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Hightower Report: The Pampered Patient

Perverting health care into a luxury commodity

By Jim Hightower, Fri., Feb. 24, 2012

In these times of cold health care austerity, it reaffirms one's faith in humanity to learn that many hospitals are now going the extra mile to provide top quality care for all.

For all superrich people that is – so rich that they can buy their way into "amenities units" that have quietly been built into secluded sections of many hospitals. It's not medical care that they're peddling to an elite clientele, but the personal pampering that the superrich expect in all aspects of their lives. "I was supposed to be in Buenos Aires last week taking tango lessons," a Wall Street executive explained matter-of-factly to a New York Times reporter, "but unfortunately, I hurt my back, so I'm here with my concierge."

A hospital with a concierge? Yes. That one's called Eleven West, an exclusive wing of New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center. "We pride ourselves on getting anything the patient wants," beamed Eleven West's director of hospitality. "If they have a craving for lobster tails and we don't have them on the menu, we'll go out and get them."

From New York to L.A., hospitals that draw huge subsidies from us taxpayers (and often are so overcrowded that regular patients are lucky to get a gurney in the hallway) have set aside entire floors for $2,400-a-day deluxe suites. They come with butlers, 5-star meals, marble baths, imported bed sheets, special kitchens, and other amenities for swells who have both insurance and cash to burn.

Not only is it repugnant for the plutocratic elite to pervert health care into a luxury commodity, but their very effort to do so splits asunder America's essential, uniting principle of the common good. To push for a national policy that treats health care as a fundamental human need – for all – contact Physicians for a National Health Program: www.pnhp.org.

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