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Letter: The insurance death panels

Last month I laughed at the absurdity of Sarah Palin's "death panel" and Sen. Chuck Grassle's "pulling the plug on granny." I was wrong but so were they. The death panel isn't in the bill; it's in the insurance office. I'd say ask Crystal Lee Sutton but it's too late.

Movie buffs may recognize Crystal Lee Sutton as the inspiration for the movie "Norma Rae." At the age of 17 Sutton went to work at a textile plant in her hometown in North Carolina. By 1973 the mother of three was earning $2.65 an hour. She met a union organizer (a former coal miner) and copied for him a flyer posted by management warning that blacks would run the union. She was fired and later became a paid union organizer.

Sutton was diagnosed with meningioma, a type of cancer of the nervous system. This cancer normally grows slowly but Sutton's was aggressive. By the time she won her battle with her insurance company which had denied her the medication that she needed, the disease had the upper hand. Crystal Lee Sutton died Sept. 11 -- another victim of the death panel that exists in the insurance offices of America.

Sutton, like many other Americans, had bought insurance and paid her premiums only to find that it wasn't there when it was needed. One of every five claims is denied by insurance companies.

Those without insurance don't face that death panel. Whether they are without insurance because they feel invulnerable or because they can't afford it, they are playing the lottery. If they have good health and don't have an accident, they win. The losers die. In 2002 it was estimated that 18,000 people died each year because they were unable to have timely treatment. Last spring the demonstrating doctors and nurses cited 22,000 deaths. The latest study estimates 45,000 deaths every year.

Sutton died on the eighth anniversary of 9/11 when 3,000 people died; six times as many died that first year for lack of care. We have spent billions to avenge 3,000 lives -- when will we spend to save lives?

Barbara M. Edwards