"That which is not good for the swarm, neither is it good for the bee." Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations
Marcus Aurelius, wrote those words in 167 A.D. The corollary is, of course, that to neglect the needs of the bee is to neglect the needs of the swarm. In other words, we'll all sink or swim together.
Nowhere is that more evident than in matters of public health.
The U.S. is the only first world country on earth that does not provide free, universal health care to every citizen. In the case of a deadly contagion, such as ebola, that failure to provide universal, affordable health care may have disastrous consequences. It is, after all, difficult to control a disease when the people who are infected don't seek prompt medical attention because they fear the expense.
Understandably, people who don't have medical insurance put off going to the doctor for as long as possible. Typically, they don't show up in emergency rooms or a doctor's office until they are very, very sick.
And, as is suspected by many in the case of the Liberian man who died of ebola this week in Texas, when uninsured people show up in emergency rooms, they are more likely to be refused admission and sent back into their respective communities to infect others.
With diseases like ebola, lack of adequate and timely medical attention to anyone is, in fact, a danger to everyone. Sick people need to be identified and isolated as early as possible to prevent disease from spreading.
But realistically, how likely is that when sick people can't afford to go to the doctor?
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It's true that Obamacare has improved affordability of health insurance for a whole lot of folks. But it's not a panacea. Obamacare doesn't cover everyone.
In Tennessee, where I live, in a fit of civic depravity, Governor Haslam refused the federal Medicaid expansion, leaving an estimated 200,000 Tennesseans without any medical coverage at all. Perversely, his refusal of the Medicaid expansion also blocked the influx of an estimated $60,000,000 annually of new federal money into the state of Tennessee.
What kind of stupidity is that? Well, in a word, it's unChristian stupidity.
Quoting St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, " And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular."
As I read that, it's my understanding that St. Paul is saying that we are all, like it or not, connected to each other, like individual cells in a larger body. And when one part of the body suffers, the entire body is afflicted. Seems like something we should all think about, especially these days, don't you think?
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Epidemics have come and gone throughout human history: the Bubonic Plague, Spanish flu and AIDS all come to mind.
Ebola may or may not be the next pandemic. Who knows? But one thing's for sure: the little bugs and pathogens that infect us are getting smarter and evolving faster than our ability to fight them. We're bound to face an epidemic sooner or later.
I think our best hope for maintaining good public health in the U.S. will be to provide universal, not for profit health care to every man, woman and child in the country. I don't think it will be necessary to reinvent the wheel in order to do so either. Medicare has been in place for decades and it works beautifully. Why can't we expand Medicare to include every American who wants it?
We CAN afford to provide medical care to all of our citizens. We're the richest nation on earth. We have the money. The question is, do we have the will?
My opinion, take what you like, leave the rest.
Be Well and Good Luck,