CIVILesbianIZATION: Let’s Say "I Do" to Universal Health Care
Frequently, while at my local Target store filling a prescription, I encounter someone negotiating with the pharmacist to buy enough pills to get to the end of the week, when she or he plans to return - paycheck in hand - for the balance of the medicine. Sometimes the pharmacist can comply; sometimes she cannot. On occasion, I’ve stepped in and purchased a cheap prescription for my neighbor- especially when she has a sick child in tow.
It’s never an easy or comfortable situation. I don’t know the people; sometimes there’s a language barrier; no one wants to not be able to provide for his or her family; no one wants a stranger to highlight the situation; and I don’t want to be thanked profusely. Sometimes I’m simply next in line and want to get home myself.
I’m also deeply embarrassed to live in a country where people can’t afford medicine or health care.
I know that my 10- or 15-dollars here and there are not making a systemic difference, though, for a moment, they may help another human who lives in close proximity to me.
I’d like every congressional representative to come up to my Target store pharmacy on a busy weeknight with people negotiating prescriptions. Of course, there are many things that I want congressional representatives to see when it comes to healthcare. Mostly though, I want congressional representatives to see that health care in the United States should be available and affordable to every single person living here.
An outdated system
When I first came out, healthcare benefits for domestic partners was a daring and radical idea. People questioned the costs - to corporations and "the systems" - of delivering the benefits. Now, these questions and concerns seem outmoded; for many large corporations domestic partner benefits in health care is de rigeur. My current benefits come to me through my partner’s job.
And while domestic partner benefits in healthcare are important, they are quickly becoming outmoded. We need to question two fundamental structures in our society about healthcare. First, our healthcare delivery systems are primarily employer-based; second, they yoke people together in couples and families instead of providing for each individually. We need to change both structures.
Changing our healthcare delivery system to one that’s not employer-based would have enormous benefits for lesbian and gay people - as well as for all people in the United States. The employer-based system of health insurance is an outdated and expensive legacy- and one that’s taxing our economic growth.
Fortunately I don’t need to address the ills of this issue, because U.S. corporations are doing just that already. The growth in cost for health insurance is affecting businesses large and small- as well as our overall national economic growth, and something has to change. A move away from employer-based healthcare will benefit the LGBT community, even if it means a sunset for some of our early rights and benefits achieved through workplace organizing.
Treating healthcare as something provided to individuals - not to couples or families - will similarly lead to changes in the thinking that’s been prevalent over the past two decades, but it’s an improvement that can move us toward healthcare for all people living in the United States. Family benefits were the results of a policy derived from a particular moral and political agenda in the United States; that moment has now passed, and we must move our system of benefit assignation from the family unit to individuals.
A system focused on the individual would enable us to talk about healthcare for every single person in our country, regardless of how they organize their sexual or social lives.
Finally, to help my neighbors at my local Target store, we need to make healthcare more accessible and visible to people at all levels of our society. My own healthcare plan has a preference for mail-order meds, which means I’ve spent less time at the pharmacy desk. In our increasingly technological world, those with medical insurance lose the opportunities to see how those without struggle. Although I don’t want to give up the convenience of mail-order meds, I also don’t want to lose the opportunity to see how people are struggling with healthcare, because it strengthens my own resolve to see it changed.
Healthcare, like marriage equality, is an important queer issue. I’d like to see more lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people say "I do" to universal health care.