As many of you may already be aware, I suffer from a condition known as Rheumatoid Arthritis, “RA” for short. This is a chronic and progressive disease whereby the immune system begins to attack joints and tissues (including the major organs such as the heart, lungs, etc.) throughout the body. It has been a tedious life journey for me as I have been evaluated by numerous specialists while I still had and was able to afford health insurance to get to the bottom of my physical condition. Over the course of the past two years, I have had my ups and downs health-wise; knowing that having RA in my cervical spine has wrecked havoc on both my physical and emotional wellbeing. Not having health insurance has ultimately made things a lot more difficult for me but I am a survivor, so no matter what tomorrow brings, I will always put my best foot forward in the hopes that the future will offer more options to me.
But this blog is not about me, it is about the 46.3 million US citizens under the age of 65 who do not have health insurance coverage. Reminds me of the song, “What becomes of the broken-hearted?” Well, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, nationwide free clinics do offer some assistance: two million patients are provided with free healthcare annually; but that still leaves 44.3 million without adequate health care. Today, the leading causes of death include heart disease, cancer, stroke and accidents, among several others. Furthermore, the US has a current infant mortality rate that is ranked higher than other developed countries – and these statistics are quite alarming: The United States currently is tied for 29th place with Poland and Slovakia in infant mortality.
Wait…there’s more. Were you aware that 75 percent of health care expenditures are used on chronic disease treatment? In an abstract written by executives at the Kaiser Foundation, “no approach our nation has tried, over the past thirty-five years, to control health costs has had a lasting impact.” This is unfortunate, because that means that health care spending will continue to spiral out of control until the US decides to make the tough choice to have universal healthcare, also known as single payer healthcare. In that same abstract, both Medicare and Medicaid were effectively able to remove some of the burden of health spending. Since we are still a growing country with a large aging population, it is time to develop a permanent solution to this mounting problem.
Here we are in 2010. With unemployment rates reaching a stark peak, it is bothersome to know that one of very few growing occupational industries is health care. Secondly, a 12 percent growth increase is expected for funeral directors in these United States as well. It seems to me that this is a country that thrives on sickness and death. Are we becoming the country of Schadenfreude?
Within our borders are hundreds of years worth of culture and diversity. We live, work and play together on a daily basis. We all love, laugh, cry, and even die together – whether we realize it or not. Perhaps today is the time to conduct a morality check on what is truly right for this country. Today, you may have excellent health — value it. Cherish it. Tomorrow you may not have the same constitution. Tomorrow, you may be standing in the unemployment line; or worse, be suddenly diagnosed with an incurable, chronic disease that will eventually lead to your permanent disability or demise…or suddenly, you are injured at work or hurt in an automobile collision. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not promised, and today is a gift – that’s why it is called the present. The last time I checked, this nation was not a third-world country. I imagine it is time that we begin to act like a civilized one and make healthcare accessible to all and not just the wealthy and the well-connected.
Value your Health
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AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)
BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Health Affairs Journal