Last weekend, my wife’s elderly cat went into heart failure. As of this writing, my wife and I don’t know if she will recover. Over the two days that the cat’s condition dramatically worsened, we thought nothing of shelling out hundreds of dollars for medicine and veterinary care; our savings meant nothing compared to the life of my wife’s companion of 14 years.
In the middle of this, we took time to see Michael Moore’s recently opened movie “Sicko,” which exposes another kind of heart failure: that of the U.S. health care industry. There are many things that decentralized capitalism does well, but dispensing decent and affordable health care is not one of them. Moore convincingly illustrates that it is folly to put people’s lives in the hands of organizations whose primary motivation is the financial bottom line. Every other civilized country knows this; that where it comes to survival we must take care of each other, valuing people over profit, and the main tool we have for assuring this is fully functional government that is accountable to the people. The alternative is to depend on a heartless system that does not value life, only the concentration of power.
My wife and I are lucky to have some cash and credit available to help our cat survive. A part of me shudders to think of the potential deprivation we are causing other people because the resources spent on veterinary care are not available to them for their own care. But I suspect like most other people, I have behaved instinctively, protecting those closest to me.
And I am now much more deeply aware that my wife and I, and many people we know, are not much better off than our cat when it comes to our own health care.