There’s an episode of Friends I’ve Always Thought Of: It’s an episode where Joey’s health insurance expires at the same time he develops a hernia. His storyline for the episode revolves around him looking for an acting job so that he will continue to be eligible for coverage provided by SAG (thank you to the unions!). His search is complicated by the extreme pain he is experiencing (again, hernia). Finally, he plays a dying man. Eventually, he received his insurance money back. In return, the episode was extremely dark, but it wasn’t framed that way. Viewers are not to be consistent with Joey. He is framed as a fool —his unscionedness is due to his own carelessness, not the result of a ruthless and intimate system. He ignored the letters; He’s around the café instead of looking for a job. When he looked for work, he found it almost immediately. The episode suggests that there’s always work — and insurance — for those who want it.
I wonder how Joey will fight in an epidemic when film and television production has ceased and 18 million Americans are suffering from unemployment. Maybe he’ll spend an episode or two persuading the group to pack up and move to Montreal (making the studio audience laugh when Joey tries to speak French).
My move to Canada is a liberal cliché and now that we are intently at the core of another presidential election, it starts again.
Or maybe I’m scheduled. Because in the last six months, all I can think of is to leave the United States somewhere—anywhere—with the health care of the entire population. My Google history is filled with government websites from different countries. (Unfortunately “Are you interested in naturalization a 34-year-old diabetic writer speaks monolingually?” Almost never one of the most frequently asked questions about immigration.) God help me, I even signed up for a Canadian after-school program.
My move to Canada is a liberal cliché and now that we are intently at the core of another presidential election, it starts again. If he wins again, I will definitely move to Canada. I personally — although I certainly consider Joe Biden to be less evil and fully intent on voting for him in November — a Biden victory does not make the prospect of staying in the United States less frightening to me, at least not when it comes to health care. Amid an uncontrolled epidemic (head not end nor end), Joe Biden remains frantically opposed to Medicare for All.
Ady Barkan, a tireless progressive health care activist with ALS, recently sat down with Biden and pressed him on whether he believed health care was a human right. Biden claimed that was true, but said that “depriving you of the right to have your own plan, I disagree.” Because you see, uncontrolled capitalism is also a human right.
A victory in Biden doesn’t make me see the prospect of staying in the United States much less frightening.
Biden has stated that his plan to address the horror inequalities of the U.S. health care system is to “protect and build upon Obamacare,” while offering a “public option, like Medicare.” A public option can help improve the hefty monthly premium plans on the exchange fee (my husband pays $800 a month for a plan with no out-of-network coverage), but it has no effect what so for the power giant insurers use when it comes to the people they cover. It’s no coincidence that on Super Tuesday when Biden made a big profit in winning the Democratic nomination, health insurers gained $48 billion in market value.
If mass unemployment and an epidemic literally won’t persuade Democrats to abandon their for-profit insurance lords, is there anything? Or is it time to admit that this country is only able to live for those with infinite financial resources?
Currently, I have insurance through my owner. But if the past few months have taught us anything, it’s a tougher employment condition than we previously imagined.
In the months before COVID-19 appeared in the news cycle, stories of diabetics dying from reduced insulin rations became a fixed factor on orthodox stores. Democratic politicians decry the embarrassing situation. Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz signed Alec Smith’s Insulin Affordability Act, which would provide a one-time, 30-day supply of insulin to residents who qualify in “urgent need” with a $35 co-payment. (The bill was named for a 26-year-old Minneapolis man who died of insufficient money to buy drugs.)
Earlier this month, a pharmaceutical industry group sued the state over the program. No compromise was found between profit and patient care. As long as health insurance and pharmaceutical companies remain for-profit industries, the American health care system will continue to fail Americans.
Moving to another country like Canada requires organization and luck and, yes, money. The fact that I can take it as a betrayal of my extreme privilege. But as someone who has a constant need for health care that is non-negotiable, it seems to be irresponsible not to consider it.
It’s a matter of life and death.