It is an absolutely horrible state of affairs when a child dies from an infected tooth because the government rules on coverage are so complex, and care is so expensive, and unavailable. Yet at the same time, organizations are pushing for expanded care for bank robbers doing time in prison.
The mother of that child, who has to pay for the funeral from her meager salary; whose taxes subsidize the prison system; and who has to spend the rest of her life mourning the loss, is justified if she feels outrage. So should the rest of us.
In 2007, 15.3 percent of Americans were without health coverage (down from 15.8 percent in 2006, and the number without health insurance was 45.7 million. The number of Americans living in poverty in 2007 was 10.9 percent of the population, but the rate for children was 18.0 percent. Over 8 in 10 people without health insurance come from working families; the working poor.
We spend millions of tax dollars to maintain one of the most extensive prison systems in the industrial world, and as mentioned, organizations like the ACLU act as watchdogs to ensure that those incarcerated receive adequate medical and dental care. At the same time, as pointed out above, we seem incapable of providing adequate care for our kids. Students and other young people often have conditions that are untreated because of lack of insurance or other means. In the state of Oregon in 2006, for instance, it was estimated that there were 117,000 children with no health insurance. In an effort to highlight this problem, one of the state’s medical schools provided free treatment for 220 uninsured children on Smile Day, February 6, 2006; a laudable move, but a mere drop in the bucket.
Children with untreated health problems do poorly in school, and often develop conditions that carry over into adulthood. With an inadequate education, they are behind in the race for good jobs that might provide coverage, and the problems only grow.
President John F. Kennedy once said something along the lines of “a great country is evaluated not by how it treats its richest citizens, but how it cares for the poorest.” When judged by the standard, as a nation, we come up short of the mark. Vested economic interests and warped political ideology has delayed what is long overdue. It is past time to get beyond the rhetoric of ‘welfare queens,’ and to quit trumpeting the virtue of the free market system as excuses for not doing something about health care for all our citizens. When it comes to the health and welfare of our children, clearly the free market has failed.
Before you go to sleep tonight, ask yourself this question: “What kind of country treats its prisoners better than it treats its children?” Now, sleep on that thought, and, when you wake up tomorrow, make a decision to do something about it.