Sunday, August 16, 2009

You, Too, Are At Risk When Neighbors Lack Access to Health Care

First posted at NowPublic.Com

Karen Hatter published an excellent article here today about the many people she knows, including herself, who have suffered and even died for lack of prompt and adequate health care.

It is a superb article and much that is very important has been said in the comments.

I share Tina's bafflement that Americans will turn their interstate highways and national defense over to the federal government but are desperately afraid of national solutions to national health care problems.

Roy says in comments, once again,

What angers me is to hear others tell me that I am, in effect, bad because I don't want Washington, D.C, in charge of a 300 million people system that will guarantee care to illegals, for example.

What I find baffling about this attitude is that, as a US citizen, I have received excellent and free government health care in France and Brazil, and yet there are Americans who would deny the same care to others that these Americans would receive if they went overseas. Are we so cheap that "what's mine is mine and what's yours is ours"? Is simple reciprocity really so foreign to us? If you are hit by a car in Paris, do you want your critically mangled body to be flown eight hours back to the US before treatment because France doesn't treat illegals? Luckily, France and Brazil would never treat us the ways we would treat them under similar circumstances.

If the current international spread of the H1N1 virus has taught us anything, it should be that our neighbor's lack of access to diagnosis and treatment of contagious diseases constitutes an imminent risk of disease in ourselves and our children, regardless of our neighbors' immigration status.

Self-interest alone dictates that everyone present in America must have access to health care, lest they make your food at McDonald's while coughing tuberculosis bacteria into your french fries and hamburger. Would you like to have someone working next to you in your office with highly contagious swine flu that has not been diagnosed, because you have insurance and they don't?

Would you like your child to contract AIDS, herpes, or another sexually transmitted disease because they have sex with someone who is not eligible for an AIDS test, not eligible for herpes treatment and counseling, and can't afford to buy the medicine to kill the bacteria in their sexual organs? Your child cannot be safe unless everyone of his/her sexual partners has access to modern medical diagnosis and treatment for sexually and orally and airborne transmitted diseases.

Let's agree on this: Anyone who has ever provided a service or product to you in the United States - directly or indirectly - should receive health care when they need it. If everyone without a legal immigration status left the United States tomorrow, our health care would be in even greater a mess that it is today, because many of the people who clean our hospitals, wash us and our hospital bed linen, and clean doctors' offices are from Guatemala or Mexico, without any legal immigration status here. Would you prefer dirty bed linen?

A study was once done to determine whether people would like to receive ten dollars as a gift. Of course, everyone wanted the ten dollars. But when they were told that they would only receive the money if someone of another skin color also received the money, then people became much more ambivalent. Many people didn't want the ten dollars if someone with brown skin was going to receive ten dollars as well.

As for health care, some of us would rather die for lack of care than see "illegals" get care. And that is precisely what often happens. Because every time someone spends two hours in an emergency room proving their right to receive medical care, or negotiating a way to receive it without insurance, there are many others - many who DO have insurance - who nonetheless wait while the insurance status of others is checked for a particular procedure. Unless EVERYONE is covered then EVERYONE will wait in long lines while the human resources of our doctors and nurses are spent dickering with insurance companies.

Here's an analogy: How many houses would burn down if firemen had to check homeowners fireman insurance before firemen put out fires? How many houses of insured people would burn down while firemen were checking on the insurance status of the uninsured.

Somehow, we are all able to understand that unless everyone has access to public firefighting efforts than no one is safe from fire. Perhaps we understand that because fires once spread from house to house, burning entire communities down.

Here's another analogy. How would you like it if you called the police to report a break in at your house, and then the dispatcher asked for your police insurance number, social security number, date of birth, employment and credit card data? Wouldn't all that data that is irrelevant to the risk you face increase the risk that police dispatcher lines would be jammed and many people would go without immediate service in serious emergencies?

Well, today the child in your child's school who lacks health insurance is going to give your child Swine Flu. Swine flu spreads from person to person regardless of insurance or non-insurance status, just as fires once spread from house to house, before free, public firefighting became the norm.

If your neighbor cannot depend upon the fire department then your house and his might burn down together. You can't protect your house except by putting out the fire that is inflaming your neighbors house. And that is why America needs universal insurance, even for the "illegals" who are making our hamburgers at McDonalds and washing the dishes at Italian Garden while they cough with tuberculosis, are feverish with salmonella, giardia, cryptosporidium, rotavirus, E Coli,

If the "illegal" immigrant who prepares your food doesn't have access to health care, then you're more likely to need health care yourself.

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