One of the problems with the on going health care debate is the lack of sexiness associated with it. There is no doubt that there is a serious health care crisis in this country and that poor people and people of color are the most effected and hurt by its shortcomings.
But we rarely get a chance to have serious debate about the inequities and the racism associated with the health care industry. Because, like social security and other complex government programs, the issues can be so difficult to grasp. It’s not like there is some famous white person in a public forum saying disparaging things about people of color. Or, some white police officer on the nightly news kicking some poor black man’s butt. That would be sexy racism, racism that’s tangible and obvious. Racism we can put a finger on, and that we can scream and protest about, because it’s right there for all of us to see it.
Recently, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour cut back Medicare access for the poor citizens in his fine state. As a result of this little stunt, Mississippi once again has the highest infant mortality rate in the country. And what race do you think most of those poor Mississippi infants belong to? This is a subtle form of racism, it’s health care racism, the non sexy type. When large pharmaceutical companies refuse to make certain drugs available to poor African countries or poor American citizens who clearly need it, make no mistake, there is a form of racism going on here as well. They are watching out for their bottom line, and not the welfare of other citizens, and I would argue that it’s because they don’t think that those citizens are relevant.
I live in the Philadelphia area, where I am sorrounded by such pharmaceutical giants as Smith Kline, Merck, and Astra Zeneca. I see up close and personal the type of wealth and power that these companies have and it’s scary. These companies make millions and millions of dollars from their drugs, but still do not make their drugs available to the people that really need it in our society. Unless of course, they are paying through the teeth into some type of health plan. These companies claim they need the millions of dollars for research. But the truth is, when these drugs finally come to market, they are not available for everyone. So the millions spent on research and development only benefit a certain segment of the American population.
I recently had a chance to look at Barack Obama’s health care plan, and although it was someone short on certain specifics, it was at least a start. His plan for a form of National Health Insurance Exchange is an interesting one. He creates a new health care insurer and seems to be abandoning Medicare all together. I think it’s good that it is a public plan which would allow everyone to buy in. Poor people, small business,large business etc. Of course I have some issues with it, because it doesn’t specify if the plan is mandatory or not. And, it seems to leave room for major insurance companies to slip in through the back door and negotiate for their own benefit. This is the plan as I see it, but maybe there is a Barackodite in the Spear that can put me in check about exactly what the plan entails.
I would also go a step further than Barack, and require it to be mandatory. And I would also put limits on what certain larger insurance companies can do. I would insist that cost remain below a certain threshold,so that it would truly be affordable to those who do not have the means to put allot of money into the plan. I would also make it available to certain agencies such as “Head Start”, and other community social groups.
Many of us are fortunate enough to buy into health plans via our employers, so our monthly contribution for full health coverage is minimal. But there are far too many people of color in this country living without proper health care. Many African Americans and people of color world wide are constantly denied proper health care and proper information, which has caused us as a people to have a shorter life expectancy than those in the majority population. There are other factors effecting our health as well, such as where we live, (Environmental racism, another non-sexy topic for another day)and the lack of proper funding for research with deceases that effect us as a people.
I am glad for the AfroSpear, which gives us a forum to talk about these non sexy issues. Issues which are so crucial to our survival as a race, but which are not being talked about by anyone else. Except of course maybe a few politicians who use it as a talking point to attract a certain block of voters.
Let’s keep health care and other issues such as environmental racism in our cross hairs. Because it we don’t, no one else will.