Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are our unalienable rights, and America was founded on them. You can step on our blue suede shoes, but you’d better not threaten these three rights of ours. Yet, there’s a cognitive dissonance that permeates through our national consciousness. The first – arguably preeminent – right is under attack daily in our nation, and this attack is actually being assisted by our current government.
At the surface level, the right to life is the right to not die. The right to be protected from any threat that would aim to take your existence, your livelihood, your vitality. But many of our elected officials (and their families who’ve inherited enormous amounts of wealth) contradict this notion with their views on how our lives should be protected. A good government keeps its people safe and alive. However, in our country our government has allowed our livelihood to become a commodity for corporations to profit from. Namely, healthcare corporations.
In the current contraption that exists in the U.S., you have to either be debilitatingly poor or profoundly rich for health care to not be a carrot for your employer to use. The American middle class is being held hostage by health insurance and healthcare corporations; forcing them to work jobs they hate, so that they can feel the tenuous security of a healthcare plan. And when one considers the current shift in businesses moving to an increasingly part-time workforce, that opportunity for life sustaining care is thinning at an alarming rate.
I lived the first quarter of my life oblivious to this. Even worse, I had the gall to judge those who needed assistance with their healthcare needs – their right to life. As a young, healthy adult I assumed that I’d just save money, and if something came up, I’d pay out of pocket (insert laugh track). Preceding this nieve adulthood was a childhood where my family worked jobs that weren’t particularly thrilling so that I could go to the doctor, dentist, etc (hi everyone 26 and under still using your parents health care). My single, lower middle class mom walked the line every day. She marched into to the cubicle-spreadsheet-meat grinder because she knew that was the only a way we were going to get healthcare.
Fast forward to me getting married, and my wife getting a solid job (solid in terms of first world soul stealing) that allowed us to have healthcare that we basically never used. Just a big ass slice of our paycheck, gone every month for a “just in case.” We had it made in the shade; never really caring that money we could use for other livelihood necessities was going into a machine that held our health as ransom. That was until the kids came.
We soon found ourselves scrambling to enroll in care packages that covered our children who had substantial disabilities. I was employed at an ad company that cared about giving me health care about as much I care about The Bachelorette, so the onus for our entire family’s health insurance was on Abbey. One would surmise that our children’s diagnoses would qualify them for Medicaid (CHIP to be exact), but NOT SO. This is an assumption we frequently get: “oh, your kids have disabilities, so you get help from Medicaid, right?” Huh uh. We actually America-d too hard, and our economic position puts us just out of reach for these services.
The health insurance we receive from Abbey’s employer covers a lot, but not all of the costs associated with the plethora of doctors our children MUST see in order to have the best life possible. I repeat, my kids are not getting boob jobs, they’re receiving life-improving care. But here’s the catch: Abbey has to be employed to receive said benefits. This sounds obvious but, when you’ve got a swath of doctor’s appointments to make, and only so much paid time off (PTO) to go around, the situation tends to get tricky.
I’ve moved on from the fancy pants ad job selling french fries to obese people. I now work what I would consider my dream job as a Special Education teacher in our local school district. Once again, one would surmise that this would tip the scales in our favor. We could maybe split the costs associated by going between both health plans. Wrong again. Most healthcare packages won’t let you split dependents; it’s an all or nothing thing. For example, I couldn’t take just one kid on my plan and make it cheaper. It’d still be just as expensive if I took two kids on the plan, and Abbey wouldn’t save any money on her plan by me leaving. Screwville USA.
As we wrapped our minds around the idiocy that is the employer provided healthcare systems, we learned that all is not well in the U.S.- of can’t insure my-A. You work a job to get the healthcare, you use the PTO to go the doctor’s appointment, and you get shamed by your boss when your healthcare needs start to cause friction at the office. Where does this start to get good? The answer: it doesn’t. Our government has colluded with the private healthcare industry to create a machine that traps the citizens. Once you’re in, you’re not getting out. Unless of course you want everything taken from you over your medical debts. Dave Ramsey ain’t fixin’ this thing.
For too long, we’ve been sold the lie that healthcare is a privilege. Put another way, the capability to not die is a privilege. It’s the Rand Paul fever dream of healthcare providers running themselves like a Six Flags theme park. The more money you have, the more fun it will be. Does this sound like a system that honors our unalienable right to life? Methinks not.
