Psalm 126:1: When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Yesterday, my doctor’s office sent an email assuring me that they will notify me when it’s my turn to get the vaccine. Until I opened their email, I hadn’t realized that I was carrying some hidden anxiety about whether or not I’d have to sign up, stand in line, qualify, fill out paperwork or…what. I live in Durham, and my health insurance covers the privilege of being a patient in the Duke Health System, which is world-class and far-reaching. Because of my geographic location, I have access to incredible health care. Here in Durham, the Public Health Department has opened up *multiple* drive through testing sites where you do not need a) an appointment b) proof of exposure c) health insurance d) symptoms e) payment or f) any form of identification to find out if you are infected with COVID-19. I recognize how rare this access is. My family in Southwest Virginia say that testing is just not accessible or feasible as a way to protect one another.
I also currently have a job that pays for half the cost of my health insurance. I’ve never had employer-based health insurance before, and even with this plan I still pay over $500 each month – half the cost of my rent – to insure my single, young-ish, healthy self. This employer-based health insurance is also currently requiring me to *take my own blood* and send it off through the USPS (a service which at this moment is struggling to get a paperback book I ordered three weeks ago to my doorstep) to prove that I meet certain biometric requirements in order to avoid a $200/month surcharge.
THIS IS ABSURD. All of it. Every single detail of America’s health insurance maze is ridiculous. We have decided that only the wealthy deserve care.
As of today, Durham’s ICUs are 95% filled. In 3.5 weeks, North Carolina’s hospitals will reach their ICU capacity. In 5 weeks, we’ll reach entire *hospital* capacity. Even though I live in this excessively resourced town, even though I have the privilege of being insured, if I have a stroke or a heart attack or need a ventilator to help me through a COVID infection in the early weeks of 2021, I will not have access to the necessary care.
That is scary. And you know what? It has been the daily reality for the majority of Americans for a long time. I heard just this morning of a young person with COVID-related breathing issues who was scared to go to the ER because they couldn’t afford the medical bill. This is the reality for more than half of our country.
THIS IS ABSURD.
I’m trying to wrap my head around a post-covid timeline, hoping that by the end of summer, perhaps, we can eat inside restaurants again. But those personal expectations are so deeply irrelevant to the hard and immediate work we need to do, together, to decide that EVERYONE deserves care and then, to create policies and practices that make it happen.
“…we were like people who dream.” Restore us, O Lord, to being people who practice care.