Public Health and Private Healthcare

Public Health and Private Healthcare

By: Robert Scott

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views  and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser. 

A crisis has a way of focusing the mind. Whether it becomes a crisis for Edgefield or for merely for the world outside our county, the spread of Coronavirus – more correctly, COVID-19 – from China to here is providing an opportunity to review how we provide health care, and how we can provide it better: more effectively, more efficiently, and most important of all, more fairly.

The threat of an epidemic that has not arrived here, at least not yet, forces us to answer once again what according to Genesis is one of the oldest questions perplexing mankind: am I my brother’s keeper? The Bible answers the ethical and moral question in the affirmative: each of us has the duty to become the “keeper” of our brothers and sisters. This is especially true in a shrinking world of globalization, where more and more people qualify for inclusion in our metaphorical family.

With an epidemic, there are additional practical, even selfish reasons why we must be one another’s keepers. Who should be concerned with testing and treating that customer who is coughing next to you in line at Walmart? If she or he is beginning to experience flu symptoms, it only makes sense for us to encourage them to be tested, and if they test positive, to be treated. But what if that person is one of the thousands who were left without health insurance when South Carolina opted not to expand Medicaid coverage a few years ago, should that matter? If they cannot afford to be tested or treated without that insurance, should the answer be just not to worry about that? Leaving numbers of our fellow South Carolinians outside of Obamacare was argued by our local politicians as the only fiscally responsible action to take. Now that we can see that everybody’s health is intimately tied to our own, perhaps it is time to review and to reverse that decision. Can we do that this season, in spring of 2020?

And how about those migrant workers whom we all see arriving as peach harvest time approaches, should we be concerned about their health – and the health of their families, those who have brought families with them to Edgefield County? Does it matter whether those workers or their families are appropriately documented, if they are coughing as they stand next to you in line at Walmart? Should our message in Edgefield County be this: if you go to a doctor and your papers are not in order, then ICE may be called, and you may be detained and perhaps arrested. If you cannot afford the test or the time to recover, then your wages may be docked. How many people would that persuade just to “tough it out” and hope for the best?

Our American healthcare system has been described by some as the best in the world, and by others as profoundly unfair to the neediest among us. The emergence of COVID-19 is providing us all with an incentive to fix its shortcomings, and to do so now: for their sake, the neediest among us, yes; but for all our sake, as well. Our physical health – and our moral health – demand it.