Imagineers and the American Healthcare System

In response to tonight’s debate, I am writing a short post about American healthcare, one of the hotbutton issues of the campaign that is almost sure to disappear come November 5th.

Here’s why I think it shouldn’t, and a little about how we should reimagineer the system. I’m currently penning an op-ed about my own healthcare struggles as one of the estimated 20 million Americans who could be denied coverage due to a preexisting condition.

I don’t care what anybody in American politics says, health is a human right. Not a constitutional right, or a privilege, but a human right, one that is integral to our continued economic and social success as a nation. Talking heads love to attribute the ever-growing number of uninsured Americans to what amounts to laziness and carelessness with ones health. Those who can’t hold a good job are the ones without healthcare insurance, they argue, and preexisting conditions are those like diabetes and obesity, which are viewed here more like moral failings than medical conditions. Americans should suck it up.

Forget for a second that diabetes and obesity disproportionately affect the poor and people of color. Forget that. Forget that those same groups are many times more likely to be uninsured. Throw it out the window for a second.

I’m standing here as an young, working American in near perfect health—never overweight, almost never missing work—to tell you that I am uninsurable. That’s right, totally uninsurable outside a group health insurance program like those McCain wants so badly to tax. Totally uninsurable unless I maintain a white-collar job in government or a large corporation. Want to know why? Because a disease I had when I was eight left me disabled. Think the Americans with Disabilities Act can protect me against insurance discrimination? Think again.

I have a whole host of friends and aquaintances in the same boat. We aren’t lazy, we aren’t unemployed, and we are about the last people who might be cavalier about our health. We work twice as hard as you, and we usually have to be twice as smart just to be in the same place where you are. Terrified of showing weakness, we go about our daily lives suffering ailments that would have you laid up for a week. And you know what we get for it? A little pandering at election time and a great big brush-off from the media.

Even if the American healthcare system remains exactly as it is, I would have to marry a high-ranking government employee just to ensure I wouldn’t DIE in the event I lost my job. How else could I maintain my coverage in a system so deadset against insuring me?

The New York Times points out that Obama’s plan could make it impossible for insurance companies to survive. Good. The people who do everything in their power to ensure that Americans DON’T get the healthcare protection we all pay for should feel the same anxiety I’ve lived with nearly all my life. I have to make every major life decision from whether to stay in school to where to work and where to live based on my most basic survival—if they end up with the same choice, I won’t be losing any sleep.

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