Cadillac Heath Care?

Posted: June 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

I’m at the Jackson Correction Institution (JCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  I noted with more than a little cynicism the television ad for Tom Barrett, the Democratic Party Candidate for Governor, calling for the end to “Cadillac heath care for convicted felons”.  In case you don’t know, this isn’t a real issue he is raising.  This is a tactic, usually considered a purvey of the Lee Atwater / Karl Rove, wing of the Republican party, where they grab an issue that will resonate well with voters, sound good in a sound byte, but won’t stand up to any kind of meaningful scrutiny or contain any kind of real solution.  It’s the kind of tactic designed to encourage the base human instinct, to whip up the fury of the majority against a weak constituency who are unable to put up any kind of organized defense.  It’s a smart strategy by the political advisors.  I mean, who could possibly be against the idea of depriving the hated boogeyman known as convicted felons from receiving “Cadillac” health care? This kind of strategy first got popularity when Michael Dukakis ran for president.  The Lee Atwater led Republican Party ad blasted Dukakis for allowing a prison furlough program where a black inmate raped and killed a white minister’s wife.  This ad cost Dukakis any kind of chance in the election by appealing to the racial, sexual, and public safety fears of the white American population. Never mind the fact that Dukakis had nothing to do with the furlough program it criticized, except for being governor of the state.  But the tactic Barrett is following for distracting voters from real issues with issues that are manufactured for media consumption by political operatives for the express purpose of exploiting the weak and manipulating the public was born.  The fact is there is no such thing as “Cadillac health care” for convicted felons.  If an inmate has a life threatening illness such as I did, the state of Wisconsin will see to it that you are treated.  But it is not, depending on the circumstances, you can go for weeks waiting to see a doctor.  When you do, if our condition is not serious, you may not even be treated.  Painkillers are prescribed only if absolutely necessary and at minimal levels, with its use constantly being reviewed.  Pain management is a skill inmates quickly learn.  Any visit to Health Services for non-emergency reasons is charged a co-pay of $7.50 which may sound cheap, but keep in mind, people here don’t earn more than .44 an hour, most half of that if they are deemed eligible to work.  They have to do this to discourage malingering but those truly in need they have to make the choice to suffer, get the basics, or go in debt.  Just like you do in the real world. As far as dental is concerned, the favorite method of treatment is to pull teeth.  No fancy things are done and cleanings are at least a 6 month wait.  I myself have a filling that fell out and a cap came off (yes, it can be painful) and I’ve been waiting since March.  If you need hospital care, review my blog entry, Prison at UW Madison.  No coffee in a waiting room, magazines to read, comfy chairs, or Barry Manilow on the speakers.  Well ok – not having to listen to Manilow might be considered a perk.  Just kidding.  Now I’m not saying inmates are entitled to better health care.  We are in prison and part of that is the loss of choices and the loss of the privilege of having our medical needs met in a way that’s convenient.   But this is to let you know and Mayor Barrett know, that contrary to what you might hear from political operatives or others, I’m here and I’m telling you, there is no “Cadillac health care” for convicted felons.  So now, you can’t say you didn’t know!


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