Saturday, December 26, 2009

Vic Chesnutt committed suicide because he couldn't pay his medical bills

Vic Chesnutt was a performer whose talent as a songwriter and singer overshadowed the novelty of being a paraplegic, performing with a guitar in a wheelchair. He wrote of struggling through life and committed suicide this week, apparently because he couldn't pay his medical bills.

We've been following the health care debate in Washington, learning firsthand how difficult it is to heal and carry on or even get treatment at all while negotiating the insurance bureaucracy through Tabloid baby pal (one of our pals at Frozen Pictures) Brett Hudson's blog, and know far too many people without medical insurance not to know the corruption of America's health care system.

Vic Chestnutt wrote of struggling through life and flirting with death and had attempted suicide before. He was also a loud critic of the health care system and in recent interviews said that operations had left him deep in debt.

Earlier this month, he spoke with the LA Times for an article whose lead was "If you ever need a clear example of the institutionalized cruelty of the American healthcare system, ask Vic Chesnutt."

"There's an albatross that follows Chesnutt from the door of his home to every show he plays. Though he's currently insured, an accumulating stream of nearly $70,000 worth of unpaid hospital bills is threatening to swallow much of his livelihood as a songwriter. It's left him in an unprecedented condition-- one where he's at a loss for words.

"'I'm not too eloquent talking about these things,' Chesnutt said. 'I was making payments, but I can't anymore and I really have no idea what I'm going to do. It seems absurd they can charge this much. When I think about all this, it gets me so furious. I could die tomorrow because of other operations I need that I can't afford. I could die any day now, but I don't want to pay them another nickel.'

"...Chesnutt's very real ensnarement in the insurance system lends an uncomfortable yet deeply compelling undertone to his lyrical attempts to make peace with illness, his paraplegism and death. Chesnutt doesn't hold out too much hope for whatever healthcare bill makes it through the Senate, either-- 'What will pass will be weak, the powers that be will be happy and the insurance companies will be thrilled,' he believes."

Yeah, Vic Chesnutt was suicidal and his demons and death obsession were at the core of his artistry. But it sure looks like the health care system helped him over the edge.


Renee said...

Perhaps if he had been able to afford care for his depression he would not have taken this drastic step. Health Care is a human right and privilege money over that is plain evil. I honestly don't know how Republicans sleep at night.

Marian Douglas-Ungaro said...

Renee, do you honestly believe it's only the Republicans? U.S. Green Party, Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org) & most Americans support govt-backed Single Payer Health Care, aka "Medicare for all". Not some vague Democratic Party deal prioritising the insurance industry.

polerin said...

Marian, I wish I could say that in the area I live in... Large swaths of TN is strongly in the grip of the faux news fear circus.