I read a story in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/health/oregon-study-reveals-benefits-and-costs-of-insuring-the-uninsured.html?smid=fb-share) about a woman who “shattered” her ankle. Because she did not have health insurance, the emergency room put the ankle in an air cast, but doctors would not perform the surgery she needed. As a result, she “hobbled around in pain” for four years, causing her to gain weight, miss work and suffer other health challenges.
This woman did not live in a Third World country. She lives in the United States.
As the country awaits the United States Supreme Court‘s ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare), I find myself shuddering because I am worried that the Court will rule against the bill and if it does, so many people will again be out of luck.
The health care bill, though unpopular because opponents say it’s government-controlled, really does do some helpful things, like allow children with pre-existing conditions to get health care, children to stay on their parents’ plans until they reach age 26, and will eventually allow anyone with a pre-existing condition to get health care.
If the bill is shot down by the Court, however, all of those really positive gains will be lost.
What gets me is how this nation, which calls itself “the greatest nation in the world,” can live with itself when people like the woman mentioned at the beginning of this piece are walking around in pain in spite of our “greatest health-care-system-in-the-world” claim. How can any system be that great when the very people who need it most are shut out?
By now, people have heard of tragedies like children, primarily poor children, dying from such fixable ailments as an impacted tooth. Without health care, these children cannot afford the most basic of care, which also for them happens, many times, to be life-saving. Children and adults have been cut off from receiving necessary chemo-therapy or other treatments when Medicaid has refused to cover such treatment. Can this really be the reality of the so-called “greatest” nation?
Not having health insurance keeps some people from even seeking the care and treatment they need. In the same New York Times article, a woman, 24 years old, was said to be suffering from depression and C
rohn’s disease, but also for stage 2 cervical cancer – for which she cannot afford treatment.
In Oregon, there has been created a lottery where people can “win” health care through the lottery system. Because of that, some people now have health care. The article is lifting up alternatives to the present health care system, where so many people are left out and is also presenting the benefits and cost of insuring previously uninsured people. The lottery, by allowing people to “win” health care, is apparently a win-win situation for the state and for the “newly insured,” who are getting better care and are cutting health costs in other areas.
That some states are looking for alternatives to our present system is a comfort, but that the federal government is not so supportive of a health care system that takes care of more Americans is troubling. We as a nation seem to have little time or patience for those who are poor and who depend on the government for help. There is a moral economy here that is not working, but the federal government and too many state governments seem unable and unwilling to look at that issue.
In effect, not providing the poor, the unemployed and underemployed with viable health care seems to be immoral, in a country which touts itself as a moral leader in and of the world. I don’t think a nation can be “moral” and not only blame “the least of these” for their predicaments, but also ignore them as much as possible.
I would bet that the nation’s highest court would not agree with me, but we will see, sooner rather than later.
For the sake of people like the 24-year-old woman who is walking around without getting treatment for serious illnesses and diseases, I hope I am wrong. No nation can afford to ignore its masses, our nation included.
A candid observation …
One thought on “America’s Moral Economy and the Issue of Health Care”
Our healthcare system in this the “wealthiest nation in the world” is a joke. The powers that be care nothing about helping sick people. This capitalistic society is always about the next biggest gain, at the expense of people’s lives. I’m glad that the Affordable Care Act was not ruled unconstitutional, because it is in fact anything but. As a 26 year old woman who was allowed to stay on my parents health insurance longer and will soon reap the benefits of being able to have insurance despite a pre-existing condition, I am truly appreciative of how Obama fought for and won more basic health care rights for the 99%.