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Editor’s note: This opinion is part of a point/counterpoint opinion feature about public option. Read the counterpoint, “We just can’t afford it” by College Republicans Chairman Gregory Carlson.
Our health care system in the U.S. is broken. It is failing millions of Americans every day. There are over 35 million uninsured citizens of the United States, according to the US Census Bureau. These are people, people who have to face the horrifying dilemma—when they sprain something, cut themselves, or get a bad cough—of whether or not they can afford to go to the doctor.
These aren’t illegal immigrants; they are ordinary U.S. citizens. These are people like my brother, who is 24 years old and has a 1-year-old son with his long-time girlfriend. My brother has dyslexia and has suffered from depression and severe shyness in the past. He struggled all through high school, finally choosing to get his GED instead of continuing with public education.
It took him a long time to find a job; he currently works two jobs, both with the YMCA. Unfortunately, despite giving him raises, the YMCA won’t make him a full time employee, which saves them from having to pay for benefits for another person. So he is uninsured. He doesn’t make much money and neither does his girlfriend. He’s struggling to pay his bills on time, and insurance just isn’t something he can consider right now.
Unfortunately what that means is that when he got an infection in his finger, he didn’t go to the doctor, because he couldn’t afford a doctor’s visit, and when that infection got just a little bit worse and when a red streak appeared traveling from his finger up his arm to his shoulder, decisions had to be made.
It was Labor Day when that happened and he had to try and make the call about whether he should wait or go to the emergency room. Going to the emergency room would mean thousands of dollars in fees for my brother, thousands of dollars that he couldn’t afford. The other option was waiting and hoping that the blood poisoning, which can kill someone in a matter of days, didn’t progress too far.
He waited and while he did, so did all of us who loved him. So did my mom and dad, who had a serious discussion about if they should just take him to the emergency room even though it might mean not being able to make the mortgage payment for the month. So did I, who wondered if there wasn’t something more I could do. So did his girlfriend, his 1-year-old son sitting happy and unaware on her lap.
How is it OK that someone like my brother, someone who is working hard, who is trying and struggling to pay his bills, has to make this kind of choice? How can we countenance someone having to choose between making sure that they’re safe and OK and being able to pay the bills?
These are choices that people are being forced to make every day, and fortunately for my brother his choice worked out OK. He was able to go to urgent care the next day, which cost him around $500 total, a price that was still more than he could afford but much less than the cost of going to the ER.
In the end, the reason we need the public option is because my brother could be your brother, your father, your mother or you. Our economy is struggling, and even if it wasn’t, people lose their jobs all the time. Yeah, maybe they’ll get another job in a few months or a year, but once the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act runs out, they have no health insurance, and if they get sick or injured in this window they are forced into a decision that only offers bad outcomes.
Chances are you’ll get lucky and won’t get blood poisoning during a time when you don’t have insurance. But the question is, what happens if you do?
The counter argument to all this is generally that the government sucks at a running a business. And although the government definitely has its flaws in producing well-running businesses, the bottom line still remains that people deserve coverage. My nephew should not ever have had to worry that maybe his dad wouldn’t come home because he waited too long to get treatment for fear of going bankrupt.
I urge you to write to your representatives and urge them to support the public option in health care. This shouldn’t be a matter of right versus left; it’s a matter of doing what our country needs—now.
Contact Colorado Sen. Mark Udall and urge him to support the public option.
Contact Colorado Sen. Michael Benett and urge him to support the public option.
If you’re out-of-state, find your senators and contact them.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Ellie Bean at Beanee@colorado.edu.