I make no apologies whatsoever for the title. I neither understand why basic healthcare needs be ‘affordable’ nor why we need a competitive marketplace for insurance companies. The entire debate over the ACA (Obamacare) and the AHCA (Trumpcare) is, to me, pretty outrageous. Any plan that is not some version of a single payer (whether a true single payer like Taiwan or a hybrid single-payer like Great Britain) will always do proportionally more harm to the lower and low/middle classes, to the elderly and infirm, and, yes, I’ll say it, to minorities. Would we have to pay more in taxes? You betcha. But I am more than willing to do that for these reasons:
- If every one of my students could get yearly physicals and dental care regardless of their family situation, or be able to get basic meds when they come down with strep or are fighting off seasonal allergies, I would gladly pay more in taxes.
- If every single mother-to-be that is working 2 jobs would have free and open access to pre- and post-natal care (along with much longer maternity leave – but that’s another post), I would gladly pay more in taxes.
- If every person fighting addition (alcohol, opioid, whatever) would have free access to rehabilitation centers, coupled with counseling and job-training, I would gladly pay more in taxes.
- If every person suffering from a mental illness (depression, schizophrenia, etc) would have free and open access to appropriate medical and psychological services (again, including job training), I would gladly pay more in taxes.
- There are families that prioritize providing food and/or shelter to their family rather than paying several hundred dollars a month for insurance that would still hold them responsible for a several thousand dollar deductible (and therefore live in fear that their child has an accident while playing outside). If they would have free access to quality healthcare, I would gladly pay more in taxes.
- Speaking of deductibles, if those stricken with cancer or any other horrible, long-term disease would be provided their medication for possible healing or, at the bare minimum, comfort, I would gladly pay more in taxes. (I could also mention the good sense of legalizing marijuana here, but I’ll save that for another post too.)
- If families would not be forced to care for their elderly parents because they were unable to pay for quality assisted living care, I would gladly pay more in taxes.
The list could go on and on. I am lucky enough that my employer pays most of my insurance – but I have the cheapest (and therefore highest deductible) plan that they offer. I am a single, about to be 47 year old guy in pretty good physical shape. I haven’t so much as been to a clinic in several years and haven’t had a true physical in probably seven or eight years. (Mom, if you’re reading this, calm down…I’ve been planning to go get checked out this summer once school ends.) But I ride my bike pretty competitively 4 or 5 days a week. If something untoward ever happens, the financial burden I will bear will be substantial.
But this is not about me. This is about us and what we can do. Together – progressives and conservatives. If a person cannot afford insurance, they are not being punished for some transgression in their past, so they don’t deserve to be shrugged off as someone else’s problem. They do deserve society’s compassion and care. Every time a preventable disease causes a death, every time a depressed individual commits suicide because they couldn’t afford counseling, every time a family has to live in their car because of overwhelming hospital bills, it is an unforgivable blemish on the promise we make to every person, namely that…
“…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We have to admit that other countries are better at this than we are, American Exceptionalism be damned. We can learn from places like Taiwan and England and Canada and make a single payer system work. We can stand up to Insurance and Big Pharma. Imagine the long term effect of not having the financial burden of healthcare in a family budget. Those savings go into raising one’s status and helping their children further climb the social ladder and, yes, just buying more things, all of which raises GDP. So, a universal healthcare system makes financial sense…but you can’t put a price tag on piece of mind.
Healthcare IS a right.