Healthcare is as much an issue of health and survival as it is an issue of economic security and freedom. Survival has always depended upon the ability of people to find sufficient water, food, and shelter, but modern society has shielded the citizens of developed countries from the harshness of nature and made survival dependent on the ability to access and participate in the modern economy. The greatest benefit of modern society is the ability of individuals to move beyond the daily struggle of survival to an existence in which personal wellbeing and comfort become the focus of life. To benefit from modern society, however, people must be able to access modern amenities like healthcare.
A lack of healthcare can kill. In terms of survival, a lack of access to healthcare can mean death in the face of a random accident or illness while a lack of regular healthcare is likely to result in a shorter lifespan. Because most people rely on health insurance to make healthcare affordable, public policy shifts that impact either healthcare or health insurance industries determine whether people can access quality healthcare on a regular basis. For people whose socioeconomic standing make healthcare an unaffordable luxury, their health and financial wellbeing are at risk. Given employers and government provide health insurance for the majority of the insured, a lack of insurance can also translate into income inequality as well as a lack of economic security and freedom.
Not only do government efforts to reform the healthcare and health insurance industries impact nearly a sixth of of the US economy, they also impact the incomes of individuals. For Americans earning an median income of around $52,000, healthcare benefits, which average $6,000 a year for individuals and$18,000 a year for families, can account for more than a tenth to a quarter of their income. For those earning the medium income of 90% of Americans, which is around $32,000, health benefits can account for a sixth to a third of their income. For those earning near minimum wage, health benefits can represent more than half of their income. A lack of health benefits, therefore, translates into a massive income deficit.
When policymakers even discuss changes to the health insurance and healthcare industries, the financial costs alone make it a very serious and personal issue. Threatening the livelihood and health of hundreds of millions of American makes healthcare the hottest of hot bottom issues. When the financial security and freedom of individuals is threatened, it tends to provoke passionate and angry responses. Backlash against Republican, and Democratic, healthcare reform, however, represents the need for greater economic opportunity in the face of growing income inequality. Healthcare has awoken public discontent, but it is only part of the need to address spreading poverty and growing economic disparity in an economy that is concentrating wealth while starving the broader economy of opportunity.
In the Twentieth Century, the Civil Rights Movement forced government to protect the interests and freedoms of minorities and women. There must be a new Civil Rights Movement to address the Civil Rights issue of the Twentieth Century, which is defined by the loss of economic security and freedom. In the Twenty-First Century, the Civil Rights issue is income inequality and the lack of access to viable financial opportunities faced by people from all walks of life. Backlash against healthcare reform is just the tip of spear, but it is waking the sleeping dragon. Healthcare insurance would not matter, if people could afford to outright pay for healthcare. People must take the passion they feel about healthcare reform and channel it into the need to address their broader economic interests. People must demand solutions that foster the opportunities they need to achieve financial security and freedom.
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