We have reached that time of year when those collecting for various charity causes emerge from their winter hiatus. We see them on the street corners such as the “boot” campaign of firefighters, the Shriners and their fezzes taking life and limb risks by inserting themselves into the traffic flow collecting money for Shriners Hospitals, there are the numerous retailers that support multitudes of good causes. I even sponsored a fundraiser for a local dog rescue organization. In the past, my thoughts have run from “it’s good to see people working for a worthy cause” to chagrin because traffic flow was interrupted (I know, I can be an awful human being at times). More frequently, I find myself worrying about it. Speaking specifically to healthcare, we have come to the point in this country where people have to start GoFundMe campaigns just to deal with the massive costs associated with dealing with life threatening, or for that matter, any long term illness. I find that sad and it makes me angry because things don’t have to be this way.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that we all have our favorite charities. It might be St. Jude’s, or Children’s Miracle Network, Greenpeace, Humane Society, or any of a hundred worthy causes seeking donations to make a difference in the world. The downside to our “charity” is that it is often narrowly focused. We pick a cause and it gets all of our energies as well as our money. Left out are the other equally worthy charities, and we absolve ourselves by saying “I gave/give to Brand X charity, (read here, Your charity isn’t as important to me as mine.)” We tell ourselves that our commitment to the social contract is paid up because of our donation of a couple of bucks at the local retailer/street corner/ or online contribution. But hey, we’re doing what we can with what we have right? True, I can tell you that my budget is pretty lean, being a fresh Divinity School grad with loads of student debt, so I feel you there. And surprisingly enough, it’s the people who can afford the least that generally give the most. What I’m thinking of is more of a systemic fix to a problem that won’t go away no matter how many fundraisers we have.
In regards to healthcare I think a system that will charge you $90.00 for a Tylenol or $20-30K for a labor and delivery will require a little more than your typical fundraiser. As the income divide grows larger and larger, we find that our overall health/quality of life and our longevity are tied to how much we make and can we afford that “good” insurance. We continue to throw Band-Aids at a system that cruelly ignores the poor and the marginalized. It doesn’t matter if you have multiple charities collecting millions of dollars there will still be those who are left out of what has become a healthcare lottery. Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies charge more and more for their services & products and we find that no matter how many millions are collected for our “favorite” charities, it is never enough.
The first part of the solution to this problem is that we must realize that healthcare for profit is cruel and inhumane. All the “Free-Market” does for healthcare is to make it too expensive for people to participate. It is naturally cruel to people on the margins, it ignores minorities, and causes us to decide if we’re going to eat or go to the doctor. I know this from firsthand experience. My mother and father on a fixed income, regularly decided on whether to buy groceries or buy medicine, or go to the doctor. Their lives, like many others, were cut short because the culture of “it’s just too damn expensive to go to the doctor, so I’ll wing it and hope for the best.” All the “Free-Market” is concerned with is its bottom line, how much profit can they extract by providing the least amount of goods/services. It doesn’t care that you need insulin, it doesn’t care that you need chemo, it doesn’t care that you’ve been out of work or underemployed, all it cares about is can you pay the price. Many of us are one catastrophic or chronic illness away from total financial ruin.
Luckily for us we do have a way out of this mess. But we have to do the hard work of active citizenship to get out of the hole we are in. We as a nation have to recognize that healthcare is a basic human right. It is not a merit based venture, there is no “who deserves it gets it, or who can pay for it gets it,” Everyone gets it. Period. And since this is a basic human right, our nation’s laws need to reflect that. We can’t continue to elect legislators who take money from corporate healthcare/pharmaceutical companies because they will not support the cause of universal healthcare and they will certainly not write legislation in support of universal healthcare. We have to elect representatives who have this ethos of healthcare for all and actively work to make it happen. Our very lives are at stake and we are letting the current crop of representatives push us off the ledge simply for profit. They will burden us with backbreaking medical debt and force us into GoFundMe accounts just to live and my friends, if you can’t see the evil in that, then we have to question our own humanity.
We need to elect legislators that believe healing people is more important than killing them, (yes I’m calling you out Military/Industrial complex.) We need to elect legislators that will enact Medicare for all and rein in the corporate greed of the “Healthcare” industry. If need be, we need to march in the streets demanding this basic human right. Our legislators work for us, not for corporate America and we need to send them that message loud and clear. If we don’t vote, well, that’s on us. We will get what they choose to give us and it won’t be much.
When Jesus healed, he didn’t ask for a co-pay, he didn’t discriminate on who decided to receive healing. He just did it. In Matthew 25, he told us that as we did to the “least of these,” we did it to him. For those who claim to be Christian, those who claim to follow Christ, I ask you: “Are you willing to care for the “least of these” are you willing to give without thought of reward, are you willing to work so that all might receive care and healing? Or are we just going to have another fundraiser and tell ourselves how “charitable” we are?