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Read what Public Citizen has to say about the biggest blunders and outrageous offenses in the world of public health, published monthly in Health Letter.

Treating Sick Rich Folks

April 2012

This month’s Outrage column was written by Public Citizen board member Jim Hightower and appears with his permission.

In these trying times of 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 super-rich people that is. These folks are so rich they can buy their way into “amenities units” 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 super-rich 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.There’s one called Eleven West, an exclusive wing of New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center. “We pride ourselves on getting anything the patient wants,” beamed its 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 Los Angeles, hospitals that draw huge subsidies from 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, five-star meals, marble baths, imported bed sheets, special kitchens and other amenities for swells who have both insurance and cash to burn.

It’s repugnant for the plutocratic elite to pervert health care into a luxury commodity. It 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.

Jim Hightower is also a radio commentator, writer and public speaker and is editor of the populist newsletter Hightower Lowdown.

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