By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
My friend is awaiting health insurance. This is not academic. She’s afraid that she might have cancer. Think about what it says about a society that someone concerned about a serious illness has to wait to see whether they have the right insurance to cover a potentially life-threatening crisis. For those who are procrastinating in getting your personal health insurance, I would suggest that you are gambling. And while the ‘cards’ may play out in your favor, they also may not.
My friend has to wait till she gets her health insurance because, like many other workers, she is employed by a company that does not offer health insurance. They do not offer much in the way of time-off either. It is all part of a larger pattern. Each day that passes, workers find that they have to cover more and more of what, at one point, people took for granted. No health insurance; no pension; no sick time; little, if any, vacation. It starts to feel like the days prior to the advent of labor unions.
My friend did not expect a life crisis. Why should she have? She has been in great health. Full of energy. Yet, now she is worried and because of the way that the system works, each moment that goes by may be a moment necessary in diagnosing a potential life crisis. While it may it may turn out to be nothing, she will not know until she gets medical attention. It is not, however, something that would be treated in an emergency room.
Yet society says it is fine for us to go forward this way. Some politicians say that there is no need for any sort of national health insurance. That it costs too much for society. But I have to ask: What is the cost to us all when people play Russian roulette with their health because they do not have the sort of coverage that most advanced societies on the planet possess?
The Affordable Care Act (so-called Obamacare) did not go nearly far enough. Too many concessions to the insurance companies. We need single payer health care (“Medicare for All”) where every individual is guaranteed government-funded health insurance. But for now my friend has the chance of getting some health insurance, but at her own expense since her employer is focused on profit margins rather than a healthy and productive workforce.
So, she keeps waiting and the clock keeps ticking.
One heck of a way for a supposedly civilized society to operate.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. He is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.