healthcare inequality

I have had a low-level lingering cough since the last week of May. Over the last several days the cough increased, beginning Friday night it was difficult to sleep and the cough has been joined by chest congestion. Last night, I had to sleep sitting up. It is now June 18th and I went to the doctor this morning. I was diagnosed with acute bronchitis and sinus infection.

I am privileged. I have excellent insurance and was able to see the doctor, get antibiotics, prednisone and Mucinex all for $40. Plus, I was told I might not need the antibiotics, but my sinuses looked bad enough and my symptoms had been lingering long enough the doctor was concerned it could have also become bacterial and since I could not recall the last time I’d used antibiotics she didn’t mind proactively prescribing them. There is zero reason my treatment should have been a privilege.

There are zero reasons people should suffer and be concerned with losing their jobs if they have to take time to go to a doctor or take a day off to prevent spreading disease. The fact that people are asked “May I have your insurance number?” and it’s not actually a question, but a requirement, before they are asked what is wrong with them is simply inhumane. If you are in an emergency situation, by law, you cannot be denied treatment, but for an ailment that needs attention – such as my bronchitis and sinus infection – you could be turned away until the point it escalates into an actual emergency. By then there is a whole avalanche of complications and who knows how many people the contagious person has infected, all because they couldn’t get care pre-emergency. I don’t know how to make the changes that need to be made, other than to push representatives to do the right thing in Washington, but there has got to be more that we can do.

Big pharma and the litigious angle our society has taken is a huge influence on the inflated pricing of all medical care. Those are both machines that are churning away under their own power and it’s going to take a whole nation of boots thrown to jam the cogs, but where are those boots? What do we do? It’s a not a situation where we can boycott the medicines that are needed and pleading to an ethical logic doesn’t seem to have an effect. How do we take back healthcare? It feels like a question being asked into a bottomless canyon. Will an answer return? Can a change be made?

Anything can be done, but will it? Lawmakers can choose to simply say, “This is wrong. We will now have healthcare for all and this is how.” They could all wake up and do the right thing, but that is unlikely and it makes me angry that people somehow can’t understand why it’s simply right to let all people have not just decent, but outstanding, healthcare. 

Less affluent countries provide accessible healthcare to all their citizens so it’s not about money. People may argue it’s somehow “not fair” if people don’t pay in, but we all do with taxes and so much of our healthcare is for-profit that the tax argument is weak. Any argument that “healthcare” for all is a socialist ideal needs to wake up and recognize that America has an enormous number of socialist-leaning programs. We all pay for the military, but everyone doesn’t serve. We all pay for roads, but everyone doesn’t drive. We all pay for farm and ranch subsidies, but everyone doesn’t eat wheat and meat. We are not an entirely capitalist or democratic or (far from it) socialist country. We’ve morphed into some undefinable variation of mix and match values that boils down to action for dollars and at this time, Americans are paying about twice as much per year as folks in economically similar countries, yet getting inferior healthcare so clearly we are getting inaction for our dollars: We can do better.

Affordable healthcare does not mean entirely single payer or tax dollars pay for everything. Affordable healthcare could be subsidies for prescriptions, well visits, all vaccines, and screenings. It could mean reducing the costs of consumables in hospitals to actual market value. It could mean actual oversight of Medicaid groups so public money that is going into private programs is properly audited. It could mean finding school nurses so kids are screened and things like lice and the flu are caught before they tear through classrooms. Affordable healthcare means access for everyone, not just those lucky enough to have landed a job with great insurance. Also, health care for everyone means people have the flexibility to change jobs if they need too without fearing losing said great insurance. Affordable healthcare could be all of those things and more.

Affordable healthcare creates a sense of safety and is a demonstration of equality. Healthcare equality for those in your community is not taking things away from one group, but helping all people have access to that which they need to achieve a healthy life. I think the first societal goal we need to help each other achieve is access to the resources to be healthy. There is no reason all Americans can’t have good healthcare – except for selfish greed and that’s the worst reason ever to prevent people from having good lives. 

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