I look at my beautiful children, and I imagine them as pawns to drive profit for CEOs of major healthcare corporations. I imagine parents across America losing their dignity to save their children’s’ lives under the enormous weight of medical debt – for life sustaining care. Millions of parents, fighting to defend their children’s right to life, while simultaneously losing theirs at the hands of their employers. If you’re not paying attention by now, I’ll help you: this is not freedom.
The individuals who espouse such beliefs should have to work a 9-5 soul sucker, and then go home to change some seeping bandages. They should worry about losing their homes for the sake of another chemo treatment. But they won’t because their inherited wealth will carry them past such trevails.
After initially believing that you’re covered, you happen upon the grim discovery that you actually have to argue with your insurance company to get them to ante up. Remember, it’s a business, not a charity. They are not there to help you, they are there to make money off of you. Even better, you get to be the mediator between the health care provider and health insurance company – unpaid! But with the current party in power, this is made out to be the price of doin’ business in freedomland. Any other type of system, we’re told, would usher in a 1984-esque regime of big brother government, with us all being forced to read Marx.
Wrongly, we’re given the examples of countries who are experiencing economic difficulties, and also identify as socialist nations. Namely, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and basically all of latin America. Unfortunately, there’s zero context for the downturns these countries are experiencing. Hint: it has nothing to do with socialism, it has to do with the foundations of said nations’ governments being used incorrectly (and being tampered with by foreign powers – cough cough the United States). The same people who use these countries as examples aren’t as ready to reference much of western Europe and their successful implementations of healthcare for all.
The propaganda job done by far-right pedalers of unregulated capitalism has been nearly a century in the making. The varying phases of socialism fear mongering in our country has developed a straw man that’s ceremoniously trotted out every time health care reform comes up. When President Obama began working on the Affordable Care Act, the right sounded the socialism alarms, and it worked. The final version of the bill was tame compared to its original form. More preposterous, the Republican held House and Senate are working to eviscerate it to a greater extent, if not completely repeal it. These people do not represent us.
Our country is more than capable to provide a single-payer system, but that would mean higher taxes. And if you know America like I do, the phrase “raise taxes” strikes a chill down the spines of bald eagles everywhere. To think about giving my hard earned money I was going to use on resort stays and private jets – GASP. The only problem is, the country runs on taxes. Successful governments need taxes. The paradox of Americans hating taxes while simultaneously expecting an equal opportunity for success is a cancer that eats away at the lower class’ ability to live fulfilling lives.
The right has done an outstanding job of turning people from the same economic class against each other over the topic of health care. While we should be marching over the vomit inducing tax breaks billionaires are getting, we’re busy calling our neighbor a “bum” or “leach.” It’s just easier to consider yourself more worthy than the next citizen instead of taking a long, hard look at the flaws in the machine. The stereotype of the “lazy welfare recipient” permeates our national narrative. America wants people to be ashamed for asking for help with their healthcare.
The life, liberty, and happiness we seek is only granted if we shut up, put our head down, and stop complaining. While we’re busy casting stones at our neighbors, the health care CEO mulls over his options on private jet purchases. Paul Ryan and Rand Paul aren’t going to sleep worried about medical bills; they’ve sold their souls to ensure it. The land of opportunity is ripe for the opportunistic.
How unhappy would we be as a nation if we made health and education the most important things to invest in? Without the stress of health coverage looming, people in the United States would finally be able to pursue careers they’ve always wanted to try, but have been too afraid to because of the threat of losing medical coverage. Doctors and hospitals would still make money, but instead of making it off of families who can’t afford it, they’d be paid through taxes that use the resources of all for the benefit of all. I know this might sound utopic in nature, but that’s only because we’ve been discouraged to think of it.
As I look into the eyes of my children, I cannot tell them in good conscience that they currently have the full rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They live somewhere that still fancies the idea that being healthy, both physically and mentally is a privilege, not a right. Our elected officials are out of touch with what’s happening to millions of Americans who can’t just write a check and cover it. They don’t care about us. The only individuals who have the ears of our representatives are the ones who’ll never know what it’s like to look at a medical bill and wonder how they’re going to afford it. I think it’s time for a new take on what our right to life looks like. Anything less is a national embarrassment.