Thoughts while having the flu

A couple of years ago, I got a concussion in West Hall. I just stood up and hit the ceiling. For those who were not there to witness it, it was quite a scandal — a fire truck, an ambulance and two police cars all arrived on the scene. The Tufts medical team deemed me “incapable of making medical decisions,” and I was swiftly taken to the hospital.

A week and a half later, I received a letter with a bill for ambulance and hospital services beyond anything I could pay for — summing up to more than my four years of full tuition, to give an estimate. Luckily, my somewhat comprehensive health insurance was there to cover most of it. This, though, is not the case for a significant portion of Americans. Health care access remains a challenge and insurance a financial burden.

Health care has been in the center of public attention for the past few years. Obamacare has allowed for increased accessibility and coverage of health insurance — yet the programs’ impacts are far from offering class-cutting health care access. Obamacare imposes a fee on uninsured individuals and families who can “afford” but choose not to buy insurance, with the intent of expanding participation and further coverage. While perhaps well intentioned, the fee may be even more detrimental to those for whom even the most basic programs remain financially, or otherwise, inaccessible. Even the most basic insurance “bronze plans,” which do not offer extensive enough coverage, bring a significant financial burden that a portion of Americans can’t bear. 

The medical industry in the United States presents a significant challenge in its complexity, making health care difficult to access beyond financial roadblocks. Differences in socioeconomics, culture, primary language, race, education, etc. create difficulties in accessing a medical system that prioritizes mainly the historically wealthy. My family, both as immigrants and non-native English speakers, has had a lot of troubles fighting our way through the medical industry when in need. The solution to these problems, though, doesn’t lie in allowing people to refuse health treatment or even insurance, but in developing a medical care system with comprehensive treatment that is accessible regardless of background and financial means.

A single-payer system would be one where all health care fees and costs would be managed centrally by the U.S. government. Creating centralized universal health care would allow for more streamlined accessible care. Not under this system, the United States remains far from what can be called universal health care.

When I was young in Latin America, free health care was always rhetorically the marker of development. Inaccessibility to health care, poor quality of public health care and health care systems based on financial means are seen as markers of national and governmental failure.  It still appears incongruent to me that in the United States, health care is not prioritized — the need for accessible health care is probably the most universal political topic. Universal health care, while initially placing a structural and financial challenge for the United States, is not outside of the realm of plausibility.