"Health care is a right, like speech." — Larry King
In his just-released autobiography, My Remarkable Journey, Larry King tells the story of his nonprofit “Larry King Cardiac Center.” Like his entire life, it is a remarkable story about saving lives and compassionate service.
After his quadruple bi-pass surgery in 1987, Larry King was asked on his show, “How much did it cost?”
He had no idea because it was paid by his insurance company. Upon investigating, Larry realized that thousands of Americans die unnecessarily because either they can’t afford the surgery ($40,000 and up) or they lack insurance.
A year later he started the Larry King Cardiac Center in Rockville, Maryland. Today the Center, run by Larry King, Jr., has raised enough funds to pay for over 300 heart surgeries a year for needy patients and thus achieve its goal of “Save a Heart a Day.”
It’s a giant effort involving seven major hospitals, thousands of donors, major corporate sponsors, and celebrities who perform at entertainment galas conducted in New York City, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. (See www.lkcf.org.)
Not only is the Center saving more and more lives each year, but they work with the hospitals to reduce costs by 60% through donations by doctors and cost containment by the hospitals.
Larry King devotes an entire chapter to his foundation, describing the tremendous joy he, his staff, and supporters feel in this great cause. “There’s no better feeling in the world,” he writes.
In particular, he tells the story of Matt Markel, an 11-year-old boy whose father suddenly died of a heart attack. He sold “Be smart, save a heart” wrist bands for $1 a piece at his school and sent the proceeds ($2,000) to Larry King’s foundation. A year later Matt was invited to one of Larry King’s fundraising galas and met a man who had open-heart surgery because of Matt’s efforts. It was an unforgettable emotional moment.
In his book, Larry King demands national health insurance to cover open-heart surgery and other life-saving procedures for those who can’t afford it. According to Larry King, it is a “tragedy” that the United States is the only industrial nation not to have national health insurance.
How ironic! What Larry King apparently doesn’t realize is that if the US did adopt national health insurance, there would be no Larry King Cardiac Center, no celebrities giving of their time and talents, no volunteers raising money for a good cause, no heartwarming stories of helping the less fortunate, and Larry King wouldn’t be wearing his “Be smart, save a heart” band on his wrist.
If President Obama has his way, the day he signs the National Health Care Act, the Larry King Cardiac Center will close. And that will be the real tragedy.