Healthcare through Charity

I have been struggling to talk about the Healthcare Repeal law sputtering its way through Congress. Having kept up with the news, it is hard to find a way to discuss this issue in a way that may shine a light on the insanity of the situation. Today, a poll came out saying that just 17% of people approve of the Senate Healthcare repeal bill. In a normal world, that would spell political doom for the party in power. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to change the bill enough to have a vote by this Friday.

4 out of 5 people against the bill or don’t know enough about it to support it, it feels like the opinions of the nation is taking a backseat to the pathological need to repeal this legislation by the Republicans. The CBO came out this week and said that 22 million people will lose their insurance, 15 million as soon as next year. It is tough to think of those numbers and not get angry. That is almost the population of Australia, that is 5 times the population of New Zealand. That is nearly 60% of the population of Canada, and about 7% of the United States.

The issue is that even if you are not apart of that 7%, you will feel its effects.

Today, I went to GoFundMe, a website where people can raise money for just about anything. Over the years, I have seen people use the site for trivial things like trips, gym memberships, and computers, as well as important things like recovering from a house fire, or funding school. The big one however, and one that is featured on their site, is Medical need.

From the website:

Even with insurance, medical bills can be a financial burden. How do you get help with medical expenses that aren’t covered? From doctor’s bills and insurance co-pays to travel costs and lost wages, you can get the financial assistance you need with a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign. It’s fast, easy, and free to start a GoFundMe.

– Gofundme.com

This reminds me of the “Cancer Jar” I would see in stores as a kid. The one where it would have a picture of the kid, usually during treatment, as well as information on a raffle/fundraiser in the community to help the stricken child.

Those jars were always empty.

The site goes on to say that they have raised millions of dollars to help people with their medical bills. I look at this and I just wince.

The United States as a nation gives a lot to charity.  It is something that as a nation, we are proud of. We give to our churches, we give when there is a disaster, we give to people around the world when things happen. We also give in other ways: by donating blood, by giving time, food, and compassion. As a nation, we are a giving people. GoFundMe exemplifies that. The problem is… why is medical care considered charity? Why, as a nation, are we reduced to beg for money to be treated or taken care of? Why is that so normalised for us now?

If 7% of the nation is going to lose their insurance, not to mention the people who are *still* without insurance, we are all going to know that person who is going to be begging for money for their life saving treatment. Will our charity continue? 28 million people are currently estimated to not have medical insurance in the US right now. Add to that the 22 million estimated to lose their insurance, and you are talking about 50 million people, we are talking about 15% of the population of the US with no coverage, an average of 1 in 7 adults you see will not have healthcare.

Will our Charity continue?

When someone you know is affected by this repeal (and lets be honest, it is a repeal, the talk about “replace” has long been forgotten now), will you be able to open up your wallet to help save them or their family from financial ruin? What about when it is your family, or your parents, and you have to go to GoFundMe to beg for enough money to save those you love. Maybe you will plead to your church, and perhaps they can help, but with an aging spiritual community, there will be many in line, and at many mega churches, pastors are more concerned with their own prosperity gospel than to help those who are sick.

Charity as insurance, relying on the goodness of others to get the medicine that may mean life and death for you.

Having GoFundMe Medical Insurance is going to become the reality to many more people. Even in my example above, insurance doesn’t cover everything as it is. For those of us who need to take care of elderly parents, this burden will compound. Unable to save for our own retirement, having to balance your own insurance, forced to pay extortion prices for our parents…. a Pre-condition may ruin you if there is ever an accident, or for many, something completely out of their control.

How long will the Charity hold out when you have to take care of your own family first?

There is a better way, there is a moral way, there is a kinder way to solve this problem. The United States is the 3rd most populous country in the world. The combined leveraging power we have *as a nation* is immense. Drawn together, we could easily fund the medical expenses of the nation AND negotiate better deals to be more economical. Just like Costco or Sams club, when you buy in bulk, you save… so having individuals buy their medical care one by one… that is never going to work, and we will never be able to afford it. but 330 million people banding together to make sure we are all healthy? Much easier, and much cheaper.

When I think of this debate, and the America debate in general, I am reminded of Upton’s Sinclair’s “The Jungle.” I read this when I was in High School, and it is about the story of an immigrant family in the Meatpacking District of Chicago. The story chronicles how the family, who starts off in the “land of opportunity” slowly succumbs to the issues facing the impoverished: they can’t make enough money to live off of, forcing more and more of the family to work low paying, dangerous jobs. As they become injured and unable to work, their situation quickly deteriorates. Being immigrants, they cannot get better paying jobs, and being uneducated, they qualify for precious little. The bias people have against being Slavic immigrants is strong in the book, and the while there are people of charity, it is every bit every person for themselves.

And we are seeing that again.

I often call the time we are in The Gilded Age 2.0, because we are seeing the same time of wealth disparity, exploitation of people, and the lack of protections for every day people that we saw back during the hey days of the Industrial Revolution. From a political standpoint, both parties seem to be unaware, or uncaring of the disaster that is coming, instead trying to furiously get the best seats for when things fall down. With healthcare being the flash point at the moment, if the repeal happens, you will see a further radicalisation of the fringes of society. You will see more desperate people doing more desperate things in order to survive and life a normal life. You will see more of your friends fall further into debt and despair. It may happen to you. Will you be one of those 7 people?

Will the Charity be there for you when you need it?

How often will you give to those in need, and how long will it take until we can’t give anymore, because we have no money left to give? What happens when it is *you* who needs Charity, and the line is too long?

This is why we need to stop this repeal. This is why we need to fix what we have and not go back to before. This is why we should move forward, creating a better healthcare system, and not backwards to some fetishized ideal of the past when “things were simpler.”

Of course, 17% approve of this bill and they are still moving forward with it, it seems that even our voices are not enough.

Maybe the ballot box will have to do.

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