One of the Republican candidates — I don't remember who — said in answer to a comment for the audience, "No one in this country need go without medical care."
His challenger had expressed concern about the number of poor people in the U.S. who die each year because they can't afford go to a doctor. The candidate implied that anyone, no matter how impoverished, could go to an emergency room and not be turned away. That much is probably true.
He further implied that anyone who didn't avail himself of this right is ignorant, stupid or irresponsible, and that is not true. Furthermore, it shows just how out of touch that candidate is. Having some experience with the poor, I know a bit about how they handle their medical problems.
"I can't afford to get sick."
"It will go away in time."
"I'm still paying for the last time I had to go to the hospital. I can't go back again."
To be honest, some things do get better in time, and many cases of medical intervention probably aren't strictly necessary. On the other hand, people actually do die. I personally know at least two, one a young father whose wife and child were away. His appendix ruptured, and they found him dead on the bedroom floor.
The other was a woman who was struggling to make her living as a songwriter. She too died of a ruptured appendix.
Neither had any kind of health insurance. Every penny went to keeping their family or career afloat.
I personally sat with a woman with severe abdominal pain and tried to persuade her to let me take her to the emergency room. She was still trying to pay off her last hospital visit and refused to take on more debt. This time, fortunately, it was not appendicitis and the woman recovered.
Of course, there are other avenues for the poor. Recently a letter to a local paper spoke of a young man diagnosed with cancer. He had sought help from various public providers and charities to no avail, so he considered doing something that would send him to prison for a while so the state would attend to his medical needs.
We no longer have a draft in this country, but many men and women join the military to ensure themselves and their family of medical care. Not too bad a bargain until they come home injured and fall between the cracks.
The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that doesn't have universal medical coverage. I know the argument against "socialized medicine," whatever that means. Apparently we brand government programs "socialized" when they don't benefit us personally.
Other industrialized nations manage to meet their citizens' medical needs, at least to a greater degree than here in the U.S. How many times have you heard someone say, "Our medical system is broken?"
You also hear people say, "Our political system is broken. The government has made a mess of so many things, I certainly don't want them in charge of my health care." Understood.
What you don't hear from Republicans candidates is this: If we control the government, we will do a better job providing comprehensive medical care for everyone, not with a piecemeal system that incorporates all the various entities that complicate the system now. It will be a single-payer program because that is the most economical and efficient.
The single payer will have to be the government because anything else would be a corporate monopoly. But under our management, the system will be an open one where the patient chooses the doctor he wants to see. And because there is choice, the best doctors and best hospitals will get the best rating and be the best compensated. In effect, the public will manage competition, not various corporate boardrooms.
Convince me of that, and you will have my vote.
Joan King is a Sautee resident whose column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.