Healthcare is a big deal. It's probably a bigger deal these days than it's ever been. Or maybe that's just my age talking. Maybe it's always been a big deal but, for most of my life, I just didn't pay attention to any talk about healthcare. Certainly, young people, unless something bad just happens to happen, don't give healthcare a second thought. They just assume the health part and don't stop to think about it.
Which is not an indictment against the youth of today. I certainly didn't think about healthcare, ever, until after I had kids. Or, really, until we were trying to have kids and my wife almost died from a miscarriage. But, certainly, once we had kids, it was a big deal.
There was this period when we didn't have any health coverage. I was working in a church making next to nothing and with no health benefits. Our coverage came through my wife's job, then her department was dissolved, and we were suddenly without any kind of health insurance.
Which would have been fine except that my younger son, maybe a year and a half at the time, got sick. Not a little sick, either. He was running a temperature of 105-106, and we were freaking out, because we couldn't get it to come down. And, well, no one wanted to see us.
The first day he was sick was the last day of our coverage, so I took him to his doctor. They were worthless, gave us some ibuprofen, and told us to keep an eye on him and bring him back the next day if he wasn't better. The second day was when his temperature topped 105. I called them about an appointment, but they said they wouldn't see him because we didn't have coverage anymore. I took him to the office anyway (remember, freaking out), and they actually locked the door when they saw me coming in with him and told me to go away.
We ended up in the emergency room where they left me sitting with him for hours because, well, no coverage. They didn't want to see him either, but they couldn't actually tell me to leave, so, instead, they let me set with him while he burned up in my lap. For HOURS. While I sat and worried about brain damage. [This is the son who is super smart, the one I did the education series on a while back, so you might think, "Well, it seems like everything was fine with that, then," but I sometimes wonder if he would have been even smarter if they hadn't left him with that fever for so long.] Eventually, I kind of forced someone to bring him something for the fever, and, hours after that, a doctor finally saw him.
Not that they offered any better advice or anything to do other than keep his fever down. We didn't take him back again and, a couple of days later, he got better. We still don't know what he had. However, we did get a bill from the hospital for over $1000.00 when he saw a doctor for less than 30 minutes and all they did was give him some liquid ibuprofen and leave us sitting around for something like eight hours.
And that's what it's like not to have health insurance.
And it's the kind of thing homeless people deal with all the time when they're sick, because they have no other alternative. They have no other alternative because there is this sort of endemic belief that "those" people don't deserve healthcare. I mean, why should we pay their medical bills when they're just going to end up back out on the street with their drugs and their alcohol and sick again. They should just get it together, get themselves jobs, earn their keep, and be worthwhile human beings, right? Then they can pay their own medical bills. After all, that's what the rest of us do, isn't it?
Well, actually, no, but I'm not going to get into that, right now.
I'm also not going to try to convince you from any kind of humanitarian argument about how providing healthcare to people is "the right thing to do." Clearly, that argument has not worked and the people (Republicans) who do not want to provide universal healthcare are not going to be swayed by it.
So let's take one brief, very practical look at dealing with healthcare for the homeless.
One of the issues with the way we do healthcare is what are called "super users." This is the small percentage of users who use the system way more than everyone else, essentially using the most dollars from the system. These users tend to be older, chronically ill, and, yes, frequently homeless with no kind of healthcare coverage. This means that when a hospital sees one of these people (through the emergency room because they have no other option), the hospital passes on the costs to everyone else. I don't have the exact figures in front of me and I'm not going to look them up right now, but let's say (because this is a pretty close to correct number) these people spend 90% of all healthcare dollars.
There are two solutions to this issue:
1. Give everyone healthcare.
But let's toss that one away because, obviously, with the Republicans in charge, that's not gonna happen. (Why would they ever provide anything to anyone who "doesn't deserve it"?) But, also, that doesn't keep those same people from being super users. It does lower the cost of them being super users, and that's good, but it doesn't address they actual issue.
2. Get rid of the homeless issue by giving them free housing and food.
Oh, no, I hear you already. If we're not going to give them healthcare, why would we give them housing?! That's crazy talk!
And, yeah, I agree that it sounds like crazy talk. BUT!
There have already been some experiments done with this and, from just a practical standpoint, this is the most efficient way to eliminate unwanted healthcare costs. See, just from providing housing to homeless people, it automatically makes them healthier people! No kidding. There are lots of whys and wherefores of this and you're free to go do the research if you'd like, but I'm going to let that statement stand and you can go do the research yourself. [Trust me; it's good for you.] For those with chronic conditions (like diabetes, which is very common), it allows for preventative healthcare (because we know where they are) rather than always having to resort to emergency care. Preventative care is always cheaper.
But what abut the housing costs? Sure, there are housing costs, but there are plenty of options for low coast housing, and all of them cost much, much less than what is currently being spent on healthcare for the same pool of people. Much, much less. Hundreds of millions of dollars less, even with the food costs.
"But they don't deserve it!"
Sure, and why don't you continue to stab yourself in the nose to spite your face, because now you're at the point of choosing to keep these people homeless as nothing more than punishment, and that's totally on you.
Look, if nothing else, you wouldn't have to complain about the homeless cluttering up your streets anymore. It's a win-win. Maybe even a win-win-win.