Tarbell was founded on the premise that healthcare was too expensive and inaccessible for millions of Americans. This underserved population needed an advocate to advance the notion of affordable and quality healthcare for all citizens. The nature of this mission obviously lends itself to those individuals, organizations and political figures who share the concept that a healthy America leads to a more prosperous America, especially when the cost of being healthy is fair and reasonable. In practical terms, this means Medicare for All or a close equivalent.
Unfortunately, there are millions of Americans who are facing severe healthcare issues – whether it involves the quality, cost or access – who have chosen to put their energy and resources behind causes that run contrary to the overall concept of a society in which basic needs, such as healthcare, are the fundamental fabric of its existence. No better example of this is the current situation in Texas.
Let’s examine the situation more specifically.
Voting rights. No state in the union has attacked voting rights more vigorously than Texas. COVID defense. Texas is among the states with the fewest percentage of vaccinated citizens and also among those states that have so adamantly argued against mask mandates in schools. Abortion rights. The recent legislation in Texas all but forbids the practice of abortion in the state. Open carry of firearms. Another piece of legislation in Texas allows for anyone to carry a firearm in public (openly) without any kind of registration or training.
For those of us who tirelessly advocate for a more just country of inclusion and fairness, each of these events in Texas runs counter to our work. Making voting more difficult only hinders those citizens with fewer resources and less influence. More COVID cases means more hospitalizations which means healthcare bills that cannot be paid by many patients. Limiting abortion rights regardless of the situation results in more underground activities which only leads to more hospitalizations which leads to more medical costs that cannot be paid. It has already been determined that less strict gun laws result in more shooting incidents that leads to more hospitalizations. You can see where I am going with this. All of these issues in Texas create a more stringent and less inclusive public policy platform that emanates from fear and loathing against all things (generally speaking) not white, conservative and/or evangelical Christian. The problem here is that this demographic also gets sick, pregnant, shot, and poor.
Perhaps “shooting themselves in the foot” is a poor attempt at a clever pun, but that’s exactly what is happening in many parts of the country. The rallying cry around issues like abolishing Roe v Wade, extinguishing gun control efforts, and restricting voting rights only creates a counter-balance against the need to bring an affordable, more inclusive healthcare plan to the front of the political agenda. By expending time, money and political capital on these “less inclusive” topics, these people, possibly unknowingly, are draining the energy and attention from the healthcare discussion that would provide more benefit to them, and the country, than any attempt to marginalize the portion of the population that they deem “unworthy.”
The real challenge is that we, Tarbell included, are not getting the message across that affordable and quality healthcare is just as much of a “right” as the desire to carry around guns in public, to vote, or for a person to have a personal choice as to how they treat their body. I contend that a healthier and less stressful population creates a more prosperous country in which the fear of losing power or individual rights that are not necessarily for the public good is less vocal and thus, less prominent in our society. I think everyone; regardless of politics, race, religion, wealth or gender, can agree that our healthcare system is broken and unsustainable. But as long as guns, abortion, a lack of concern for public health, and restrictive voting laws remain at the top of political agenda, healthcare will continue to reside at the bottom of the heap.