I am only just now thinking about that question. Why?
For most of my career in Human Resources, I listened to employees complain. The source of complaints ran the gamut, but every fall, it zeroed in on the rise in healthcare premiums. In HR, we bent over backwardS to explain that the company covered a lot of the cost, that it wasn’t just our company that was experiencing the increase, and tried to educate them about deductibles, co-pays, and premiums and the trade-offs in plan choices.
Never did I realize how many people there were in the country who didn’t work for a company, and therefore didn’t have healthcare coverage. At all.
My upbringing taught me that “healthcare for all was socialist.” Why should I pay for someone who isn’t working to receive the same benefit as those who are working? So as Obamacare unfolded, I didn’t pay much attention.
My friends all worked and had access to healthcare in one form or another. My circle of friends was a mirror image of my own life – work for a company and bitch about the rising cost of benefits.
Now it is 2020 – the year that the world turned upside down. I no longer work “for” a company, am blessed that my husband’s 21-year military service made it possible for us to not worry about healthcare.
But my circle of friends has grown. Take Jessie, a talented massage therapist with two kids, no healthcare coverage, and now, her employer – a Spa – closed. Or take my friend Sam, an incredible musician with a large concert audience following him all over the state, but now no venues to play for 6 months and probably much longer. Part-time drywalling doesn’t help pay the bills for continuing treatment for a serious health condition and purchasing healthcare with seriously limited income is a challenge.
CNN carried a recent story about Americans who cannot pay the prices of insulin in the United States, so they routinely travel to Mexico or Canada, where the medicine is significantly less expensive. Yet, now the borders are closed. The article talks about how insulin-dependent diabetics are forced to ration the insulin they have while wondering when they can get their next batch.
What is the answer?
I have no idea. Right now, I’m in the mode of learning what I can about this big world that exists outside traditional corporate America. Folks who have an entrepreneurial spirit and talent but must take a 9-5 job just to get healthcare. Shouldn’t there be a better way?
I have been doing a lot of soul searching around some of the paradigms of my upbringing lately. This is the most recent. I have no answer – only more questions.
2020 has shaken us up in so many ways. Perhaps that is a very good thing.
I came across a 2017 article in the New Yorker by Atul Gawande that is one of the most factual, most pragmatic articles I have read. I strongly encourage you to read it. It is very long but very readable, balanced, and factual.
The author searches for answers to the question, “Is healthcare a right?” Talking with conservatives, he hears that they don’t want to deny anyone healthcare; they just don’t want to pay for healthcare when someone can work and doesn’t. (That is a huge simplification in my words – read the article.)
He talks with individuals who, because of Obamacare, have been able to get healthcare they otherwise could not have had. He explains that the way the US healthcare is structured, everyone has a different “deal.”
He says, “Understanding this seems key to breaking the current political impasse. The deal we each get on health care has a profound impact on our lives—on our savings, on our well-being, on our life expectancy. In the American health-care system, however, different people get astonishingly different deals. That disparity is having a corrosive effect on how we view our country, our government, and one another.”
Gawande has an ah-ha moment when talking with a conservative woman about Medicare. Why she is okay with it? We pay for Medicare.
“We all pay in for that,” she pointed out, “and we all benefit.” That made all the difference in the world. From the moment we earn an income, we all contribute to Medicare, and, in return, when we reach sixty-five we can all count on it, regardless of our circumstances. There is genuine reciprocity. You don’t know whether you’ll need more health care than you pay for or less. Her husband thus far has needed much less than he’s paid for. Others need more. But we all get the same deal, and, she felt, that’s what makes it O.K.
As I ponder all of this, it seems that the polarity we are living in is prohibiting us from moving. We trash “the other side’s” agenda simply because it is theirs, not ours.
I always try to wrap up an article with a call to action, so here it is. Read this article. And then spend a few minutes thinking through your own paradigms about healthcare. That’s it….just think.