By Barney Blakeney
Better to have and not need, than to need and not have. I last week had a medical procedure done. Healthcare costs, ya’ll!
As the Democratic primary closes in – Saturday, February 29 is the date of the election – I’m pressed to figure out what the candidates stand for and who I may support with my vote. Since the Republicans don’t have a presidential primary many of them may vote in the Democratic primary in a move to skewer the outcome. War and politics make strange bedfellows.
Last week reminded me how important elections are. The people we elect to office set policies that affect our lives immeasurably. The Democratic candidates are talking about universal healthcare, an old subject that won’t go away. But I’m trying to figure which candidate really can make a difference in our healthcare system. Mouth ain’t scared of nothing but hot grits – and it’ll blow on them! They’re all talkin’ that talk, but for many of us, healthcare is for real!
When I was younger, I could care less about some healthcare. I never got sick! I had a really good job, with great benefits and everything. Never used the healthcare benefits. I was young and healthy, had no dependents and if I had enough illness in a year to make any medical care totally cost free after the deductible, I’d had a bad year! Never used any of that stuff.
And I grew up under old guys like my father who lived in the first half of the 1900s – when most Black men didn’t have any insurance beyond burial insurance. I never saw my dad go to a doctor. He had to be bleeding through the eyeballs before he’d go see a doctor. And mind you, my mom was a nurse! He died at 58.
I’m more blessed – living in a time when healthcare is more available. Notice I said more “available”, not “accessible”.
Despite advantages like Medicaid and Medicare I recently heard someone describe American healthcare as a system of availability more than accessibility. It may have been Kamala Harris who said for many Americans access to healthcare is limited by the inability to afford co-pays. Although a person may have some form of insurance, they may not be able to afford the co-pay so they don’t seek healthcare. Effectively, available healthcare is inaccessible to them.
Last week as I registered for my procedure the lady admitting me asked if I had part or all of a $520 co-pay. I dang near fell out of the chair! I didn’t feel all that bad when I walked into the joint, but when she asked me for $500 my heart started to flutter, my breath got short and my head got light. I said, “No” and grabbed my coat. She said, “Sit down, Mr. Blakeney. We’ll bill you.” So all of you who were looking for a Christmas present from me … well, you know!
Like I said, I’m blessed. I’ve got “old people’s” insurance and a job. With God’s help, I can pay the bill. But I’m thinking about all those other guys who have no insurance and can’t pay the bill. Like my dad, they won’t go to the doctor. Unfortunately, we live in a society where most don’t consider those other guys. It’s – “I’m okay, so everybody’s okay”. Well, everybody’s not okay.
Americans pay more for healthcare than every other industrialized country. And our healthcare isn’t as good as most of those other countries! I found a study from Stanford University. It said compared to other Western countries, the United States spends more per capita on health care than any other nation. And, “Despite the enormous expense of healthcare in the United States, the general standards of health, such as life expectancy and infant mortality, are not as high as those in countries which spend less. Costs are enormous, yet Americans do not fare better, and often fare worse, than citizens in countries which spend substantially less on health care.”
It continued, “Even without a universal health care program in place, the federal government is a major provider of healthcare to Americans through public programs – Medicare, Medicaid, veteran care, and research … The U.S. clearly needs to take a look at the facts and figures and ask itself what must be done to improve the health status of its citizens and to decrease costs. American citizens seem almost blindly opposed to universal coverage because it runs against the individualistic values of the country.” America’s “me, I” attitude will put us in our collective graves.
As we move toward and beyond the Democratic primary, we’d do well to closely consider the candidates and what they’re saying – both those seeking the office of president and the one currently holding that office. Healthcare is just the tip of the iceberg as we prepare to cast votes in 2020.