Last week I went to a benefit show at Visual Arts Collective for its co-owner, a great lady named Anneliessa. It was a fun racaus affair with a solo performance by Doug Martsch of Built to Spill, a bizarre dance interpretation of the life of bees, a game show and a silent auction.
All the money raised, and there was a decent chunk, went to Anneliessa’s mounting medical bills from the long-term results of being hit by a car many years ago.
It was a fun night and it’s impossible to minimize the warm glow that comes with contributing to a worthy cause. But overall, it made me sad. Not just because Anneliessa is in pain, but because that’s the state of our health care system.
People coming together and helping a friend is great, but what if someone doesn’t have talented friends to put on a benefit? What if they don’t have any friends? Anneliessa is more just than just any old gal, she’s a genuine pillar of the community, who has dedicated her life to giving artists and musicians opportunities they wouldn’t have without her. Not everyone inspires that much good will in others. But everyone gets sick and eventually needs to see a doctor. And when genuine pillars of the community can’t afford care or insurance, then how can the average Joe or Josephine be expected to do any better?
But even with insurance, things wouldn’t be much better. Understand, the goal of a private company, even an insurance company, is to make money. They’re legally required to. But the way they make money is by charging high premiums and paying out as little as possible. The goal of private health insurance is to take every opportunity they can to deny you care while charging you as much as possible for the privilege.
And that’s just insurance. The profit-based system for health care itself flies in the face of all morality. It’s essentially blackmail. When someone is sick or dying, they don’t have the option of not paying, meaning they can then be over the barrel for nearly limitless costs, depending on the severity of their malady. And in the case of someone like Anneliessa, for something they had no part in. That isn’t at all compatible with principles of compassion, human rights or even the free market. When brought to the emergency room, people don’t window shop and decide to try a different hospital if they don’t like the prices. They can’t. They’re stuck with the costs, however high they may be.
That’s why the number one cause of bankruptcy in America is medical costs.
Strange as it may be to ponder considering the severity of her maladies, and the excess of her medical costs, Anneliessa is one of the lucky ones. There are people out there doing everything they can to see that she has a shot. Without them, her recovery would be far more unlikely. And that’s what it’s like for most people.
The current for-profit health care system is a farce that even if functioning properly, cannot provide health care, because that’s not what it’s designed for. It’s designed to make money. Until it’s replaced with something designed to provide health care, then it’s a good idea to be friends with as many rock stars as you can, in case you too one day need a benefit.