Vignettes of a Traveler

Aaron A Schultz. Writer and Photographer

Category: social justice

The Injustice of American Healthcare

Objects Are More Important Than People

“Of all the form of inequity, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane,” Martin Luther King said 50 years ago.

Healthcare is not a privilege. It is a right. Speak up. Don’t be a bystander.

Despite spending the most per-capita on healthcare, the USA shows the lowest life expectancy and highest infant mortality rates.

In 1966 MLK said, "Of all the forms of inequity, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane."

We have the worst healthcare system in the first world because our country thinks an object (money) is more important than a person. Ask yourself if this is your personal value. I doubt anyone of us feels that money is more important than a person. It’s cruel and uncaring. So why is this a national value?

Our American social-programming tells us that winning at the cost of others (losers) is “life.” I call bullshit.

In fact, we all know winning at the cost of others is bullshit. Having more more money than others isn’t winning–waking up everyday and having the tools to shape our life in an honorable, ethical, and compassionate way, now that’s a win. Nobody loses in this way of living, AND we all still maintain our power to choose.

But, the choice isn’t superficial, like Coke or Pepsi; our choices become meaningful,  impacting your mood and the well-being of others. Now that’s altruism; that’s being a good neighbor.

Competition Now an Illusion

100, 200, or 1000 years ago, humans competed fiercely. Back then, most people lived to the age of 35 or 40. Up to fifty percent of children didn’t make it to adulthood. Resources (food, money, education) were limited and seasonal.

However today, with a global food production surplus, low infant mortality rates (i.e. healthcare), and any pleasure we desire available to us (coffee, Spotify, massage, all-wheel drive), competition for resources becomes an illusion. Competition, an illusion, is packaged as an essential. We call this “free-market capitalism.”

Free-market capitalism’s sole purpose is to control resources. It does this by creating illusionary needs (I have no time), then selling a consumable product to fill that need (Krueger single-serve pods).

We call it a consumable because after we finish it, we throw it away, our life accessories disposable, destined for the dump.

There are many forms of capitalism, many systems of economics. Don’t let some politician or newscaster tell you otherwise. They are politicians and news casters, not economists. Politicians and newscasters feed us a distorted, politicized version of Econ 101 (freshman Econ). It takes people years to earn a PhD in this deeply nuanced social science. Here we see one way anti-intellectualism destroys our cultural unity, but that is another essay.

Healthcare Bystander

We have reached a point in human civilization where we no longer need to horde resources at the expense of others, competition now an illusion. There is plenty of food, money, and healthcare for everyone. We have a cure and a pill for just about everything. Heath is not a consumable, something we throw away, and it should not be sold as such.

One’s health has an intangible value, meaning we cannot assess it as a commodity like lumber or toothpaste, its true price immeasurable. Such things, like health, happiness, and freedom, live beyond the petty scope of capitalism, beyond baser things like money and competition. Health should never have a “price” attached.

So, why do some of us not have access? Why do drug and insurance companies keep raking in record profits?  Why should others sacrifice saving accounts or go bankrupt for something as essential and fixable as our health? If people are healthy in mind and body, they are healthy in spirit. If our society increased its overall health, we would see a MASSIVE boost to our GDP.

So I ask again, if your personal values say that people are more important than things, why do you allow our American system to value the opposite, to value things over people?

We all have the power to make the change. Speak up. Don’t be a bystander while your American neighbors are denied healthcare.

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Repeal of the ACA Obamacare

Many people are sharing their stories of how the repeal of the ACA (or Obamacare) would impact them through the denial of services because of pre-existing conditions. Here’s my story.

For over 25 years I have battled major chronic depressive disorder, major anxiety disorder, and PTSD, a set of conditions that often left me, at best, in bed for days at a time and, at worst, suicidal. In addition, my panic attacks, a separate type of torture, felt like someone was stabbing me in the heart over and over for ten to fifteen minutes. These are just a few of the consequences of my mental illnesses.

For the last 22 years, I’ve basically had three good days a year. That’s right, three days a year where I didn’t feel like a pile of crap, didn’t want to kill myself, and could smile without feeling like a lair. This condition cost me jobs, friendships, relationships, and financial stability.

2005 Bachelors Degree

Twelve years ago at the age of 30, a therapist finally gave me a proper diagnosis because I finally had access to healthcare because I was school. Before diagnosis, I alternated between feeling like a  weak-ass chump who couldn’t suck-it-up or a crazy schizophrenic. You cannot imagine the confusion. The only reason I sought therapy is because I thought I was a bi-polar or schizophrenic.

When I was diagnosed, at first I felt skepticism, then relief, and finally anger. But, I finally had a name for my demon, and this I could fight.

However, instead of going on record for a pre-existing condition, I paid out of pocket for therapy and refused to be prescribed antidepressants or SSRIs. Instead, I quite drinking, changed my diet and began meditating three times a day. Hiding an illness from healthcare records is just one of the stigmas that people with mental illness face.

2014 Graduate School

Flash forward nine years to the end of my first year of graduate school. I am working two part-time jobs, struggling to pay bills and rent (often a month or two behind), commuting 90 miles to be a full-time student all while managing a severe mental illness. I cracked, hitting bottom so hard my head spun and my wife cried.

2 week old baby and mother sleep.

My daughter at two weeks old.

The next day, I drove the 90 miles to campus, saw a NP, and was prescribed an SSRI. Even though I still have nightmares 3-5 nights a week, you cannot imagine how drastically my quality of life has improved. For three years, I have not felt suicidal or had a panic attack. You cannot imagine how grateful I am to have crawled out of hell and into the sunlight.

Land Without the ACA Obamacare

If the ACA (or Obamacare) is repealed and my wife looses her job, I will probably never have health insurance again because of my pre-existing condition. Whatever, I can take care of myself.

My actual fear has to do with who I might re-become around my daughter and my wife without access to healthcare and SSRIs. Watching the fear and pain in my wife’s eyes during my struggles before medication was heart breaking. She suffered her own set of traumas unique to people who live with someone struggling with mental illness. I don’t want to pass this trauma on to my daughter.

The repeal of the ACA (or Obamacare) will affect more than those of us who need healthcare; it will affect those we love.

This breaks my heart.

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