Fucking the Poor: Health Care Edition

health careThe whole country is in emergency response mode now. But there were plenty of people in emergency response mode before coronavirus reared is crowned head. So many great ideas are being thrown around – tuition forgiveness, free health care, rent forgiveness, money simply sent to people who need it – all of this because people are in economic distress “through no fault of their own.”

When is the fault their own?

When they are mentally ill and can’t maintain a job? When they didn’t have access to enough education to secure a job that pays their expenses? When their spouse dies and they can’t afford childcare during work? When their employer won’t give them enough hours to support themselves? When they were forced to flee their country to avoid rape or murder or starvation?

We (in the US, and many other places) act as though care is a zero-sum negotiation, that if we give to others, that mean less for us. While this may seem reasonable when we’re talking cold, hard cash, the logic breaks down pretty quickly. Money isn’t real. It’s a symbol to be exchanged for things we need and want – ostensibly, if we have enough, for things that make us happy. Even some of the richest folks in this country are starting to support a redistribution of wealth, because fucking the poor ultimately fucks everyone.

We could exemplify this with education or housing too, but given the PANDEMIC, let’s start with healthcare.

What happens when we deny people health care?

  • they don’t go to doctors, which means
    • they don’t get preventative care, which can have long-term effects that lead to exponentially more expensive care in the future
    • they are less productive
    • if mentally ill, they can negatively impact the people around them with their depression, anxiety, anger, etc.
    • when they are infected with viruses, they infect others
    • they go to emergency rooms, either because they don’t have doctors or because their illness is so severe they can’t wait anymore, which crowds ERs, increasing the wait for people with non-preventable medical emergencies

OR

  • they do go to doctors, which means
    • they have to sacrifice something else to afford it, perhaps
      • nutritious food, increasing their chance of illness
      • rent, perhaps leading to eviction, increasing their health risk, stress, and potential burden to the system
      • child care, forcing them to stay home and lose income or their jobs entirely
    • they are given a prescription which they may not be able to afford, leading to
      • not filling the prescription, and remaining ill
      • rationing of pills, maybe taking half the antibiotics they were prescribed, contributing to antibiotic resistance which truly could kill us all

and so on. Factor in our lack of paid sick leave and the risk is magnified.

If we hadn’t made testing and treatment for the coronavirus free, these people might simply die a horrible death. It’s still possible, even likely, that undocumented immigrants are too afraid of ICE and deportation to seek treatment.

How does this help us?

I’m no big advocate for selfish decision making, but when empathy fails, it’s a good backup. Helping others helps us all. We are all interconnected, whether we like it or not (we like it, whether we know it or not: no one reading this wants to produce all their own food and create all their own entertainment, even. Good god, if I was my only source of entertainment, I would snap like a twig.). Contagion is just one, obvious example of that. If everyone is healthy-ish, people are happier, more productive, more creative, more compassionate, smarter, better people. How do we not all benefit from that?

We can embrace our mutualism, or we can destroy ourselves in an attempt to destroy the other, while the thieves in power feed off our corpses.

Sorry, got a little apocalyptic there. I’m losing my patience, and it seems a lot of our human and non-human friends are, too.

 

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