Last night I received a text from a friend who needed to cancel an appointment we had for this morning. He explained that he was way too sick to meet up and urged me to get a flu shot as soon as possible. This advice, coupled with the growing concern in the national media over what seems like a nasty strain of the seasonal virus, prompted me to go down the street to Rite Aid and get my first ever flu shot. Being the son of a historian of medicine, I also spread the word by encouraging others to get a shot over facebook (herd immunity= GOOD).
At the Rite Aid however I was faced with the ridiculously idiotic way in which this country “manages” our health.
I am 26 years old lucky enough to be married to someone who is eligible for private insurance from her place of work. The insurance is one of the major carriers, who joyfully collects their co-pay every time Molly and I do something medically related (which is thankfully rare). We do not screw around with our health and do not believe in taking chances with it.
While at the Rite Aid I picked up my wife’s oral contraception, which is now free from a co-pay thanks to a hard fought and for some reason (Fascist Catholic Bishops) controversial provision in the Affordable Care Act. I also thought that the Flu Shot, the most recognizable form of preventative healthcare for adults would also be either covered by my insurance or, given the current crisis, be free. I was wrong in this assumption and had to pay $29.99.
Now to some people I’m sure that paying thirty bucks to hopefully avoid spending a week or two suffering in bed/dying is a no brainer. However our household income depends on my wife’s salary and a small stipend from the federal government while I go to school. The stipend has not come in yet, Molly doesn’t get paid until next week, and the holidays wiped out our savings. In other words we are fucking broke- as in zero money to spend on things that are not absolutely essential.
Luckily for me my parents allowed me to borrow the small sum of money necessary to cover this expense, but this is a luxury that most people my age do not have. Most people like myself in this situation would probably roll the dice as there is only a relatively small chance that a young healthy person will become really sick from this virus. The inevitable result of this sort of predicament is the exponential spread of the disease as even asymptomatic individuals pass along the flu to everyone the come in contact with. An incredibly destructive and more or less completely preventible disruption to life and work in our society occurs because we as a country still think of individual health as a marketable commdity.
This is fucking dumb.
As you go out to dinner tonight, think about the people handling your food. They probably make just barely enough to cover their own food, rent, and other “necessary” bills. Unless they are unionized, they either have no employer provided healthcare or have a worthless and expensive private plan (and one that might disappear as many enterprisingly evil companies are trying to skirt the ACA). Think of the masses of people who your waiter, food runner, busboy, and line cooks come into contact with everyday. At some point those people will be exposed to the flu (or something else) and become very sick. As their job does not provide them with the resources to properly treat the disease nor the “benefit” to take a few days off to recover at home, these individuals will be forced to go to work. Your Caesar Salad will come with croutons and a delightful raspberry and influenza infused vinaigrette.
People will die from this flu and from a host of other diseases that could have been managed through a socialized and centrally managed healthcare system. This is not what “freedom is all about” no matter what the idiotic Ron Paul acolytes (or their enablers in the Republican Leadership) want you to think. This is downright suicidal.
So this weekend, get a flu shot and this year support efforts to unionize our workforce and to expand medical access to everyone in this country. And if any of your friends or relatives start blabbering on like Jenny McCarthy about “vaccine dangers” strenuously tell them to shut the fuck up.