Today, a man robbed a bank so he could receive the minimum necessary treatment for his medical problems. James Verone walked into a bank in Gaston County North Carolina, walked up to the counter, and slipped the teller a note announcing that he was robbing the bank. He demanded that they give him one dollar. He then informed the bank staff that he would take a seat to wait for the police. Mr. Verone’s goal was to have himself taken to jail so that he would gain access to the basic medical care afforded to prisoners by law.
His story is a first, at least for me. What isn’t a first for me is hearing that there are people out there who need medical care and are unable to afford it. I’ve been told by some of my conservative colleagues that “health care is a service, not a right,” as though that should convince me to just let the issue lie. It’s true, there are no provisions in our constitution that specifically state that a United States citizen is entitled to health care. Of course that document was written in a time when medical care was barely accessible to the population, and when it was, one of the most common medical solutions was to just “cut it off.”
Did you know that right now in the U.K., a country that provides free health care to all of its citizens, even the most staunch conservatives are running on platforms that specifically emphasize that modifications to the health care system will not result in “American-style” health care schemes? They have a universal health care system (which by the way it turns out doesn’t make a country collapse) and they are so satisfied with it that they don’t even consider privatized, insurance-based health care to be a reasonable option. In fact they consider politicians who speak in support of such a system to be entirely unelectable.
In our country, we have people going bankrupt paying for medical services. These aren’t just the unemployed, these are perfectly well-established, hardworking people who had something happen and then their insurer chose not to cover it. I have been told by my law professors that here in the United States we are all just one major accident away from bankruptcy. That isn’t right, and just because people subscribe to conservative apologetics does not make it right. Of course the Republican party is going to do everything to stop what they call “Obamacare” (what kind of sheeple are convinced by meaningless buzzwords like that anyway?)- private insurance is a cash cow, and conservative representatives receive huge campaign contributions from the insurance industry. This really isn’t that complicated.
So when I hear people say “health care isn’t a right, it’s a service,” I have to agree. Here in the United States it is a service, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We can support amendments that improve the currently compromised health care bill, which hasn’t even taken effect yet. Failing that, or in the event that a Republican-controlled Congress manages to suffocate the effects of the bill by controlling funding, we can amend the constitution and we can make it a right.
Don’t kid yourself- you don’t know if you are going to lose your job, have an accident, or develop cancer or some other serious medical condition. You don’t know if you’re going to be covered when you need medical care. It’s time we start thinking long term, and it’s time we start to acknowledge that creating a safety net for others means we are creating a safety net for ourselves. Maybe one day we will realize these things, and we can stop hearing about people who die because they don’t have enough money.
Painfully. Slow. Progress.