The Price of a Life
The clock is ticking as hushed voices float through the room;not wanting to disturb the others in the office, the conversation is heated. The group was discussing the benefits and detractions of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as they were trying to decide who should receive an Excellency in Healthcare award at a banquet. The debate focused on: what effects might the American Health Care Act (AHCA) have on marginalized groups, and how might the act be influenced by the stereotypes some people hold about those groups. Words like lazy, dependent on the government, unemployed and underemployed, were thrown around as if they proved a point. Among the many issues I have with the AHCA, which is being drafted without checks and balances in the Senate, is: how it will affect those in marginalized populations?
The House of Representatives passed a version of the AHCA to the Senate without input from the Congressional Budget Office. The Senate has amended the bill which removes protections for those with pre-existing health issues. If Members of Congress, mine included, ratify the AHCA, they are leaving many people vulnerable to illness. Congress will leave those in marginalized groups at risk for not only illness, but also financial and social disadvantages. Without good health, people suffer because they are not able to access opportunities which would help them to advance in society. Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law, health insurance was not guaranteed and for some economically unattainable, given its high cost. A close friend of mine serves a relevant example. She and her husband held respectable jobs. She was a therapist and worked with children who were sexually, physically and emotionally abused. She chose to work with children in disadvantaged socio-economic situations because they could not afford private therapy. Her husband was a minister. They had children. When she fell ill I expressed my concern regarding her failing health. She explained they could not afford health insurance nor could they afford to pay out of pocket for a doctor’s visit. She was hoping to see a doctor on the next mission trip she and her husband took to Mexico.
One morning my supervisor called me into the office and shut the door. Naturally, I was anxious and was mentally going over every contact I had with clients that week to make sure I hadn’t violated a trust or made a misstep. My supervisor didn’t call me in to go over my job performance.he called me in to tell me my friend passed away sometime during the night.
Her husband was on a Bible trip and she was home with the children. She bade everyone good night and went to bed. Her habit was to have the bedroom door closed so when her youngest child left for school he called out to her, when she didn’t reply he thought nothing of it because she often slept in, and went to board the school bus. She was discovered by her oldest child who came over later in the morning to visit. My friend passed away during the night due to sepsis. Her death could have been prevented if she was able to afford health care.
Excellency in health care is more than an award. It is the actions of a person which enforce the belief that health care should be available to all and no one should be left out. The debate being held shouldn’t be about whether or not a Congressman should be receiving an award. The debate should be about the fact that people will be left without health care. Why should anyone have to prolong their illness in hopes of being able to either get well or access care somewhere else. The World Health Organization states in its Constitution “The right to health includes access to timely, acceptable, and affordable health care of appropriate quality.”1 The WHO also published a 52 page fact sheet outlining what the right to health constitutes and why it is a right. Without full access to health care people will suffer, society will suffer. My friend died not because she was lazy, dependent on the government or unemployed but because she chose to work in a profession, help children who would not be able to access therapy and as a result was not able to access affordable health care for herself. Excellence lies in not allowing the marginalized, the hidden majority, or those with pre-existing conditions to suffer because of political party dogma.
World Health Organization, “Constitution of the World Health Organization,” 1946 amended October 2006, http://www.who.int/governance/eb/who_constitution_en.pdf.