 1962, the authors claim, “real incomes” for Soviet workers had risen 18 per cent in three years, while a growing national income at the same time allowed the government to boast about providing pensions for 25 million workers, paid holidays 69 million, and education for 61 million.

This, we learned, stirred happiness in the population, who, to honor this government, made dutiful love to each other:

“The high birth-rate in the U.S.S.R. is testimony of the rising material and cultural welfare of Soviet people, an indication that young mothers and fathers look to the future with confidence.”

Another key factor in that high birth-rate? Hotness!


The propagandists admit that even a boon like this storm of Soviet Success Babies can present some minor difficulties:

“The expectant mother prepares layettes for her baby. The father cudgels his brain over the problem of his son or daughter.”

Tragically, the father only can dash that brain in after bribing an official a week’s salary for cudgel access.

Once born, children are arranged into multiplication tables.

Then, just like here, they’re stuffed with false promises.

(Note: “All Roads” excludes any that head west.)

Still, every Soviet baby enjoys one great opportunity: the chance to audition for Bob Fosse!


Pop Quiz! Which is he actual caption?
The one on the right is more West Side Story than Cabaret.

  • Baking eliminates trans-fats but still locks in that great baby flavor.
  • Meanwhile, top aides to L. Ron Hubbard come ever closer to hatching Tom Cruise 2.0.
  • In Norilisk, a town within the Arctic Circle, children are growing up healthy and strong. Quartz lamps make up for the deficiency in sunlight.

No matter what, it’s disgusting! Only the most corrupt and desperate failing power would resort to the exploitation of baby nudity!


At least the communists have decency enough not to try to make the babies sexy.

Shocking Detail:
Often indebted to the techniques of western advertising, the photos and slogans here seem more persuasive than pamphlet’s many statistics. (What are we to make of the boast “Cars are sold to invalids on easy terms, and those who want motor carriages get them free of charge”?)

More powerfully, the authors promise on page one that “Man is the most precious of all the wealth of the land of the Soviets” and then parade images of that man’s greatness.

The USSR is the home of:
Nude retirement!

Robot gynecologists!


Permafrost horseplay!


Note the caption’s implication: “Pitiful American men, with your heated water, tasteful underthings, and Ford motor cars like glorious baby asses! Never will you understand the simple pleasure of gang-icing a portly comrade!”

Soviet youth trust so deeply in their health care system that they laugh and cheer even as they destroy their bodies . . . kind of like Americans today, except with sleds and broken bones rather than corn syrup and diabetes!


Health Care Doesn’t Care: An Old Folks’ Hospital Diary (Fifth and last entry)

At one point, I got a NICE letter from the home, saying they still had some of dad’s things and I should come pick them up. I schlepped all the way down there and had to wait 30 tedious minutes for them to find someone to get the stuff—mostly useless T shirts—out of storage. The emerging pain in my ass—uncovered by insurance—was getting more pronounced than ever. Months later, I got a whole other note saying there were yet more of dad’s belongings to pick up! After confirming this unlikely scenario with a phone call, I once again trekked all the way to south Brooklyn, only to sit there whimpering for almost an hour as the inept employees engaged in a comic scramble to find the haul. They weren’t even sure what it was! They couldn’t even find the woman who’d sent the notice! And she never responded to my messages, nor did the home’s director!

Alas, there was no trace of the stolen money either, but a letter came about that too. Not surprisingly, it said they’d looked around and couldn’t seem to find it. “The investigation involved a search of Mr. Musto’s room, closet, and surrounding areas,” said the notice. Yeah, that’s how they stole it in the first place!

Note to self: Get hit by a truck on 70th birthday. Make sure it’s a clean hit.


