By DONNA BRAZILE
I can hear in my mind’s ear Barbra Streisand’s beautifully haunting song “The Way We Were.” It was a nostalgic, wistful song in a movie of the same name. But sometimes, like now, it reminds me of how far we’ve come.
I can also see, almost as clearly as a personal memory, Matt Damon in his role as Rudy Baylor in “The Rainmaker.” (Warning: Spoilers ahead!) Rudy, the working class son of an abusive alcoholic, has freed himself and become a lawyer, and is just starting his career as the movie begins. The only case he can get is that of insurance bad faith.
Dotty and Buddy Black come to Damon to seek justice from Great Benefit, an insurance company that refuses to pay for a covered bone marrow transplant for their son, Donny Ray. It’s too late now, Donny is dying; but he wants justice and he wants to leave his parents the money he’s entitled to.
Donny dies, but not before giving a video deposition. In the end, after many devious moves by big firm lawyers, Rudy wins the case. But the insurance company declares bankruptcy, giving Donny Ray’s parents only the satisfaction of a ruling of wrongdoing by “Great Benefit.” The heartbreaking case causes Rudy to decide to quit practicing law and to teach legal ethics instead.
The history of health care, and health insurance, is complicated. As the economy has changed, technology has advanced and national responsibilities have become more complex, we’ve moved through various models of how to pay for health care. We now have a hodgepodge of fee-for-service, pre-paid, employer benefit and good-luck-you’re-on-your-own. And God knows, I have been through all of the above.
And for decades, the health insurance industry, intent on maximizing profits for shareholders, has often desecrated the mission of insurance: Instead of providing medical care at a time of need, insurance companies have denied claims and refused coverage.