. . . and even then it’s a debatable proposition.
A few minutes ago I got an email from Varjak, one of my best friends and a fellow you should all be so lucky to know, about a blog written by a friend of his. The blog is called 12 Spoons. It’s now permanently linked on the sidebar of this blog, and if you’re unfamiliar with it I encourage you to go read it.
12 Spoons is written by a woman who was diagnosed with lupus at age 15. Her doctors told her parents she would likely be dead before her 25th birthday. She’s come close a few times since, but she’s still here. Her story should be required reading for anyone who cares about the effort to reform America’s healthcare system, whatever side of the debate you find yourself on, but particularly if you’re an opponent of the proposed reforms.
The most recent article relates the story of how the writer’s lupus has seriously compromised not only her health, but her love life:
My parents decided it would be better if I married. So in 1999, I did. The entire planning of the wedding was done by my mother, who also decided who was invited and who was not. I was an adult child being married off for the insurance benefits. It’s hard to sustain a marriage based on the fact that one party in it is dependant on the other party’s healthcare. It’s not really a solid foundation for a lasting love.
. . . One day, in 2006, I realized that you can either live a long life under compromising, even humiliating circumstances, or you can find your own path, at the cost of risking your life. Maybe I will die as a result of the decision to leave my former husband. But I won’t regret it. I never have, not for one second. I should have the right to marry who I choose.
. . . Today the final paperwork is filed, and I am dependent on free clinics and ER visits to survive. Since I currently have a staph infection in both my elbow and my eye, it will be a risky business.
Marrying someone you don’t love to share their health benefits is bad enough, but . . .
A moment. I realize that “bad enough” doesn’t come within an astronomical unit of describing the cruel, helpless experience of entering an arranged marriage to hopefully avoid your own death. It’s a decision no one, no matter where they live, no matter where they work, no matter what state their health is in, should ever be faced with, especially in the United States of America.
But as I was saying, the story doesn’t end there.
I am also engaged to my fiance, Nathan, who I met a year and a half ago, and whom I love. And while we have plans to “marry” in May, it will most likely have to be a commitment ceremony, similar to the kind gay couples have in lieu of legal marriage. We will have to do this because we cannot afford co-pays or deductibles of around $17,000 a year. It would bankrupt him to marry me. We would share debt and an income bracket if we marry. I would be on his insurance, but he would not be able to afford the co-pays to keep me alive. We are stuck in an insurance no-man’s-land. I need to stay legally indigent to get free care and stay alive.
. . . If Nathan and I marry, with the current rates of insurance, bankrupcy is inevitable. My returning to the hospital again and again is not a chance, it is a certainty. My lupus is too active and my immune system is too suppressed to prevent that. Am I just too expensive to keep alive? At times I wonder if insurance providers are trying to tell me that.
. . . The right to affordable, sustainable marriage and health care coverage should not be a legal game we are forced to play. Health care should not be dependent on outward factors such as age gender or marital status, but basic coverage should be a right entitled to all.
In other articles, the writer of 12 Spoons describes her health insurance company (United Healthcare at the time) pressuring a hospital to release her early after a lupus flare had rendered her temporarily blind in one eye, and her necessary practice of saving medication beyond its expiration date.
There is no excuse for this. The United States is the richest, most powerful nation in the history of the world. Brave, compassionate leaders from both major political parties have been attempting to institute universal healthcare in one form or another since the early 20th century. The U.S. is now the only industrialized nation without guaranteed health coverage for its citizens. It is a moral disgrace.
Those who oppose the current proposed reforms (feeble and inadequate as they are) talk of healthcare as though it were a commodity like a television or an automobile. Rush Limbaugh has said it’s only fair that a capitalist society should operate this way. “If you’re rich, you’ll have a house on the beach, if not you’ll live in a bungalow somewhere,” he told William Shatner in a televised interview. Rush seems strangely unaware that on any given night hundreds of thousands of Americans are forced to sleep outside, because they can’t afford even a lowly bungalow. The same is true of healthcare. “Anyone can go to an emergency room for treatment,” opponents of universal healthcare insist. But the emergency room (as I’d think would be implicit from its name) is for heart attacks and broken bones, not for treating chronic disease.
Someone like the writer of 12 Spoons should not be dependent on the ER and free clinics to survive. Rush Limbaugh recently told a caller to his radio show who complained that he couldn’t afford treatment for his broken wrist, “You shouldn’t have broken your wrist.” Lupus isn’t something you get by forgetting to look both ways before crossing the street. Lupus, and countless other chronic, life-threatening conditions, afflicts people through no fault of their own. “Just don’t get lupus” is not an option. All of us coming together, pooling our resources to guarantee health coverage for every single person in the United States, is an option, and it’s far past time our representatives in the Senate and the House of Representatives acted on it.
Glenn Beck joined Limbaugh and others on the fringe right in ridiculing the story told by Rep. Louise Slaughter at the president’s recent televised conference on healthcare reform, describing a constituent forced to wear her dead sister’s dentures because she couldn’t afford to have her own. “I’ve read the Constitution,” Beck said. “I didn’t see that you had the right to teeth.”
Our rights don’t come to us from the Constitution — its most important function is to protect our rights, not bestow them to us. Our rights don’t come from God, either. They come from us, from our society, from our shared morality, our shared interests, and our respect for one another. One of those rights, we long ago collectively decided (with a few troublesome, arguable exceptions), is the right to live. It’s time to take another big step toward living by our convictions and help everyone to exercise that right by bringing universal healthcare to the United States of America. We can afford it, we desperately need it, and there is not a single morally permissible reason not to do it.
The writer of 12 Spoons has more courage and grit than I can even imagine. What a world it would be if people like her could direct more of their energies toward something other than staying alive.