Stem cell research and universal health insurance are slamming through the headlines this week, ay?
First off, the Democrats are "staging a second showdown" over use of embryonic stem cells, pushing for expanded taxpayer-funded research using the controversial cells. According to the Associated Press, polls show that a majority of Americans support embryonic stem cell research -- and Democrats insist that the public demanded action by casting ballots for stem cell supporters in the November election. I tend to believe that the wave of public opinion is in favor... but that may be a function of the facts that: 1) I have Type 1 diabetes, and 2) I live in San Francisco.
In any case, it is clear among the scientific community that other stem cells derived from alternative sources do NOT have the same properties or potential as the embryonic cells, which are able to morph into any of the more than 220 cell types that make up the human body.
Case in point: "If you want to try to make cells that produce insulin, you have to use embryonic stem cells," says Dr. Leonard Zon, stem cell chief at Children's Hospital Boston.
The ADA has sent out an urgent call to support the new "Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act" (H.R. 3/S. 5), introduced in the House and Senate last week, which will be voted on TOMORROW (Jan. 11). So if you care to help, click HERE now!
In other news, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled his plan on Monday to extend health insurance coverage to an estimated 6.5 million California residents without insurance. A noble intent, indeed. But of course, he's getting hammered. The idea is that everyone in the state will be REQUIRED to have health insurance. "If you can't afford it, the state will help you buy it, but you must be insured," Arnie says. So who's going to pay? And what about all those illegal immigrants?
The governor proposes this: firms with 10 or more workers would offer health insurance to employees or pay 4 percent of payroll to the state so it can provide medical coverage. Firms with fewer than 10 employees would be exempt. Also, doctors would pay the state 2 percent of revenues and hospitals would be taxed 4 percent of their revenue to support a new state insurance pool (Arnie's first hint of new taxes since taking office in 2003). Finally, everyone should be insured, legal or no schmegal -- if you've got a broken leg, you need treatment, right?
Arnie says his plan will save $10 billion a year by cutting costs and redirecting money already in the health care system. But the unions see this thing as just another burdensome tax on the middle class. The lobbyists are making statements like: "This is all going to be on the backs of the individual, the workers..."
All I know is that there are at least 1.2 million low-income people in the state of California alone who don't currently qualify for medical coverage. That's a lot of human beings, surely suffering from a lot of ailments. And I'm damn glad somebody's making a bold move toward getting them some kind of health safety net. One thing that struck me on my luxurious vacation in Mexico last week is that I'm also damn glad I didn't develop Type 1 diabetes living in a poor country, where "medical coverage" means very little. Where should I get fresh insulin, and all the devices that help keep me healthy? This disease would surely be a death sentence without ...
As one impassioned mother wrote to me recently: if you are not directly affected by a chronic disease, then the (health/medical) news hits you differently. But if it's your child, then the glass is not half-full or half-empty, it's just empty.
Just some food for thought.