Monday, July 22, 2013

I am one of the lucky ones

Last month, I did something quite phenomenal. Something incredible. Something outside the reach of billions of human beings.

I took a paid day off work and went to the dentist and the doctor.

The dentist visit was for my routine, six month cleaning. My teeth were cleaned and inspected for any decay or other problems. The doctor visit was for my quarterly blood test to check my A1C, glucose, cholesterol, and the like. I have diabetes, so the quarterly checks are important.

Together, these preventative visits make sure that I'm healthy and not developing any serious problems. While I had some out of pocket expenses, both were supplemented by my health insurance. Maintaining a monitor on my health is far cheaper than waiting until I fall ill. It's cheaper for me, cheaper for the insurance company, and cheaper for society as a whole.

What made these things extraordinary of course is that billions of human beings don't have regular access (or even any) access to dentists and doctors, much less for routine visits like the ones I made. Billions of humans also don't have the ability to take off paid days of work. If they take time off work, they don't make any money. This is, of course, a tragedy.

Incredibly, this isn't just a third world problem. Tens of millions of Americans, citizens of the richest country in the world, are in the same, bad situation. For those who can find the time or money to take off, with no health insurance, preventative visits are a pipe dream.

America is the only advanced, industrialized country in the world to have no legally mandated annual leave. That means millions of Americans can't go see their doctor or dentist without missing work, which means losing income. These also tend to be the lowest paid Americans, which makes it doubly problematic. American worker productivity has risen 400% since 1950, and millions of Americans have not benefited from that at all. In fact, the situation for American workers has gotten significantly worse over the past 40 years.

This is the preferred outcome for conservatives. They've been doing everything they can to shift income upwards, to crush worker's rights, kill unions who would represent them, destroy workers' legal remedies, and prevent new remedies from being made into law. A conservative judiciary has been making it harder for workers to sue when treated badly and gutted laws against malfeasance.

As for healthcare, the war against Obamacare (they just voted to repeal it for the 38th time) isn't a war to restore sanity to government policy or protect Americans. It's a war to deprive tens of millions of Americans from affordable health care. If successful, a repeal would increase the deficit, cost the country billions of dollars in lost productivity, and kill some people who won't be able to go to the doctor early enough to be treated effectively. But again, that's a feature for them, not a bug.

We live in a society of plenty. We could easily provide free healthcare for all Americans and mandate paid leave. It wouldn't kill jobs or the economy. In fact, it would be economically beneficial because poor healthcare and no paid leave means tens of billions of dollars of lost productivity every year. Yes, Republicans would rather lose those billions, than move forward on these two humanitarian policies. If you're a conservative, you should ask yourself why.

As for me, I'm okay. I just wish everyone else was too.

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