Why doesn’t everyone have healthcare?

It started out innocently enough.

My students were gathered for morning meeting at the carpet, ready for the daily announcements. I pulled out a box and explained the school was fundraising Pennies for Patients. Now, to be fully transparent, I’m not even entirely sure the money raised for this drive goes to patients, its name just makes it sound that way. But, before I knew it, our conversation somehow turned into a Q&A on access to healthcare in our country.

“But, Mrs. M, I don’t get it. Why doesn’t everyone have access to medical treatment? That doesn’t seem fair.”

A lot of eager nodding. Many students gave hand signals showing a connection to not having access to medical care. One student, a tough boy with a big heart, told the class about an upcoming surgery he will undergo and how his family is saving money for that. Another student appeared in class the next day with a patch over her eye and insisted on sharing a story of how her doctor refused to treat her the night before because of a conflict between her public and private insurance policies. Emergency care was out of the question.

It’s hard to explain to children why not everyone has access to affordable healthcare. To them, it just does not seem fair. And, I have to say, listening to their stories, I have to agree. Plenty of people will say kids have easy access to medical coverage, but I can tell you it’s not always that simple. We live in a country with a pretty confusing healthcare system.

What I find most surprising, however, is how many people do not see healthcare as a basic human right. I’m sure some of you reading this right now disagree with me. Friends of ours have full-heartedly disagreed with me. It’s just challenging to look into the faces of 30 wonderful human beings and come up with a good reason why any of them should have trouble receiving prompt, affordable, quality healthcare.

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10 thoughts on “Why doesn’t everyone have healthcare?

  1. Seb says:

    It doesn’t seem fair to kids that they don’t get pudding every night, either πŸ™‚ In the end it comes down to the sense of individual responsibility their parents hold – or the lack of it. The problem is the welfare state we are building up is inculcating this sense of either depending on the government for any handout you can get or blaming them when you don’t get one in this generation and the ones to come. Perhaps that’s what our schools should be teaching our kids – get a job and get your own health care because you can’t expect anyone else to do jack for you.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Children can recognize the difference between not receiving pudding and not receiving medical attention when they are in pain, especially by fifth grade.

      I knew I was opening a door by posting this, but mostly I wanted to drive home the idea that their young lives are already affected by this issue. I was surprised by the conversation they started, I expected to leave it at bring some pennies.

      However, I disagree with you that it is an issue of being lazy. Many jobs do not offer healthcare. Many families lost their jobs in the economic downturn. Many have jobs again that pay/offer far less than what they had before. Not everyone has the skills to acquire a job with good benefits.

      We are one of few Western countries without universal access to healthcare. To me, it’s similar to universal access to education. I don’t see our current system as very effective. Even with my job-provided healthcare I have a very difficult time getting in to see a doctor and am often left with phone care that involves looking on the internet to self-diagnose.

      I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I just get tired of the argument that anyone that wants universal healthcare is looking for handouts or lazy. I see it as taking care of each other for the common good, as fixing a system that isn’t working.

      Last, I want to emphasize that they are being taught to take care of themselves with a school culture of college for certain. The goal is for them to go to college and get jobs where all of this is less of an issue, in many cases breaking a cycle of low-wage/low-benefit work.

  2. Seb says:

    Come on, where did I say lazy? πŸ™‚

    The problem is that this notion of “universal health care” isn’t actually about taking care of each other for the common good (and nor is it universal. Millions pay for their own health care and would get no benefit from a scheme they are being asked to subsidize.). If you pay for your own health care, AND having to pay taxes towards UHC, then you are taking care of someone else for *their* good and you’re not getting anything back from the system. You are paying twice and you will always be asked to pay more because the system refuses to demonstrate any capacity to make those who benefit from it accountable to the people who pay for it. And the logical question to ask coming out of that is: why?

    No one has an answer for that.

    I’m not saying it can’t work, but it won’t if we enshrine it as a right because people will exploit the system until the people who are ultimately paying for it simply refuse to. I have some ideas on how to make it work but it would probably run afoul of the 4th and 6th amendments in about 100 places πŸ™‚

    Still, we have a chance to sort it out in a few weeks: I’m pretty sure the result of the election will decide the fate of UHC for the foreseeable future! πŸ™‚

    (Personal disclaimer: I have secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and a daughter who is profoundly deaf. You would not believe what I have to pay in Health Insurance to cover this and how little the government would give back to me were I to ask for it. Still, I work the job, I pay the premiums and I fail to see why I should be asked to any more for a system which would not do anything for me or my lil’ gal.Tens of millions of Americans are in the same boat, some to a far greater degree.)

    Good to talk!

