10 September 2012

Health Care Reform -- Justice for All

The Oxford English Dictionary's earliest citation for "pre-existing condition" is from 1947.  Here it is:
Reno (Nevada) Evening Gaz. 14 Mar. 7/1   Many people with disabilities that formerly were not insurable can now secure this new health service and have these chronic pre-existing conditions removed or repaired.
This appears to refer to the creation of Britain's National Health Service, which occurred in 1947.  The "removal" or "repair" of pre-existing conditions sounds reassuring:  Get health care, get fixed.  Kind of like taking the car to the garage and getting a new air filter.

The  "pre-existing condition" -- a category for a person with an on-going illness -- is a new notion.  Disability theorists have long been pointing out that much about "disability" is socially conditioned, either in the material conditions that block movement (e.g. stairs for a person using a wheelchair) or in the social conditions that define people by abilities to perform certain physical tasks.

The "pre-existing condition," on the other hand, is a legal term, created by profit-bearing insurance companies for the specific purpose of avoiding giving coverage to individuals who might actually incur claims, and therefore reduce profits.

If not for emergency rooms, I'd be dead.  So would The Offspring.  But I might have been taken out of the gene pool before I got around to bearing The Offspring, so the question might be moot.  So you might argue that modern medicine, not insurance law, created The Pre-Existing Condition, by letting me live.

If you're healthy, if everyone in your family is healthy, then you get to go through life not worrying about these things.  Not worrying that if you lose your job, you'll lose your health insurance, and your ability to pay for medications or devices (manufactured by large, profit-bearing pharmaceutical corporations) that go on keeping you alive.

But for those of us who take those medications daily, twice daily, every pill and every puff is a reminder of mortality delayed.  Health care reform is a harbinger of hope that even if I have to keep taking pills, I can stop worrying that if I get too sick to work, I'll lose my health insurance. 

If you believe that society has no obligations to care for the young, the weak, the frail, and the old, then you probably think health insurance reform is government excess.  But if you think health care is a right and not an privilege, something everyone should have access to, not just those wealthy enough to pay, then health insurance reform is essential to a just and fair society.