It has been nine days since I updated my numbers of health care dead and broke. Who noticed? Well, I am sure the dead and the broke did. The profit-first, greedy health care system in the U.S. continues its march toward ever increasing profits for those who are already wealthy.
Disclaimer: I am not against being wealthy, making money or enjoying whatever the finer things in life are to each person. I rather like money and having enough of it not to worry about paying the bills. I do object to profiting off the suffering of others or as a friend of mine used to describe it, "bartering human life for money." And our health care system has become so dysfunctional that most of us just accept that we must wade through the mess in order to receive the care needed.
For the past several years, I have fought to change this system to an improved and expanded Medicare for all for life system. Fighting this fight has been enlightening in that even within the social justice movements their is a sort of hierarchy of power, wealth and leadership, and sometimes those powers and leaders are distracted.
I left my work on single-payer reform in Washington, D.C., 18 months ago not because I was finished or satisfied with what I had been able to accomplish in D.C. The reasons were complex, but overall it had become clear to me that my physical strength and health was not sufficient to continue at the same pace and level that I had been. Living and working in D.C. was a dream come true for me, and I had much left to do.
What does this have to do with the broken health care system? Well, it isn't just the health care system that values profits above all else, but it does seem particularly awful that human health is valued at the same level as any other consumable product. Once we show any physical weakness at all, our value to the profit side of the equation is diminished. Our society is so self-focused and self-motivated that most Americans just accept that we get what we work for, we get what we deserve based on our effort, and we suffer the consequences of our own free will of laziness and lack of ambition.
I know that none of this is true because I know how hard I have worked, and I know how hard many other people I have known have worked. Yet in spite of that hard work, we suffer consequences that are severe and deadly.
The U.S. health care system plays by these rules too and rewards those who have the best health care coverage and the most money with the best care. One of the things that is most offensive about the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare is the levels of health care coverage from which we each choose based on our ability to pay. I'm silver. I am just a step above the basement of bronze coverage and two steps below the platinum level that wealthier people can get. Sometimes when I tell some people the policy I have, people seem to believe that means I deserve to get less care or pay more out-of-pocket costs because I should have been wise enough and responsible enough to purchase a better plan. I hate that condescending crap. I bought the best plan I could afford, and I am silver. Are you platinum? Gold? Bronze?
Someday we will achieve a health care system that provides a single standard of high quality care for all without financial barrier. We will achieve this once we decide that we value each life enough to stop applying our sick, dysfunctional socio-economic status ratings to not only our health care system but also to our movements and our work to fix this mess. This isn't just a game for most of us. The profit-takers have killed hundreds of thousands of people and squashed dreams along the way. And when our children see this cycle repeated with so much certainty and clarity, it squashes ambition too.
Today's count of the health care dead and broke for profit in the U.S.:
The 2014, to date, U.S. medical-financial-industrial -complex system dead: 18,450
The 2014, to date, U.S. health care system bankrupt: 296,700
** These figures are calculated based on the Harvard University studies on excess deaths in the U.S. due to lack of insurance coverage or the ability to pay for needed health care, and the Harvard University study that calculated the high percentage of personal bankruptcies attributable to medical crisis and debt in the U.S. 123 people die daily due to lack of coverage or cash to pay for care; 1,978 go bankrupt every day due to medical crisis and debt though the majority had insurance at the time their illness or injury occurred. This statistic is also based on the 1.2 million bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2012, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and calculating those medically-related bankruptcies from that number.