I believe health care is a right, not a privilege. Access to health care has become a privilege in our society. Millions of people have died because they do not have this privilege. This, I believe, is unconscionable. We live in one of the richest, most resource abundant nations in the world, yet we cannot guarantee adequate health care for all of our citizens. That does not make sense. We help other nations, but we are failing our own.
Our declaration of independence states that we possess the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How can we pursue liberty and happiness if we do not have life? In this nation, we are guaranteed a quality education through our public schools, access to books at our local library, mail delivery, protection from the police and fire departments; yet we have millions of families going bankrupt because they cannot afford medical care. How can we sleep at night knowing this is going on in our nation, our city, our neighborhood?
Three years ago, I was in an accident in which I broke my leg in six places and shattered both sides of my ankle. I was covered by a very prominent health insurance company, provided by my employer, which paid 80% of my health care costs. Yet, I still owe tens of thousands of dollars that I will never be able to pay. I was operated on 3 times, almost lost my leg to a bone infection caused by e.coli on hardware in my leg, lost 75% of my hair as a reaction to the bone infection, almost lost my job because of so much time spent in the hospital, and was harassed at work by my supervisors because they were intolerant of health issues. I had no choice but to put up with the harassment and do everything I could to keep my job because I needed the health insurance. No one should have to stay in an environment where they are taunted because of any health issue. But I didn’t have a choice. It was either lose my leg to infection or put up with daily harassment. We, as a nation, deserve quality affordable health care for all that is not dependent on employers.
I often wonder what if I was a single mother working for minimum wage? No health coverage, maybe no family to support me, and children to feed. How could I have made it through to recovery? I barely got through with the health coverage I had, but what if I didn’t have any? What if I had to make the decision between eating and paying for my wheelchair? Or between living in my apartment and paying for life-saving antibiotics? These are decisions no one should have to make. I believe that we, as a nation, should take care of everyone through providing equal access to health care so that we can all pursue our inalienable right to life. We deserve nothing less.