    • kingmidget says:

      Seb … you do realize that those of us who have health insurance are already paying for the health care the uninsured receive? That’s what has never made sense to me about the people who are so outraged at the idea of universal care. Part of why your premiums are so high is to cover for the uncompensated care provided to the uninsured. Oddly enough, what Obamacare will do is require everybody to get health care insurance and assess a penalty on those who don’t … the revenue from that penalty going towards covering health care costs.
      I’m not necessarily sold on anything being a universal right. What I’m sold on is that there are certain basic things we, as a society, should be ensuring that people have to provide for more security and success. To name a few, a quality education, good roads, law enforcement … and yes, health care. Not because it is a right, but because we all do better when we all have security and the knowledge that we have the things we need.
      And, I’ll say it one more time … you are already paying for the uninsured. There’s a decent chance that Obamacare may one day lead to lower premiums for people like you .

      • oliviaobryon says:

        Kingmidget, thanks for your input. You make a very interesting point about the uninsured already being paid for by us. I think I need to spend some time understanding Obamacare better. When I read about it originally, it seemed it left too much of the system that feels broken to me, but maybe I need to give it a real chance. And, perhaps, right is not the correct word.

      • kingmidget says:

        I don’t think Obamacare is a perfect system, but what I like about it and what Republicans should like about it (and, in fact, did like about it until Obama adopted the idea) is the individual mandate. Every individual will need to have insurance or be penalized for not having it. This isn’t a system set up to have other people pay for your health insurance. It is putting the financial responsibility squarely on each individual.

      • oliviaobryon says:

        Very interesting πŸ™‚ I’m surprised it’s not better received when explained this way! I’m all for whatever makes healthcare more affordable and accessible…

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Seb, I interpreted your reference to a lack of individual responsibility as lazy. I guess there could be a distinction. I just watch a lot of struggling families who work very hard, care about their families, but struggle to provide private healthcare. My hat is off to you for being able to provide for yourself and your daughter, that is hard, expensive work.

      My vision of healthcare is something more like what most countries in the EU have, not Obamacare. To me, Obamacare is too complicated and still leaves too much of the system privatized, but maybe I have given up too easily when trying to understand it. I think the reality is that because people like you and I see it so differently, my vision of healthcare will probably only be achieved if I move to a different country, which is not highly likely.

      This is based mainly on my experiences living in Spain and receiving healthcare there, my cousin’s experiences living permanently in the EU and Sweden, and Michael Moore’s Sicko, (which I’m sure could be argued contains some sort of bias). I know the EU is going through changes right now as well as readjusting spending, but it seems to me there must be a creative way to provide basic care for everyone at a more affordable cost to everyone, including you and me. I do not believe that taking some of the profit out of pharmaceuticals would hamper innovation. Drugs are pushed too much in our country, make up almost every ad on tv… I believe strong well-educated minds should be well-paid, but I also think there is a lot of money wasted in our medical system on pharmaceutical sales and huge profits instead of the basic act of making people well/functioning.

      Now, here’s something I have never understood– why is it the responsibility of businesses to provide healthcare? For small to medium businesses, this cost can sometimes mean the difference between continuing to operate or not. My organization pays $700/month for my healthy little family of 2 and I selected the most affordable option for them since we rarely use care. That seems very, very high to me, (and, the care we’ve received has been lame). I get that the alternative would be me paying for it and my organization raising my compensation, but it seems plausible to me that a public system could cost everyone less.

      I don’t expect that through this conversation, either of us is going to change opinions, but I appreciate your willingness to share. Generally people shut down when they disagree with me and get so mad they stop talking πŸ™‚

  3. Maybe there’s something completely wrong with me but I do believe medical care should be something all people have access to. I have worked all my life and believe myself to be a productive member of society but even I cannot afford to pay the out of pocket expenses that the insurance through my company continues to tell me I’m responsible for. Not to mention the times treatments were denied. The fact that our healthcare is run like a business means you receive care equal to what you can afford. Now, I know there are excellent doctors at publicly funded clinics but I’m talking majority here. I’m only one person in a sea of millions and I have my own horror stories. I know people who, like me, held jobs all their lives and then were denied treatments that would have saved their lives. I shudder to think what it’s like to have a child and not be able to provide that child quality healthcare. I do think the people who assume people who can’t afford the care are all moochers, need to look into the eyes of a child who is suffering from lack of medical care. What have they done in their short lives to receive such disdain? If we are to go about raising the generations of tomorrow, and do so with the knowledge that we have taught them well, then we ought at the very least to teach them compassion for others by extending ourselves. Lead by example. Politicians should listen to children. They often have a much clearer understanding of the universe, unclouded by pessimism, prejudice or greed. Great post. Thank you. Peace be with you.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Very well put. Thank you for sharing your experiences and words of wisdom. It is amazing to me how many people with insurance still have to pay a great deal and struggle with mediocre or denied care. Peace be with you too! πŸ™‚

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