An article in the Guardian by Jessa Crispin caught my eye recently, where she complains that she can never leave her spouse, else she’ll lose her healthcare. Not that she wants to, she’s pretty much happy with the bloke, all things considered.
But wow, does she ever have a point
Like lacking gun control, healthcare in America is something we do the best we can with. And we lack any say over either, for the same reasons. Lobbyists overcome common sense in America’s governmental chambers because they shove money at legislators and money gets votes. Maybe it’s always been that way, but I’ve lived under a whole bunch of administrations and the last half-dozen seem like they arrived from another planet.
Jessa’s a free-lance writer and four years ago she had a bout with what sounds like a preview of Covid, but she walked away alive, with a $12,000 hospital bill to pay. And from the horror-stories I see, it could as easily have been $50,000. No matter, it took her four years to crawl out from under.
Contrast that with my experience in Europe. Also a free-lance writer, I had a benign tumor on my neck, but it lay in an area where a whole cluster of nerves crossed paths and my doctor thought it best to remove. I agreed.
By the way, national health insurance at my age (mid-eighties) costs me a hundred bucks a month and is totally void of partner or company affiliations. Following five hours of micro-surgery and a five day stay in a semi-private room, the cost was nothing. Zero. Nada.
Back to Jessa
As Jessa tells it,
“Then, last month, it started again. I was at home. I turned my head a little, the whole world started sliding away from me, and I crashed to the floor. I tried to crawl back into bed, insisting, “It’ll pass, it’ll pass.” My husband, on the other hand, was raised in a country with compulsory public health coverage, so his first instinct upon something weird happening isn’t to lie down for 48 hours and see if it goes away. He immediately started plotting the route to a hospital on his phone.
“I was back, but this time I was married. The whole hospital visit cost us $30, including the prescription. Everything was covered by his insurance. That’s when I realized I can never divorce my husband.”
About half the population has company sponsored health insurance
And there are two interesting statistics that follow from that. The first is that Jessa is right, she is totally dependent on her husband’s coverage. Should he happen to run off with the babe down the block, be an alcoholic, skirt-chaser, abusive to the kids or herself, she’s stuck. The second is that he’s stuck as well. How many single adults or heads of households are in jobs they hate and are unable to leave because they are prisoners of their health insurance? There are no Google statistics on that.
Which still leaves half the country uninsured
That half of America happens to be the most at risk of losing everything they have. In a time when even what’s left of the middle class is an unexpected $500 expense away from bankruptcy, loss of health insurance (or none in the first place) is the largest driver of financial ruin. 63% of Americans would not economically survive such an event according to Forbes and 0% of either state or national legislators fall within that category.
My god, do you suppose there’s a correlation there we never knew?
The United States is the only advanced country in the world that imposes a profit-oriented structure between its healthcare and those it purports to serve. Top health insurers profits soared to almost $1 trillion in 2019. That’s one-thousand billion dollars, for those of you who get lost in large numbers. Who needs them? The government runs Social Security, surely they are able to operate Healthcare without turning you away for a 'precondition.' The end of life is a precondition for all of us except Jeff Bezos and maybe Elon Musk.
Wrap your head around this
The United States in 2018 was the largest pharmaceutical market, generating about $484.8 billion which represented 40.4% of the $1.2 trillion generated worldwide. This was over $350 billion more than any other country, a fact largely contributed to by the prices of top drugs increased significantly in the U.S between 2009 and 2015. The average spending per person was $1,200 which was the highest pharmaceutical spending per capita in the world. If $484.8 billion spent by Americans was $350 billion more than any other country, we got hosed by almost $35 billion.
Jessa Crispin is not the exception, she is the rule
And our overfed, overpaid, over insured and world-class grifters in Washington and the fifty state legislatures are to blame. That’s the single place in politics where I see bi-partisanship actually working. Both Democrats and Republicans are up to their hips in graft.
Among the surviving democracies and republics left on this planet, we are the only nation that has no illegal bribery or graft. Our politicians, in their ultimate and unlimited wisdom have made it legal.
We march to support Black Lives Matter and turn out in the hundreds of thousands to wave flags for Women’s Rights, Global Warming, Refugees, Wall Street, Gun Violence, Income Inequality, Hunger and Racial Injustice.
But not a moment to reflect upon those who deny us all those rights to happy, successful and meaningful lives.
Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are not the enemy. They are the leaders who finally showed us the costs associated with not paying attention.
Perhaps its time (if not well past time) to pay attention.
Image Credit: AMAC