I didn’t know Tanya very well but I loved to hear her sing. The last time I heard her voice was at her birthday party. It was the usual sharing of booze and cake and remix cds that makes a terrific fiesta. The post-party sickness she felt was neither a hangover nor a nasty cold. A week later she died of spinal meningitus. I found this out because all my friends from the party had to go to the FSU student clinic and get vaccinated. I had just graduated from college so I couldn’t get the vaccine like my college chums.
That’s the first time I thought about universal healthcare.
There is a certain point of view that supposes that if you don’t have health care it’s because you planned poorly and the money you should have spent on check-ups you instead invested on beer and Nintendo. Fine, I confess. I was an immature, shop-a-thon collge kid. Maybe not a sin I’m prepared to [get sick and] die for but there may have been a cheap vaccine some where in my town.
So, according to this POV it’s okay for me get sick– these are the natural and deserved consequences of my irresponsibility. But if I don’t get vaccinated I become just another vector allowing for a greater chance of infecting those righteous insured people — like the private school kids I worked with for the last two years. It seems logical to me that a disease that looks like a cold and can kill you in under a week is the sort of thing that every citizen should know they can be vaccinated for, free of cost. That seems like a public service every bit as valueable as libraries and bomb shelters.
But we don’t live in such a country. In this country getting sick is a punishment for being poor and gettng well is a privilege.
I have another friend that I’m going to call Jack. Growing up, Jack’s family ran a successful business. They had money but because they were self-employed they didn’t have good health care. Young Jack had health problems that the doctors in the cheap clinics couldn’t understand. He used to make up stories that he was taken by aliens as an explanation for the strange things that were happening to his body. Young Jack had health care. But it wasn’t until he was an adult many years later that he had really good health insurance. It didn’t take these doctors long to tell Jack that he has had cancer most of his life. He has been watching the disease spread, powerless to fight it or even know what it was. I am so angry that he has spent his whole life fighting and it would have taken so little to give him a head start.
I’m talking about universal health care. Hell, if they can afford it in Cuba surely in los Estados Unidos we can afford to do something.
If I were building my own community one of the first things I would establish would be a health center to treat the people. Not because of some political ideology but because it is natural to want those in your tribe to be healthy and content. Even large conferences have a first aid tent. When did our society decide to stop treating illness as a public health problem?
Perhaps it was around the time we started thinking of it as a business.
So. We decided that health is a product and that those who deserve it are those who can afford it. Anyone else out there willing to admit that there is a better lens to view this through, not shrouded by the color of money?