Healthcare in this country is not meant for those who are sick.
If you’re in good health, you are credited for that good health. The models in ads for health insurance and pharmaceuticals are smiling. All of them, pictured with good teeth, shiny and white, of course. You’re viewed as deserving, as lucky, as having done the right things in your life to have this good health.
Ads show the models playing tennis, rock climbing or out enjoying a leisurely walk in a park. I look at those photos and realize I don’t do any of these things for a variety of reasons. Growing up I had to work after school and take care of my siblings. No time for tennis or rock climbing for me. Now as a disabled older woman, a walk in the park would be impossible—and scary.
Good health for me meant I could work harder and longer hours. It meant I could lift heavier boxes or bigger bags of laundry. It meant I could stay up later and help my Mom or help my Dad. Good health meant I could take care of my extended family members. Good health meant I could do double shifts at the restaurant. And finally, good health was not something I’d have my whole life so I better enjoy it now and use it all up.
Good health was not something I’d have my whole life so I better enjoy it now and use it all up
My family has been mostly unlucky. One brother is dead from a drug overdose after giving up the wait for another kidney transplant. The other brother is in early dementia, is a chain smoker and an alcoholic. Diabetes runs high in our family, and so does cancer. My dad, a migrant farmer kid, played in fields saturated with DDT. My mom is a domestic violence survivor with her own private scars.
So you can see that by the time we show up at the doctor’s office, we are nothing like the family in the photo. Many working class families are just like us. I’ve come to see that the privilege of being healthy doesn’t come to those with no money, minimum wage jobs, or lacking English skills. In fact, good health doesn’t come cheap.