Nothing About American Healthcare is Normal.
It’s no secret that out of all of the reasons I chose to support Bernie Sanders’ candidacy for President when he announced his intentions to run in 2015, the reason that has always been at the forefront of my mind was his desire to transform America’s broken healthcare system. Unfortunately, as the nation experiences its worst public health crisis in modern history, the disgrace of our profit-driven health insurance system only continues to grow more readily apparent. I’m sure many, if not most of us have grown numb to the steady influx of new gofundme accounts popping up on our Facebook feeds for health concerns. But it’s difficult not to click on one, read through its contents, and wonder how any of this is normal. Nothing about American healthcare is normal.
As if the idea that some parents have to grapple with either taking their child to the hospital or being able to afford to feed them in the richest nation on earth wasn’t enough to make us pause about the state of our healthcare system, Representative Katie Porter’s sister recently gave her followers on Twitter good reason to stop and think as well.
Dr. Emily Porter recently tweeted an image of a notice of denial from her insurance company, where she was informed that the MRI her doctor ordered to investigate what they suspected could be cancer was denied. Evidently, they thought it was “not medically necessary”, and instructed her to consult with her Doctor if she had further questions. Interesting, considering it was her doctor who ordered the CT scan in the first place. Incredibly, that wasn’t even the most interesting takeaway from Dr. Porter courageously sharing her story.
Here in the United States, Americans and their doctors are forced to deal with what patients and doctors don’t have to deal with in any other developed nation on earth. In the United States, insurance companies are allowed to play God. In the richest nation on earth, we have politicians arguing that private health insurance cannot disappear because it offers us “choice”. Funny, isn’t it, how they leave out that the “choice” they’re referring to is which insurance company gets to tell us if the procedures we might need are medically necessary? A decision — it’s worth noting — that they often make based on their obligation to turn a profit at the expense of their clients.
Of all the examples one could turn to when considering just how far to the right the country has shifted, or the amount of control companies and their financial interests dictate over our lives, arguably none are more consequential or damning than healthcare.
What real “choice” are we given when someone is making a profit off of a child in the hospital, or denying potential cancer patients life saving early interventions and imaging because they don’t want to pay for it? What is normal about insurance companies dictating whether or not we get to live or die based on whether or not we can afford to pay them? How is it that we’ve just come to accept the fact that a company, not a doctor, gets the final say in what is medically necessary or not?
Though there’s no denying the national discourse has certainly begun to shift in the direction of single payer healthcare since Bernie Sanders stepped onto the national stage, he was and continues to be painted as extreme for his views. Personally, what I find to be extreme is that an entire family can lose its healthcare if a parent loses the job that provided their insurance. What’s extreme is the commodification of human life and health, not doing away with the entities that have built their businesses around that idea.
Still today, supporters of Bernie Sanders on social media in particular are told “he lost, get over it”. The thing is, we didn’t just lose an election. When Bernie Sanders lost, it meant the private health insurance industry’s stock prices soared. It meant private health insurance could continue to profit off of the most vulnerable, frightening times in a persons life for years to come. That said, Dr. Porter’s story along with hundreds of thousands if not millions of others are testament to the fact that we cannot afford to give up. The conversation is shifting in favor of single payer healthcare, and we have no choice but to continue to fight to ensure that policy follows.