Over the past two weeks, my mother had a stroke and resides now in a rehabilitation facility, and my father died sitting beside her over this weekend, after deteriorating for months because of a failing heart.
My family has been experiencing the nightmare that is the consequence of living in a nation that worships money above all else: being sick and dying in the U.S. remains a financial disaster.
We in the U.S. have purposefully and willfully monetized illness and death.
While my mother was in the hospital, she needed her IV changed, but the floor nurse on duty was having trouble with the new placement. She called in the head nurse, who asked me about the care my mother was receiving at the hospital.
I eagerly praised the nurses, doctors, and staff—all of whom had been wonderful, and it is no hyperbole, they literally saved my mother’s life.
I explained, however, that this recent experience combined with my own accident on Christmas eve had reinforced how senseless the healthcare and insurance systems in the U.S. are.
She was quick to concur, noting how often the insurance representatives dictated what doctors have traditionally decided was best for patients.
My mother’s insurance was not a provider for the hospital where they saved her life; that same insurance made placing her in a rehabilitation facility a week-long waste of time, including rejecting her being in a higher care facility recommended by the doctors.
Today, we head to the mortuary with the blunt awareness that my working class parents have only a small balance in my father’s check book—accounts we may not be able to access due to my mother’s condition—and only their insurance and Social Security to sustain them.
As millions of people have done and are doing, we are navigating how inexpensively we can bury my father while also balancing how to provide my mother the care she needs to recover her life, again as inexpensively as possible,
I am a son of the South, just as I am of my parents, and I cannot push from my mind “You can’t get blood from a turnip.”
How did we allow this? How do we sit idly by and cheer on the soulless political leadership that manufactured this disaster and works now to make it even worse?
Insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and lawyers are feeding on us; our healthcare system is a real-life reveal like Soylent Green.
The wealthiest and most powerful country in human history could easily provide humanely for the health and death of every person who lives in the U.S. And as a people who rush to wave our flag and shout about being a Christian nation, we have the capacity to put our actions behind our words.
Other countries do because the people expect this basic human dignity.
But we do not care. We are an awful people.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10, NIV)
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. (Proverbs 22:7, NIV)
“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24, NIV)
If you are so inclined to evoke God, claim to know the wishes of God, we must admit there is no act of a god greater than the will of a people to put children, the elderly, the sick, and the dying before all else.
Instead, we have cast them all into the Terrible Churn that is our glorious Free Market.
Damning them, damning ourselves.
For Further Reading
Health Insurance Coverage and Health — What the Recent Evidence Tells Us, Benjamin D. Sommers, M.D., Ph.D.; Atul A. Gawande, M.D., M.P.H.; and Katherine Baicker, Ph.D.
Are the benefits of publicly subsidized coverage worth the cost? An analysis of mortality changes after Medicaid expansion suggests that expanding Medicaid saves lives at a societal cost of $327,000 to $867,000 per life saved.29 By comparison, other public policies that reduce mortality have been found to average $7.6 million per life saved, suggesting that expanding health insurance is a more cost-effective investment than many others we currently make in areas such as workplace safety and environmental protections. Factoring in enhanced well-being, mental health, and other outcomes would only further improve the cost–benefit ratio. But ultimately, policymakers and other stakeholders must decide how much they value these improvements in health, relative to other uses of public resources — from spending them on education and other social services to reducing taxes [emphasis added].