Working poor have to choose between health and a paycheck 

Medical Healing

I got sick last week. I never get sick, but when I do, I usually tolerate it well. I'm not into a lot of medications and prefer to go the natural route — life everlasting tea and chicken soup for colds, bed rest for everything else.

I didn't know what the heck I had contracted, but I had no strength, appetite, or stamina. Strangely, nothing hurt. For several days, it was all I could do to get to the bathroom. Having no appetite helped that out a lot.

After a few days, being sick became somewhat secondary. You see, I'm one of those millions of self-employed Americans who doesn't have the health insurance the presidential candidates keep talking about. For them, health insurance is a campaign plank, but in my world it could determine whether the bills get paid.

For the working poor, everything hinges on being able to go to work and earn a paycheck. Getting sick just gets in the way. If you're not bleeding or unconscious, you go to work.

Though the candidates' focus may be on health insurance, if they were serious about addressing the needs of the nation's working poor they'd deal with the reality that access to health care really isn't the issue.

Like I said earlier, you get sick enough, you'll find your way to some health care. And if you're sick enough, the systems already in place will provide the necessary health care. Of course, the more money you have the better the quality health care one receives, but that's another issue.

Last week I knew at some point I'd have to seek medical attention, but the more pertinent issue had become getting the bills paid. Friday a bill collector came knocking at the door. Despite whatever illness I had, I also had some financial obligations that weren't going away just because I was sick. Yeah there were some physical issues, but the economic pressure never let up.

It was abundantly clear that some basic necessities were on the line — food, clothing, and shelter. The greater objective became getting back to work rather than getting better. The deal isn't the access or availability of health care, but whether the working poor can take advantage of it.

I think if the presidential candidates or any of the other politicians who use buzzwords like health care to attract voters were serious about offering relief to the working poor they'd understand the health care thing is just a part of the package of needs that must be addressed if America's workforce ever is to become more healthy and productive.

But of course, our elected officials know that. Congress last year gave itself a raise rather than raising the national minimum wage. They understand the need for more money.

So there I was lying in bed thinking about sickness and money — more appropriately the lack of money — and I realized that until we restructure our economy, any discussion of health insurance really is political rhetoric. I don't expect the politicians will take up that debate though.

If American workers want health care they can use, we must fix Washington. To do that we must elect representation that goes beyond what we have now, a bunch of self-serving bastards.

A man should be able to get sick in peace.


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