Saturday, April 01, 2006

No Expectations

Health care in the United States is very complex. On the one hand, we spend more money on health care than any other country and we also spend the most on a per-capita basis as a percent of our GDP.

There are many uninsured people in the United States. Some are between jobs, some don’t want coverage, but many can’t afford it, either. We have Medicaid for the poor and Medicare for the elderly, which have many holes, but in general treat the poor and elderly much better than they do in other countries (want to go on dialysis in England if you are elderly? Too bad, it’s rationed, bye-bye).

Dental care falls through the cracks. The Chicago Tribune did an interesting story about the elderly that have no access to dental care (it isn’t provided by many health plans, even if you have coverage) and the fact that this causes them many problems, as well as esteem issues (no one wants to be seen without teeth).

I did feel for many of these people. No one wants to see US citizens suffering for lack of treatment that could be provided relatively cheaply (after all, dental care isn’t expensive like transplants, chemotherapy, etc…).

The part that caught my eye, however, wasn’t the intentional purpose of the piece:

“Nearby, Samaria Doll, fifty-two (my bolding)… the wife of a deceased Cook County sheriff, nodded her head… Doll lived on her husband’s pension, about $900 per month, and has health insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield but no dental coverage… if not for the clinics, she’d be sitting home “with no teeth, bald mouthed, and feeling real bad.”

If you are fifty-two years old, you are still eminently employable. You can still go to school, learn skills, and join the workforce. From the perspective of this article (and apparently, Ms. Doll), this is not even a concept remotely considered.

If you aren’t even going to attempt to work, learn skills, or contribute anything to a capitalistic society, should we just provide everything for you, like a giant day care center? Are these the people that we should spend our tax dollars and charitable contributions upon?

Once again, I am not talking about those who, for whatever reason, can’t work. There are legitimate reasons for not working, although it seems like everyone can pitch in somewhere at least to help their community (a church, perhaps?).

In this article, we don’t hear that she is disabled or unable to work or participate in our society in any legitimate capacity, but it is OK for her to rely on charitable care and the fact that the pension and health insurance has gaps is some kind of tragedy.

Why didn’t anyone ask her why she doesn’t try to improve her skills or get a job? Why is it just assumed that is a ridiculous question or assumption?

I guess the purpose of the article was to make us all feel guilty for not designing an all-over safety net with no holes, but NOT to ask about any reasonable expectations upon our citizens for helping themselves. In that limited perspective, the article was a success.

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