You’d have to live in a cabin in the woods for years: no electronic media—no printed, for that matter—and no Internet to be this unaware. Healthcare is dreadfully expensive. For so long, millions couldn’t afford coverage. It was in part despair over the inability of working people in England to get medical attention that led to their National Health Service.
In the U.S., all we’ve managed is the Affordable Care Act, a flawed hybrid twisted enough to fit into a taxonomy of fearsome medieval mythological creatures. Public but private. Intended to help the poorest while many could still only afford bronze plans that had so high, those on the lower end of income still had to hope nothing terrible would happen. But far better than what had been before. At least people got checkups and basic levels of care.
Still, healthcare is dreadfully expensive, with an emphasis on that penultimate word. Dread, because having insurance is not enough. Even having money for copays and deductibles without reach may not be enough.
If you’re seriously ill, you have to be able to afford to take time off for treatment. If you can’t, then the care might as well be a million miles away.
Everyone knows what it’s like to work when mildly ill. Imagine the need to take several weeks for recovery from a procedure without money enough in the bank for to do so. Because no one will keep paying you.
Last night, my wife and I ran into a friend of hers from a former job. They chatted and at one point, when asked about his skiing plans, he explained that they were off for now because of his knee.
He has a serious problem and needs surgery. Maybe a replacement joint. He had the medical coverage. But short-term disability would pay only $ 150 a week.
“I can’t afford it,” he said.
Our view to problems and their solutions is myopic enough to be worth of a Mr. Magoo, driving his ancient jalopy into one disaster after another and avoiding ruin only by sheer dumb luck. Or maybe the issue is closer to fixation. We see the one point and forget that it connects to everything else.
You can’t solve the issue of healthcare access if a person can’t afford to make use of insurance because their personal payment responsibility overwhelms them. Or if they lack the support to take the necessary time to heal.
For that matter, you can’t solve inequality with higher education alone if people can’t get elementary or secondary attention that helps them be ready. Or if there’s not enough money to finish and a kid has to drop out for a job. I’ve seen that happen too often. Then they frequently lose hope and eventually give up.
You can’t solve the racial divide if you pretend the class one is magically nonexistent. Climate change if you want to continue living life as you do.
The problems you can treat simply tend to be things like replacing a washer in a leaky faucet or using time management techniques to get your days under control.
We need to stop looking for simple solutions so we can go back to being uninterested and comfortable. It took generations to get where we are. Changing course will also take a lifetimes. This is part of the penance we must pay. The smarter and more coherently, holistically, and completely we make change, the easier it will ultimately be. And, perhaps, longer lasting, because the greatest human curse seems to be a constant process of relearning what we already should have known.