The Healthcare Analogy

by Thomas Pace on May 14, 2020

Could it be a failure of communication?

Now that one time front runner, Bernie Sanders’s chances of getting the Democratic Presidential nomination have been effective whittled down to near zero, one thing seems pretty clear.  The American electorate is not been convinced that every American deserves access to affordable healthcare.    

When you consider that between 40-45 million people in America don’t, and tens of millions more have insurance inadequate for their needs 

(that’s about one fifth of Americans), you might think it would be easier argument to make. I find myself surprised that no politician has managed to convince us that our system is one of haves and have-nots and thus far we have not heard from the politician savvy enough to clearly convey to the haves the difficulties faced by those who have-not.

It’s hard for me to believe that, among all other industrialized nations, is it the United States alone that refuses healthcare as a right to their citizens.  Not only this but that Americans feel so strongly about the current system, that for a Presidential candidate to suggested that everyone should have access to healthcare is grounds for disqualification.

When I hear people say that universal coverage would cost too much, and, as a country, we can’t afford it, I point out that the current system is the among the world’s most expensive, while, at the same time, among the least efficient.

When I try to point out the fact that more than 60 percent of all bankruptcies in this country come due to medical related expenses, one could argue that we really can’t afford not to make a significant change.  They only grumble about the evils of socialized medicine.

Even when I bring up the costs beyond economics, that nearly half of Americans, including many of those “haves” with healthcare insurance, have skipped recommended medical tests or treatment due to the cost just in the last 12 months.  As for the have nots, the Harvard School of Medicine estimates that around 45,000 people die every year due to lack of health insurance.

These statistics, though dire, seem to do little toward convincing us that it is time to join the rest of the world in offering all citizens affordable healthcare.  It’s a strange disconnect because as recently as last year a Gallup poll indicated that as many as 70% of Americans thought the U.S. healthcare system was in crisis.

Americans, even the ones fortunate enough to have insurance, seem to understand that the U.S. system is expensive, inefficient, and ineffective.  All the while they seem to cling to it as if it’s something they worship.  It’s a mystery that eludes reason.        

If only there was some way to better communicate what it’s like to have inadequate healthcare or not have healthcare insurance in America at all to the rest of the American people.  But how?

It seems like it would take something very serious, I don’t know, maybe some kind of nation-wide medical emergency that somehow left people, en-masse, feeling frighted and vulnerable that they might need medical care and find that it’s unavailable to them.  Something that, like an unexpected sickness or injury, could hit us out of nowhere, and devastate us economically.

Maybe then people could better sympathize with those who live without the comfort of health insurance.  Maybe then people would finally understand the kind of stress involved with being a minor health emergency away from financial insolvency.  Because if there was such a way to communicate this kind of reality to the American electorate I have no doubt that they would drop everything and demand healthcare as a right for all Americans.  Because they would finally understand what it’s like to be a have not in the American healthcare system. 


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