Rationing Healthcare

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

By: Dr. Theresa Poling, DNP, APRN-BC, FNP

Posted: March 29, 2020 | 02:11PM EST

In recent headlines there has been an outcry for free testing for those with suspected coronavirus as well as help for those who don’t have paid time off. I fully support both of these initiatives. Free testing better ensures that those who are affected will seek early diagnosis and decrease the risk of spreading the virus. It will also decrease the risk of dying for many vulnerable populations. Paid time off will enable those who typically work in service industries without the luxury of benefits to take time off when they are sick or when their children are sick and thereby decrease the spread of the virus. But, pause for a moment and ask yourself, “Why just now?” Why do so many only support “healthcare for all” when their own health may be at risk? Why do we only want others to have paid-time-off when their ill health threatens to jeopardize our privilege of consumerism?

This crisis has exposed the hidden underbelly of universal healthcare naysayers. They only care about others health when it affects them. The most common naysayer opposition I’ve heard is the argument against ‘freeloaders’. They perceive that they are deserving while others are not. In truth, if you are paying for your healthcare, you are already paying for recipients of Medicaid and the uninsured. Have you noticed that your premiums and copays have gone up? Is your maximum out of pocket absurdly high? Hospitals and insurance companies are pushing off the costs of healthcare to those who are paying to offset their losses and protect their gains. So when you oppose healthcare for all you are really just opposing taking care of vulnerable people and instead you are lining the pockets of wealthy corporations and CEOs.

For the anti-freeloaders, consider the challenges that some face while you are protected in privilege (yes if you worked to get where you are-you are still privileged). Do you have a reliable car that will get you to work? Can you afford babysitting or daycare? Do you have an education that provides you with higher paying jobs than minimum wage? Does your employer offer full time hours? Do you struggle with mental illness, addiction, or other healthcare problems that are prohibitive to working? Have you eaten today?

Let me further support this call for universal healthcare with some facts about Medicaid. Everyone knows that fraud exists (in everything). But Medicaid fraud is much lower than our embellished stories claim, around six percent. Twenty-nine percent of the population in West Virginia is covered by Medicaid, making it the state with the highest share. Nearly two-thirds of the state’s Medicaid spending is for the elderly and people with disabilities. Fifty-three percent of all children in West Virginia are covered by Medicaid, including fifty-six percent of children with special health care needs. When you take away resources from an already struggling family you further compromise families at risk. If you want to help people get back to work, educate them and give them healthcare.

More than three million people have lost their jobs in this pandemic. Binding health insurance to employment is a flawed design. Everyone is susceptible to financial uncertainty and limited resources; some live it every day. As long as healthcare is a privilege, people will suffer and die. In this coronavirus self-centric crisis, if you aren’t motivated to offer healthcare for all because of your moral convictions of loving your neighbor, do it for your own safety. “Your health is as safe as that of the worst-insured, worst-cared-for person in your society. It will be decided by the height of the floor, not the ceiling (Giridharadas, 2020).