Health Care Doesn’t Care: An Old Folks’ Hospital Diary (Part Four)

Then came the bills—which we paid—and then the duplicate bills, which subtly strained to look new and unattended, but you can’t fool THIS cheapo. Next came a lab bill which said the insurance wouldn’t cover it—though they bizarrely had the wrong insurance company listed in tiny type! Then (let’s call it) Lutheran sent another bill, but I called and informed them we had already paid that amount. They obviously weren’t listening because a collection agency then sent a notice demanding the very same sum. I wrote them back saying that I had the fucking canceled check in hand! They promptly dropped that, but sent a bill for a whole other amount—one that had never been brought up before! I sent them a letter asking for an explanation, but all I got in return was Lutheran coming up with a whole OTHER fee! Strangely, this was the first time they’d mentioned THIS whopping amount in the seventh months since my parents had left the place! And then came yet another all-new bill, plus they had someone calling us about that old amount—the one I had the canceled check for! If the folks had to deal with all these scams and loopholes on their own, they’d probably be homeless by now—but at least they’d be eligible for Medicaid.

(To be continued tomorrow. . .)


Health Care Doesn’t Care: An Old Folks’ Hospital Diary (Part Three)

A week later, it became clear that dad was gonna finally get out of the nursing center—basically because the insurance wouldn’t pay up anymore. They’d obviously done SOME quality work for him to have exultantly made it to freedom, but the social worker claimed it was illegal that the staff hadn’t first checked the house to see if he’d be safe there. Fine, I could add that to my imaginary 100-page lawsuit—the one I’d file if I weren’t teetering on emotional collapse myself.

Emergency 24-hour aid, paid for by charity, was sent—for my folks, not for me—and I was thrilled. But they stopped coming after three days because my parents weren’t eligible for Medicaid! (Sidebar: To qualify for that, you have to either piss away all your assets or hide them away and act poor. You must be either a sad old loser or a tricky old codger—and there are lawyers instructing you on exactly how to do so. They’ll even help you along on that goal by taking very large fees!)

The social worker’s organization promptly sent over someone with a handy list of their approved home-care agencies that charge big bucks to keep you company. Desperate, I called one of the agencies, but they informed me, “We’re not licensed to do any lifting. He would have to get up and walk by himself.” But he can barely move! That’s why we need help! Another firm said their workers will not under any circumstance perform hygiene-related tasks. I guess they could talk you through it, though. (“Go on, wipe your heinie. Come on, move your ass to the bathroom and grab some paper…”) I finally found a place with helpers who supposedly did lifting, cleaning, and everything else—for your entire life’s fortune. I started keeping my coat on at nightclubs to save a few dollars a night.

(To be continued tomorrow. . .)


Health Care Doesn’t Care: An Old Folks’ Hospital Diary (Part Two)

Other little hardships were popping up like butt rashes. Dad’s cash was mysteriously stolen from his room on his first day in the home–a lovely welcome. Worse, he fell off the bed because they didn’t have the railings up. (Maybe they’d been stolen too.) He started healing from that, but two weeks later he slipped and fell again! “The railing was up on one side,” a worker explained to me in a sadistic monotone. What about the other side? “If we put two sides up, it’s a restraint,” she droned, simply. You can’t argue with logic like that—and at least one more side was up than last time.

By now, I had no idea when he’d ever get out of this ridiculous hole. Talk about a restraint. The social worker had promised a meeting where we’d discuss his situation with the staff, but suddenly no one was saying another word about it. I sensed that they all wanted to keep dad there as long as the insurance would pay for it, and too bad if he wasn’t eating, kept falling, and had to shell over that copay.

Miraculously, my mom did get out—exactly when her full coverage expired, interestingly enough. Her at-home help was covered for a while too, but basically you get what you pay for. On the first day, the assigned woman was three hours late and on the second day she didn’t show up at all. The third day she came late and made herself lunch. And on the fourth day she rested.

Between hissy fits, I called dad’s social worker to beg for his own exit plan. “But he might fall in the house,” she said, pleadingly. “Well, he fell twice in the hospital,” I screeched. “How much worse can it get?” These people are geniuses at mumbo jumbo designed to distract you until the insurance runs out. Under pressure, she instructed me to call the head of rehab for more info about dad’s release. I did so, only to have the head of rehab cheerily say I should call the social worker! This was turning into a “Who’s on first?” routine, but without railings.

(To be continued tomorrow. . .)