Universal Healthcare is Not Controversial

It was freshman year, my fall quarter. I was bright, shiny, and new to college. It was 2 A.M. on a Saturday morning and I was throwing up in the background. I hadn’t been out. In fact, I had gone to bed early because I had a friend flying in for a visit early Saturday morning and I was going to meet him at Union Station.

Instead of getting a good night's sleep, I was vomiting in the JMac communal bathroom, crying, not knowing what was happening to me. I was covered head to toe in blotchy red patches, burning hot, and my throat felt like it was closing up.

Luckily, another girl had entered the bathroom at that time. She was drunk, but she went to get the RAs on duty anyway because neither of us knew what was going on. Next thing I know, I’m getting fluids in an ambulance and being rushed to Porter Adventist Hospital. Thank god she found me that night because later we found out I had gone into anaphylactic shock from an unknown severe allergic reaction and I could have died that night.

That wasn’t the scariest part of the story though. I was hit with astronomical medical bills, including a massive ambulance bill (think in the thousands) that insurance didn’t cover. If you know anything about the area, you know that Porter’s is less than a five-minute drive from JMac. You can even walk there in about 15 to 20 minutes.

I’m not unique. Ambulances, vehicles made to save lives in the nick of time, are known to be expensive. The doctors at the hospital told me that I should probably have an EpiPen, but to not purchase one because of how expensive they are (think in the several hundreds) and that even if I needed to use one I’d need to call an ambulance anyway.

I also deal with chronic anxiety. Thank god for my insurance coverage, because typically I would have to pay over $60 every month just to function properly as a human being. I cannot imagine the lives of people who have chronic illness and pain that are even more cost prohibitive to get treatment for than my disorder.

If you need further proof that things are messed up, let’s look at some facts. The first population to be affected by any failure in society is infant and child mortality because they are incredibly vulnerable to disease. The United States has a much higher infant mortality rate than any other developed nation. We have a 71% higher rate than comparable countries. Here’s why:

Maternity and Paternity Leave

We’re the only developed nation to not federally mandate some form of paid maternal (or even paternal) leave. If you’re a working parent who has to choose between taking (unpaid) time off to take care of your sick baby and working, on the surface it seems like a no-brainer. What parent wouldn’t do anything for their child?

Even with Maternity Leave, You Can't Take Off Work Later

But it’s a double-edged sword: if you take time off, maybe you can see a doctor. Maybe they’ll tell you it’s a minor cough that’ll go away or maybe they’ll tell you it’s a good thing you came in because your child is seriously sick. But then that doctor’s appointment costs you money. The medicine costs you money. You didn’t work that day either, so you missed out on making money, and maybe now you can’t afford dinner tonight or rent tomorrow. Maybe you take a risk, it’s only a cough, they should be fine, and you go to work anyway so you can afford to feed your baby and yourself, to keep the lights on, to keep the heat on. Maybe your child is fine and no harm, no foul. But maybe they’re sick. They spread something to the other kids at daycare. The staff. They get really, really sick. The worst, most terrifying scenario: they end up with debilitating conditions that affect them for the rest of their lives or they even die. You’ve lost your child, you have to deal with that guilt and that grief. You definitely can’t afford a grief counselor. If you had a partner, you’re more likely to end up divorced. All this is because you couldn’t afford proper healthcare.

This horror story is an unfortunate reality for too many Americans.

This is just one area where the cost of healthcare in the United States has failed our society and has broken lives.

Many people argued that socialized healthcare could ruin the economy, drive up the cost of medicine, and that, frankly, some people don’t deserve it. First of all, to say that there is a human being alive who doesn’t deserve to have access to basic care and treatment is appalling. Anyone who gives that last argument is not someone I want anywhere near me, because that is a dangerous and actively harmful mentality. If someone in front of you was going to die because they couldn’t afford the medicine that is ready for them and you look at them and tell them they don’t deserve it, you can’t tell me you care about humanity in the slightest. You are selfish.

If you argue the more logical stance, that it will negatively affect the overall economy, then you’re overlooking the fact that an economy that profits off of the death and suffering of millions of people is not an economy that should be in place. From an emotional, humanitarian perspective: nobody deserves to die from preventable disease. From an economic perspective: the more healthy people there are in the workforce, the more they will thrive. The more people that have access to medicine and basic medical care, the fewer people have to take off work a day for being sick or several weeks for illness.

So don’t tell me it doesn’t make economic sense. It does. Providing people with basic, fundamental, physiological needs benefits the country (and thus, the economy) as a whole. The reason we don’t see countries of our developmental status crash and burn when they implement socialized medicare is simple: because it works. It makes the people stronger. It makes them more productive. It makes them less scared.

Providing healthcare should not be a controversial topic. In fact, I’m taking the stance that it’s not controversial. There are simply two types of people: people who care about the wellbeing of fellow human being and people who want humanity to crash and burn long before the sixth mass extinction we’re hurtling towards thanks to climate change. But hey, that’s another topic for another day.