Health care IS an anti-racist issue.
(And feminist, and anti-classist, and pro-GLBTQI, and anti-ablist, and so on. It’s a human right.)
Apologies for being so quiet lately, ya’ll. I’m up to my ears in writing books and writing grants to help me keep writing books and writing resumes to help me get the grants to help me keep writing books. But I’ve also been dealing with some bullshit.
See, I’m one of the 25 million Americans who are underinsured. I have health insurance — pay $350/month for it — as part of a new policy that I switched to back in January when I quit my 9 to 5 to become a freelancer/fulltime writer for awhile. I’m pretty healthy and only in my thirties, but I have a family history of fibroids (like 50% of black women). So every year when I get my annual physical, I also get an ultrasound to check for those. This year the test showed small fibroids — too small to worry about, really, not even requiring treatment, though I need to keep an eye on them in case they grow. No biggie, I thought; my doctor’s efforts at preventative care had done what they were supposed to do, and detected a potential problem early enough that I can fix it easily if necessary. Health care at its best.
Except, not. See, because I’ve been on my health insurance policy for less than a year, my fibroids are automatically considered a preexisting condition — even though I didn’t have them on the last ultrasound I got, less than a year before. It doesn’t matter if they actually are preexisting, see; what matters is that they were discovered before I’d paid 12 months’ worth of premiums. For some insurers, it’s 18 months. This is a common feature of health insurance policies; even if you’re paying your premiums during that time, even if you can prove you didn’t have the problem before the 12-month period, if you come up with anything worse than a head cold, you’re fucked. Which is why I’m now looking at a bill for $3000 for the preventative ultrasound.
Like I said, bullshit.
I’m fighting this, of course, and hopefully will succeed in getting them to cover my care. And I’m praying daily that the fibroids don’t grow and nothing else major goes wrong with any part of my body in the next few months. Because even though I’m paying through the nose for health care, I now know I’m not really covered.
Now, multiply my situation several million, because 25 million Americans are underinsured and I know full well I’m not the only brown one of those. Consider the number of us who are disproportionately affected by poverty, and compare that against the fact that health insurance premiums keep rising by as much as 150% per decade while wages remain essentially flat (note: PDF). Consider how little media attention, medical research, and government funding is accorded to health issues that primarily or disproportionately affect people of color, like sickle cell anemia. Consider also how the intersection of race with gender or other factors, and the lingering effects of colonialism, cause literal epidemics of poor health care, addiction and/or violence in some PoC communities, like ongoing rape and involuntary sterilization among American Indian women. (See also unusualmusic’s insightful linkspams on women in prison, intersexed women of color, and more.)
This is killing us. It is killing us. The current health care system of the US kills people across the board, yes. But it’s killing more of us. And it’s leaving a greater proportion of us in abject poverty or lifelong trauma if we survive.
So we, especially, need to fight back.
I just joined this group, which along with similar groups is trying to organize protests in support of a single-payer plan. They recently sponsored a series of protests in New York at the headquarters of several insurance companies. They’re using the techniques of the Civil Rights Movement — sit-ins, civil disobedience, etc. But I couldn’t help noticing that all of the protesters’ faces, as shown in videos , were white.
WTF? I don’t know if this was yet another case of a white-dominated progressive group neglecting to reach out to PoC or what — but fuck it, we need to be out there. Whether you’re for single payer or a public option or just some kind of reform that doesn’t suck, whether with the group I mentioned or any other, we need to be the ones storming the gates at Blue Cross and United Health. We need to be writing to our representatives and Senators, and even President Obama. We need to be in the fucking street. We are dying, and as usual, it’s up to us to save ourselves.
So do something. Join a group, donate some money, write some letters, march in protest. Seriously. Fight back.