On the way to work this morning, Hanna and I were discussing how utterly nonsensical and frustrating the anti-healthcare folks are. First they didn’t want government-supported, single-payer healthcare. So the Obama administration patched together something using private insurers. And now they’re pissed about that. Dahlia Lithwick, as usual, highlights the inanity:
It’s always a bit strange to hear people with government-funded single-payer health plans describe the need for other Americans to be free from health insurance. But after the aggressive battery of questions from the court’s conservatives this morning, it’s clear that we can only be truly free when the young are released from the obligation to subsidize the old and the ailing. Justice Samuel Alito appears to be particularly concerned about the young, healthy person who “on average consumes about $854 in health services each year” being saddled with helping pay for the sick or infirm—even though, one day that will describe all of us. Or as Justice Antonin Scalia later puts it: “These people are not stupid. They’re going to buy insurance later. They’re young and need the money now.” (Does this mean that if you are young and you pay for insurance, Scalia finds you “stupid”?)
Read the whole thing over at Slate. Emphasis mine.
Apart from everything else that’s angry-making about the healthcare “debate,” I’m particularly appalled by the endemic ageism and ableism embedded in these arguments about how we shouldn’t have to pay for what other people need. As if those “others” (the sick, the infirm) aren’t actually us. And will never be us. Or, once we become the other we’ll be left out in the cold to cope with our ill-health all on our own.
The argument that young people don’t need healthcare services implies that youth per se = healthy. This is an idealization of youth that runs rampant in our culture, and it’s poisoning our collective consciousness by encouraging us to imagine that to be young is in itself a protection against ill-health. This is nonsense. I know plenty of young people, myself and my partner included, who need not only preventative care (so we hopefully won’t need more expensive care later), but also actual expensive care. Being young doesn’t protect you from physical infirmity, both organic and accidental. Young people get cancer. Young people have thyroid disorders. Young people get infections. Young people break bones, are involved in traffic accidents, must cope with sports injuries. Young people need dental work done, require eye care, need regular reproductive health check-ups (I just made my annual pelvic exam appointment last week).
This Friday I’ll be celebrating my 31st birthday. I know very few of my peers who haven’t already, in their relatively youthful lives, had need of medical services for all of these things. And who haven’t avoided desperately-needed medical care because they were temporarily un- or under-insured and couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket for that care.
As Lithwick points out, even if we experience a relatively healthful youth, we will all one day age and become infirm of body. There is a stunning arrogance and lack of self-awareness to the suggestion that those “others” who get sick and need medical care are the ones who much bear the burden of procuring those services. Seriously: Do certain Supreme Court Justices / conservative lawmakers actually believe they will never become ill/sustain an injury/need end-of-life care?
Once again, I am reminded of historian Gerda Lerner’s observation that “All of us, ultimately, will join one of the most despised and abused groups in our society–the old and the sick.”
There’s a conversation to be had about the financial burden of healthcare services, and whether the cost should be as high as it is. But that conversation should be separate from the conversation about individual healthcare needs, because when it comes to health, like our environment, we’re all in this together. There is no way to escape sickness, there is no way to prevent death. We will all experience physical suffering. We will all need medical care. And there is absolutely no way to reliably predict who will need what services and when.
It frightens me that the supposedly wise persons on the Supreme Court seem to have forgotten their own mortality.