Health Care: A Social Necessity for a Viable Society

Universal health care, as far as I’m concerned, is as essential to a modern industrialized society as roads, power grids, sewage systems, telephone access, reliable energy sources with long-term viability, relatively untainted sources of food and drink, professional police and emergency-response systems, an efficient and mobile standing military force, a postal system, international trade policies, a standardized currency, a reliable and standardized definition of citizenship, and a host of other things – all of which are underwritten and/ or provided by the federal government in collaboration with the states, and none of which are explicitly defined within the U.S. Constitution, in large part because they did not exist in anything near their present form when that Constitution was drafted to begin with.

health-care

“Why,” as someone said recently regarding this topic, “do the working men and women have to pay for it?” [1] Because as history and current events show us, in countless examples from the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 to the more-or-less containment of Ebola over the last several years, IT IS IN A SOCIETY’S COMPELLING BEST INTERESTS TO KEEP ITS PEOPLE HEALTHY. Especially in a world where an illness can leap continents in a period of hours, and where a single diseased person can infect hundreds of people simply by walking down the street – much less by working behind a counter and/ or serving food in a restaurant – IT IS IN A SOCIETY’S COMPELLING BEST INTEREST TO KEEP ITS PEOPLE HEALTHY. A society in which people can and do “tough it out” when they’re sick because they have no choice otherwise is a society that is itself diseased. It is NOT – provably, according to current statistics and historical evidence – a healthy, viable society with a long-term future.
plague-victims

A person’s illness is not a reflection of their moral character. You cannot wish away cancer, heart disease, chronic pain, mental illness, sensory processing conditions, infections, injuries, etc. etc. etc. by being bold enough and industrious enough to satisfy some nonsense criteria of “being a hard worker.” (Whatever that means.) The “good old days” were not miraculously free from sickness; history shows that alcoholism, crime, plague, starvation, rampant insanity, domestic violence, crushing mass poverty, political upheavals, and other social illnesses were (and still are) often intertwined with untreated physical and mental illnesses. While certain medical conditions are avoidable, the majority are not, and the idea of forcing people to remain sick or injured until they’re industrious enough to “earn” medical treatment is not only cruel, it is literally suicidal to society at large.

Invoking and debating the jots and tittles of an 18th-century document as some sort of divine mandate for the “freedom” to be sick, go broke, and possibly die unless one is rich enough to afford not to [2]… that’s an absurdist argument. Leaving out the horrific costs in human suffering, that argument still ignores the many realities of the modern world… realities that our federal and state governments already address with such efficiency that we don’t even notice the solutions until and unless we need them… and the fact that a society where the people are sick is a society that is sick and dying as a whole.

An overall standard of health among individual citizens is essential to the health of a society at large. A society in which physical, mental and financial viability are provided only to a wealthy elite is a society that is doomed to fail.
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EDIT: In the time since this article was posted yesterday, I have learned that an especially nasty influenza strain is making the rounds this winter. So far, in the 2016-2017 flu season which officially began in November, there have been over 46 lab-confirmed deaths in Washington State alone. That’s one state, with excellent medical programs, under the ACA, within a few weeks. And that figure is ten days old as of this posting. I know this because a friend’s father-in-law is currently dying of that strain of the flu at this time; oh, and she has it now too. Both of them have contracted said flu within the last 48 hours. She’ll probably survive it. I doubt he will.

Yes, illnesses kill – that’s part of what makes them illnesses. The number of people they kill, how easily they kill, and how widespread the killing is, all depend a great deal upon modern medical treatment or a widespread lack thereof. And again I will emphasize this point: The person behind the counter at the next store you visit, or in the kitchen of the next restaurant you buy food from, is as likely to have this flu as my friend and her father-in-law are. More likely, really, because they come in contact with more people in the course of their job. And unlike my friend and her father-in-law, they’re not likely to be able to afford medical treatment and/ or sick days on their own dime, so they could be spreading that illness on to you, your kids, your co-workers, and so forth. Self-righteous selfishness does not render you or your society immune.

pandemics

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1 – As an even more direct answer to that person: a) Because we all pay into the mutual upkeep of our society, or we all lose it; b) Most of the people who need universal health care ARE “working people” whose employers simply choose not to provide health coverage and/ or viable compensation for their employees; and c) Because a random sick person’s illness is a threat to your health, and the health of your loved ones as well.

2 – See the following graphs:

health-insurance-rate-hikes-20120924-001

uninsured_workers
health-insurance-costshealth-care-decline

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About Satyr

Award-winning fantasy author, game-designer, and all 'round creative malcontent. Creator of a whole bunch of stuff, most notably the series Mage: The Ascension, Deliria: Faerie Tales for a New Millennium, and Powerchords: Music, Magic & Urban Fantasy. Lives in Seattle. Hates shoes. Loves cats. Dances a lot.
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2 Responses to Health Care: A Social Necessity for a Viable Society

  1. vishalicious says:

    Looking at this and the current state of affairs in the US, and thinking back to gaming in the 90s and early 2000s, I can’t help but think that there should be a Storyteller game based on politicians, not as vampires or some other supers, but as politicos, organizations, companies and the like that.

    I think that now that I’ve reached my 40s, even though I’ve been away from gaming for most of the new millennium, something like this could make sense for people in my age group. Its a way of blending current events with fantasy, and creating our own alternate timelines. I don’t know how many would look at it as running away from reality vs. seeking temporary respite, or even testing social or political theories with a closed group.

    I also wish Bernie had won.

  2. Pingback: Health Care: A Social Necessity for a Viable Society – A View From The USA – The York ME Community

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