Who's Paying for BP's Health Crisis?
Watching the last two years unfold has been both eye opening and heartbreaking. Earlier this week, as I sat with a twenty-seven year old mother of three from Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, we went over the many health-related issues she and her family are dealing with. Her ten-year old daughter has severe stomach issues, breathing issues, skin issues, horrible headaches - there are very few days that come and go that she feels well.
Her little sister is seven. She has been in and out of the hospital multiple times in the last two years, she is sick constantly and is currently on a three week course of antibiotics. This little girl has been on antibiotics on a monthly basis for over six months.
Then there is their little brother, who will be four this December. Like his sisters, he is sick all the time.
Their mother has debilitating headaches, dizzy spells, skin rash after skin rash, and other issues she said she was not comfortable speaking about. As she started to speak about her husband she teared up, "He is the sickest of all of us. I am so terrified that we will lose him." She paused, "We are at the doctor every week, sometimes two or three times a week. All they do is give us more medicine." (In the photo is the family's medicine from the last six months.)
She and her family live in South Louisiana, more than seventy miles from the doctor's office, so every time they have to go see a doctor they have to take a 140-mile round trip.
"It is an all day trip, some days I'm running on fumes to get us home, but I have no choice, my kids have to be able to breath."
I asked how they were paying for the medical cost. She replied, "Medicaid."
The above echos through many homes on the Gulf Coast. BP has done zero for these kids, they haven’t gotten proper testing or medical care. Like most of the families in my community and across the coast, they're having to rely on Medicaid, and that’s something the taxpayers are paying for. It’s a gross injustice to have the taxpayers of this country foot the bill for illnesses caused by a corporation.
If yesterday's "Fairness Hearing" is any indication, Judge Barbier will soon approve BP's class action settlement. It will include a medical settlement so that people who have experienced headaches and other short-term symptoms from the BP disaster can get payouts of a few hundred dollars. But the medical settlement doesn't address or provide care for the more serious and chronic illnesses in Plaquemines Parish and across the Gulf Coast.
If the people of the coast and, in fact, the people of this country are going to have true justice, BP needs to pay for what they’ve caused. And we can’t make them pay until we acknowledge these illnesses exist.
Kindra Arnesen is a self-described "bayou girl" from Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. She is the wife of a commercial fishermen, turned clean-up worker by the BP disaster. Kindra has become an outspoken advocate for Gulf Coast communities, speaking out about the impacts of the BP disaster.