Health insurance provider Humana's recent announcement of a 65% increase in their 3rd quarter earnings really got my attention because last week I participated in a health care reform rally at their corporate headquarters in Louisville, KY. After an outdoor gathering attended by 150 or so people, many of those gathered walked peacefully into the Humana building to stage a sit-in. One local newscaster breathlessly proclaimed that we had "stormed" the building, even though their own footage showed that clearly didn't happen. They then gave a Humana spokesman a fair and balanced opportunity to tell viewers that Humana agreed with the protesters that there should be health care reform.
Oh really? Nothing says your definition of "reform" is slightly suspect like a 65% increase in profits while increasing premiums in double digit amounts and denying coverage for reasons that defy human understanding.
And that is truly the crux of it. Despite months of cynical political maneuvering in Washington, there really is nothing to debate about health care. Health care is not a commodity, it is a human right. What is being debated now is whether we will allow our health to continue to be commodified to satisfy corporate greed. And the answer to that absolutely must be NO.
The commodification of health care implies a hugely disproportionate burden on women for many reasons. We are charged more, we are denied maternity coverage and frequently are less able to afford it because we are less likely to work full time for large corporations. If we are assaulted, let alone seek treatment for possible AIDS exposure, we have suddenly developed the pre-existing condition of having been victimized. Health care companies may be profiting from this system, but the cost to society is enormous and clearly not only unaffordable but also extremely detrimental to our health.
The conversation we need to be having right now is not about how to ‘reform' health care but about reclaiming our health as a human right. Profiteering from the denial of those rights is, if you will, a pre-existing condition of a system that no longer works. What is needed is a change of paradigm that recognizes the intrinsic value of caring and the intrinsic right to be taken care of when you are ailing without fear of going bankrupt in the process or simply being denied care altogether.
When a person is sick or injured, they should be taken care of without having to jump through bureaucratic and economic hoops so that companies like Humana can make a 65% profit. When a woman decides to have a child, it should be the standard of society that she receive the best prenatal care possible so that she and her baby are healthy. When she goes to a hospital to deliver the baby, there should never be a question of whether she has enough money to do so. If a rape or domestic assault victim seeks medical care, she should never be penalized for doing so. And if she or her children are sick, she should be able to stay home from work without fear of losing her job. And women should NEVER be charged more than men for access to health care as many are now. The benefits of such a re-statement of health and care as a right would be significant.
Over the last several weeks, rallies for healthcare have been held across the nation, and numerous people have been arrested for civil disobedience. And no wonder, after months of dithering by politicians who have taken so much money from pharmaceutical and insurance companies that they have effectively been paid to not act on our behalf, it is time to regain the commons. One of the protesters' chants last week at Humana was, "Health care is is human right." And it is.
You can read what other women bloggers have to say on health care as part of the Women's Day of Action on Health Care Reform here.