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We Need to Look at Healthcare Differently

It used to be “It’s the economy, stupid,” but now it’s healthcare that is the main priority on voters’ minds. It is what fueled the blue wave in the 2018 midterms and pressured Republicans to not fully repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act. Healthcare was such a contentious conversation amongst moderates like Vice President Joe Biden and Amy Kloubchar as well as progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Now, I am not a socialist, but don’t push me! I do think the only person who is right about our healthcare system is presidential candidate Marianne Williamson.

The author and world-renowned spiritual leader has a long shot at becoming the President, but what she said about our healthcare system resonated with me and speaks to how we look at healthcare:

“You gotta get deeper in than these superficial fixes, as important as they are. Even if we talk about these superficial fixes, ladies, and gentlemen, we don’t have a healthcare system in the United States; we have a sickness care system. We just wait until somebody gets sick and then we talk about who is going to pay for the treatment and how they are going to get treated. We need to talk about why so many Americans have unnecessary chronic illnesses, so many more than other countries.”

Along with this plea at the first Democratic primary debate back in June, Marianne also reaffirmed my thoughts around why America should take a serious look at exercising transformative change to our healthcare system.

America is a capitalist society and ultimately centers around maximizing profits and other financial gains, where there is a poor and there is a rich. As Americans, we pride ourselves on working long hours in a fast-paced and stressful space. We champion pushing our bodies to the limit whether it’s playing or working while nursing an injury, exposing ourselves to chemicals, drugs, alcohol, etc. I know a couple of my friends who have been affected by these extraneous conditions, but one in particular, who I admire, goes above and beyond in her workplace.

Two years into her career, my 24-year-old friend has high blood pressure, reproductive issues and dietary illnesses. This one example represents so many Americans who suffer from chronic illnesses due to the stressful nature of their careers and communities. With healthcare being nonsensically expensive, Americans often don’t visit a hospital unless something drastic happens to their health.

This especially resonates with African Americans, who throughout generations, not only couldn’t afford care but also have problematic experiences with the US healthcare system. Whether it be from the Tuskegee experiment, coerced sterilization, and now high rates of black maternal deaths, this only cemented and further eroded trust between the hospital and minority communities.

Healthcare is not just another political subject; it is personal to me. I have lost many of my family members, especially men that I looked up to, from suffering adverse sickness. My uncle and his family were a working-class family from the rural areas of South Carolina. He was a truck driver and deep in his faith. He believed in hard work and dignity and was the first to say how proud he was of being an American, even when he critiqued some of the policy choices our leaders made. My uncle was an essential part of my life, especially when my grandfather passed away.

In his later years, my uncle suffered from an ongoing illness that had him in and out of hospitals. My aunt told me that the biggest issue with this process is how much finances played into the care of my uncle. He went to a rural hospital that didn’t provide the adequate care he needed, and it was such a difficult experience that one of those appointments, they sent him back home while he was unable to walk. My uncle went from hospital to hospital, and not only had it become the center of their kitchen-talk table conversations, but it also took an emotional toll on everyone involved. I remember getting that text from my father that my uncle had passed away and it was the hardest news I have ever heard in my adult life. What made it even harder was to hear from my aunt that my uncle could’ve lived had he had the proper funds for his health expenses.

The neighborhood hospital is the building where people are either born, being taken care of, or dying. When American families file for bankruptcy, it’s mostly because of medical bills. Our current healthcare system is centered around insurance companies and big pharma maximizing profits. Money is what could have saved my uncle and so many other lives. But too often, American families have insurance and can’t afford it or don't have it all. DC has one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country, yet most of its uninsured are people of color, especially the Latinx community.

We are also seeing that there are many working-class families in DC, just like so many other Americans, trying to avoid hospital visits because of how expensive they are. I am a living, breathing witness of finding over-the-counter drugs before I step foot into a hospital. I think free markets, innovation, and competition is ultimately good for the consumer. However, capitalism has its place in some areas, and I feel that it doesn’t have its place in healthcare. Healthcare is a matter between life and death, and it shouldn’t matter where you live, income, or who you are to have access to healthcare.

Now, while I understand people wonder how fiscally difficult it would be to implement a medicare-for-all healthcare system, the current health institutions we have now are not working. America spends more on healthcare, yet it’s not ranked in the top ten of the healthiest countries in the world. America is the only country in the modern and western world without a functional and universal healthcare system. In this current time, many Americans want a medicare-for-all system, but are skeptical of how it would be implemented when it comes to choice and if their taxes will be raised.

This is why I suggest that Kamala Harris (this is not an endorsement) has the best healthcare plan out there where the poor, unemployed, and newborns will automatically enroll in Medicare while Americans are able to purchase private care plans with government oversight. Her plan is a ten-year process, and based on her campaign won’t raise taxes on the middle class significantly. It’s a version of the medicare-for-all system that I think brings a happy medium that allows choice and still meets the needs of the people.

What is not negotiable for me, and so many other Americans, is going back to insurance companies having a more substantial say on what they will and will not pay for or staying in the current climate that we are in. My mom would always tell me when I had health issues in college, “You are no good to society if you have no skills or your health is bad. Take care of your body so it can take care of you later.” We honestly have to look at healthcare as a way to meet the needs of our community so that they are able to be productive and positively contribute to our society.

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