Health care is a calamity in the United States. Tens of millions of people, mostly women and children, are without the means to see a doctor for preventative medicine as well as treatment for illnesses and accidents. Why? Health insurance was irrevocably wedded to employment after WWII when the government restricted businesses ability to compensate their worker monetarily. Businesses began to use health insurance as a way to attract and keep the workers they needed. Today’s workers find themselves in a much chillier climate with health insurance being limited, dropped or not offered at all by businesses desperate to maintain healthy profits as opposed to healthy workers. Women and their children are especially hard hit by this as they are more likely to be working part time jobs or for small businesses and benefits like health insurance are not available to them. Even two income middle-class families are hard hit by the co-pays and payroll deductions for the coverage they are able to get through their employment. With medical costs sky-rocketing, people find themselves paying more and more for less and less coverage.
And then there are the catastrophes that no family expects. The catastrophic illness of a breadwinner or child. Chronic illnesses that are perfectly treatable but too expensive to do so without insurance. Terminal illnesses. Most Americans are one disastrous illness or accident away from losing everything and this is mainly due to inadequate health insurance or none at all. For these people federally funded programs like Medicaid and CHIPS were created but due to Congressional underfunding, states have to limit those who can participate. There are long waiting lists and some people are forced to quit jobs in order to qualify for these programs – a Catch 22 if ever there was one.
My late husband qualified for Medicaid – barely – due to the nature of his very rare illness, but I have to say that I wish I hadn’t had to take that assistance. I will forever feel like I failed because I couldn’t take care of him myself. Being a part of any type of government assistance program, from my perspective, is not something the majority of people seek out. I found my dealings with social workers and Medicaid frustrating and soul-crushing. I don’t know that I can ever really put into words just how damaging it was at a time when I was already going through one of the worst experiences – watching my husband die. But I would have done anything to make his last months better and I “sucked it up” and did what needed to be done. I was lucky. We qualified. Thousands of people are told every day that they don’t. They make a few hundred or thousand dollars a year too much. There are waiting lists and they must get in line. Or, the worst of all, the program has been cut due to lack of funds.
If you have a minute, check out some of the stories and articles at Moms Speak Up. Leave a comment. Tell a story. Send a quick email to your state senator or representative. We are one of the wealthiest nations in the world and we are not taking care of our children or our desperately ill. We can do better.