I Breathe, Therefore I Need Political Asylum
In the last 50 years I have been born, had vaccinations, contracted the flu, the measles, the mumps, and malaria. I’ve broken toes, dislocated bones. I’ve had nearsightedness corrected by a laser that didn’t relieve my need for old-age reading glasses. I have had migraines, a concussion, and a cracked skull. Three knee surgeries. I’ve given birth, suffered depression, been diagnosed with ADHD, gone through physical therapy, mental therapy, hydrotherapy. I’ve explored the feisty Korean spa scrub. I’ve had white spots spotted on my brain that may be nothing at all, or may be a sign of early MS or White Matter Disease. I’ve had cancer. I’ve had radiation.
But really, my main problem is that I breathe. And the very act of breathing means I am susceptible to disease, injury, procreation, cell overgrowth, eye deterioration and an annual bout of flu. That is to say, normal human deteroration in the long march from birth to death.
I breathe. It is my primary pre-existing condition.
If you breathe, it’s yours too. If you breathe, you will, eventually, become ill or contract disease.
How is it possible, then, if we here in America all breathe, if we are all susceptible and more or less equal in the eventuality of disease or illness as we age, if we are equally responsible as citizens to pay our individual taxes for the benefit of the whole, if we all live in this, the richest country in the world... how is it possible that our Congress would consider the “American Health Care Act” that recently passed the House of Representatives? An act that would give only some of this country's citizens access to quality life-enhancing health care while potentially pushing others toward bankruptcy or worse? The act now to be considered by the Senate would leave millions - largely older Americans and those with long-term illness - at risk. I am one of those millions. So are my kids. Maybe yours are too.
Under this legislation, it is quite possible that I would be denied coverage for care related to breast cancer. But wait, you say! Didn’t Donald Trump swear pre-existing conditions would be covered in his repeal-and-replace Obamacare mandate? Yes, he did. He's said a lot of things.
However, in order to get the current legislation out of the House, lawmakers added a measure that would allow states to seek federal waivers to ignore certain mandates of the act. Basically, they took away the mandate that would block insurance companies from charging people more or denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
Even if this out for insurers was not part of the bill and my cancer were not considered a pre-existing condition, I could be denied life-prolonging medical care because this act would underfund Medi-Cal to the tune of several billion dollars.
That’s right, despite the beautiful shelter my partner provides me in lovely Venice, Los Angeles, I am enrolled in the state Medicaid program (Medi-Cal). Why? Because I qualify for it. Insurance obtained through the state healthcare exchange is based on monthly income, not where you live.
I am a self-employed service provider and have been for many years. I take stellar care of my clients, I’ve helped thousands of people make a healthy transition from pregnancy to new parenthood, I pay my taxes, I contribute to society and while I am doing that, I live paycheck to paycheck just like millions of other people threatened by this legislation. Like them, I no longer have a house to mortgage, stocks to cash, an IRA to pillage. I spent a good portion of my saved retirement covering childcare, therapy services for a child with a disability, and other regular family needs. I’m now helping to put one kid (and soon two) through college. I spend what meager money I make taking care of my children so the government does not have to.
I simply cannot afford monthly health insurance premiums — especially those that will not cover my chief health concern or whose deductibles make the point of having insurance almost moot.
As Congress argues about repealing Obamacare, I feel the dangerous sting of cortisol rising in my blood. Cortisol, the anxiety-fed stress hormone that, research has proven time and again, causes disease, even cancer.
It feeds a very real fear: this act would increase the chances of my dying prematurely of a 98 percent curable disease.
if the legislation passes as is, I may be faced with paying nearly $700 a month for medication alone. I'd have to choose between medication and my child's college tuition.
You might wonder why I am politicking in a travel-focused blog.
Here’s why: Our recent travels brought home to me just how much better we could and should be. It made clear that we DO have what we need to make health care universally, equally available to every person in our country, here legally or not. Our current leaders simply lack the political will to say no to money-grubbing insurance industry and other business interests, put people before profit, and make it happen.
All over the world there are countries that are getting health care right. Or are at least moving in the direction of ensuring that ALL citizens have access to the same high quality health care no matter their financial status. In fact, 58 of the 196 countries of the world have some version of universal health care.
We were recently in England where our friends explained that if they fall sick they simply see a doctor or head to the hospital. No charge, no bill, no insurance co-pay.
“It’s that easy?” I asked, incredulous.
“Yes. That's why we pay taxes.”
We heard the same story in France, Malta, Spain, Portugal. A friend in Paris told us about when he suffered a serious heart condition. He was sent for surgery with a renowned surgeon in the most prestigious hospital in Paris. Free. Every aspect of care.
People in these countries do not live in fear that a major illness or disease will bankrupt them — and they are dismayed that we must worry about these things.
Yes, they, like all of us, know they will die some day. But when they do, they will do so knowing they had the best shot at the longest life possible because they had access to quality health care.
While each country is different, all 58 of the countries below provide some version of universal health care as defined by the World Health Organization:
Andorra, Antigua, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Moldova, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Panama, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, UAE, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Venezuela.
Note that almost the entirety of the developed world and all First World nations except the United States have free access to health care for all citiznes.
According to the Atlantic Monthly,
"What's astonishing is how cleanly the green and grey separate the developed nations from the developing, almost categorically. Nearly the entire developed world is colored, from Europe to the Asian powerhouses to South America's southern cone to the Anglophone states of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The only developed outliers are a few still-troubled Balkan states, the Soviet-style autocracy of Belarus, and the U.S. of A., the richest nation in the world."
It is unfortunate that the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees which draws up the rules of political asylum does not include “medical” on its list of things one could be considered persecuted for by a government. That list includes: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
Asylum was created for people who live under the threat of persecution from their own government — that is, their fear are justified in that the acts of their government target them and could cost them their lives.
I don’t know about you, but today I feel my life is under serious threat by a president and Congress willing to pass legislation that may keep me from getting the care needed to continue to fight or prevent a treatable disease — or whatever else aging brings.
I know I am not alone,
Hmmm. Maybe that gives us all "membership in a particular social group."