Americans Are Going Bankrupt From Getting Sick, The Atlantic, 15 March 2019, Olga Khazan
Doc Bills = Bankruptcy
“In April 2016, Venus Lockett was about to give a speech at an event she’d volunteered for near her home in Atlanta. She was already stressed. The previous night, she had stayed up late making her presentation, and then deleted it by mistake. As she stepped up to the podium to give her remarks, she noticed that her words were slurring. She tried to speak into the mic, but the words that came out didn’t make sense.
A friend walked up and grabbed Lockett by the arm. A few people, noticing that something wasn’t right, walked Lockett to another room and called an ambulance. Lockett, who was 57 at the time and uninsured, didn’t know whether she could or should refuse the ambulance ride or decide which hospital it would take her to.”
Through the WI Lens
If you continued reading, you’ll know that Venus had suffered a mini-stroke, made a full recovery, but found herself landed a month later with a $26,000 bill from the hospital – where she had stayed a single night for ‘observation’. “Medical debt is a uniquely American phenomenon, a burden that would be unfathomable in many other developed countries,” the author observes. She examines the causes and consequences of the debts that drive many uninsured people to financial ruin, noting along the way that the costs are often quite arbitrary, while the safety nets designed to catch them – such as Medicare – also operate with a degree of randomness. This raises numerous points:
• Medical debt represents a double whammy to individual wellbeing, with ill health exacerbated by financial problems and the stress that causes.
• This piece emphasises why universal access to healthcare is so important, whether that be through the NHS or other arrangements.
• One of the best things any organization can do to ensure the wellbeing of its employees is to provide health insurance where needed – which may be to fill the gaps in the state system.
• The private sector will increasingly have a role to work alongside the public sector in healthcare – especially in preventative measures – but it must not be allowed to undermine existing provision.
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”
“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”
“The same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among black Americans with Covid-19,” Maimuna Majumder, a Harvard epidemiologist working on the Covid-19 response, tells Vox.
The take-out from this? Wellbeing cannot exist at a more elevated level without our basic needs being met.