Essays · Strangers

Debating Health Care for a Few Hundred Million People

Others have written much about the current U.S. health care debate, but today I wanted to spend some time discussing it as well, with the special focus that this site brings: people acting like jerks about something. In this case, about health care access.

The U.S. system is definitely broken. It doesn’t work well for a lot of people. I myself have pretty good insurance, but I also have never had a major illness or injury that meant I needed to go deeply into debt. In the U.S. we have lately been repeatedly traumatized by ‘health care’ legislation that will lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people as care is taken away or made completely inaccessible or unaffordable. People have repeatedly had to drop everything to beg our senators to view us as human being worthy of access to health care.

Just today, that begging once again paid off, as Senator McCain said he would opposed the latest shit show offered up by the GOP: the Graham-Cassidy bill. But for a couple of weeks, anyone with any sort of ongoing health condition was terrified of what this would do to them. That’s a traumatizing cycle to repeatedly put a couple hundred million people through every month or two. It’s fucked up. It’s sadistic. And it’s so far beyond an asshole move that I’m not sure the words for it have been invented yet.

Now, I’m not actually a huge fan of the U.S. Constituion. It gets a lot wrong. It was written by people who had the audacity to claim all men are created equal, while literally owning other humans. When I have some free time soon my goal is to read a bunch of different constitutions, and then see how I could do any better. (I mean, it can’t be that hard, right? I knew my philosophy degree would come in handy some day.)

But in the U.S. Constitution there’s this one clause: “lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defense and general Welfare of the United States.”

I have to say, isn’t helping keep your people healthy kind of a big component of welfare in the U.S.? Honestly. I’m serious. How can a country survive and thrive if its people are sick and can’t afford to get well? If they are repeatedly traumatized by not having access to care, and having the care they do have access to threatened with irresponsible legislation?

And the thing is, you aren’t a jerk if you don’t think single-payer is the solution. But I have a hard time having a serious conversation with people who think that my health should be solely dependent on having a job, or on never having been ill or injured before, or on having hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank available to pay for out of pocket costs.

So I have a plea to elected officials: stop being jerks. Specifically, stop invoking deep fear in people throughout the U.S. with each new, more absurd iteration of “health care reform.” Accept that your role as a member of the legislative body of government is to ensure the welfare of the people who live here. Accept that health care is part of taking care of people.

If that’s not on your list of things to do, that’s cool! No one is forcing you to be a senator or member of congress (if they are, send me an email and we’ll get you some help). Just resign, because there are plenty of people with an interest in doing what is best for the people in this country who would be happy to take your place.

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