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Health Care as a Civil Right

17 Apr

I left this as a comment on Facebook in an ongoing debate over whether Regal Cinemas is going to cut hours to avoid having to offer health insurance to its employees. I am of the mind that Regal and other companies should happily treat their employees like human beings and offer basic benefits such as health insurance. It’s not like ticket prices aren’t already quite high. But to the point, I’d happily pay another buck if I knew that the concession workers and people who cleaned up the theater were properly taken care of. 

Every single western pluralist capitalist democracy has long ago resolved the issue that we don’t allow anyone – rich, poor, or middle-class – to go without access to medical care. Some have mandatory insurance (Switzerland), other have single-payer plans (UK, France, Canada), but all have some system in place to make sure that there is universal health care coverage.  

Except, of course, the United States, which is not only inexplicably proud in some cases of 40+ million uninsured people whose only access to healthcare is an ER, where the federal, state, and local governments already pay billions to reimburse uncollected bills.

How or why in 2013 we can’t get it together to make sure middle class people aren’t stuck with medical bankruptcies, unpaid/unpayable bills, or other lack of access to needed medical care is beyond me. Yet when confronted with this very real fact, the people who purport to be on the side of “liberty” can do little more except glibly to compare, e.g., chemotherapy treatment to a Twinkie, or emergency surgery to owning a TV.

In what we bill as the best and richest country in the world, absolutely you should have a right to food, shelter, and medical care. But if you start telling the middle class that if they get cancer and are uninsured that they can go screw themselves if they can’t afford the treatment, or go into bankruptcy or massive debt, then what sort of system do we have?

Opponents of single-payer point to the Canadian system’s supposed waiting times. Setting aside that, among Canadians, their medical insurance scheme enjoys something close to 90% approval, which is worse, waiting a week or traveling 100 miles for an MRI, or being unable to afford or obtain one at all.