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sick II tired How Texas’ health-care system bleeds county coffers and sends some to early graves by Melissa del Bosque efferson County is God and gator country. A 30 minute drive from the Louisiana border, past Spanish moss-draped cypress trees in muddy bayous, the county is a major cog in East Texas’ petrochemical corridor, a prime wealth generator for the state’s economy but not for all its people. As you approach Beaumont from the west, you can’t miss the big billboard daring motorists to hold a baby gator at a roadside farm. You pass a gas station advertis ing Jesus Christ First Aid kits. On the radio, the exhortations of down-home evangelists compete with right-wing talk-show shouters testifying against health care reform. Socialism, they say. Nazism. Hitlerism. Americans and Texans beware. 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 4, 2009