Ken Bacon on healthcare

Refugees International President Ken Bacon, who died today from melanoma, will be remembered for his tireless advocacy on behalf of refugees and internally displaced people.

In light of the increasingly irrational and unhelpful tone of the healthcare debate, it is important to keep in mind the essence of the issue: that the healthcare system we have now is ineffective and cruel, and we owe it to ourselves to find a better way. Bacon knew this all too well. In the last months of his life, he wrote:

My oncologist has spent hours filling out forms and arguing with the insurance company to arrange coverage for my chemotherapy. Now my wife and I are waging our own fight with the provider to arrange payment for my daily brain radiation, which has been rejected as ‘not medically necessary’ even though the cancer in my brain is growing rapidly.


For me and other Americans suffering from advanced cancer,the health-care debate this summer is no abstraction. It is a matter of life or death.

Bacon was luckier than the vast majority of Americans, something he readily admitted. With his excellent employer-provided health insurance, he could afford at least most of the treatments he needed, and his doctors were among the best in the world. Access to healthcare prolonged Bacon’s life and his advocacy, which was instrumental in changing how the US Government responds to the Iraqi displacement crisis.

If Congress continues to drag its feet and cave to the demands of private insurers, the right to healthcare will continue to be deprived to tens of millions of Americans. That is an ethically unacceptable outcome anywhere, but especially so in a society as wealthy as ours.

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