Poverty, Medical Care, and Death in America

Sara Niles

All three of these terms have been too closely related for decades, as those whose income make it practically impossible to afford proper health care, sometimes pay with their lives. The poor, who are not poor ‘enough’ for Medicaid and are not sufficiently resourced to provide medical treatment, have been quietly dying by the thousands. The advent of preventative treatment in the medical profession, offers the hope that diagnoses and treatment  are provided early, which increases the odds of the individual recovering faster and with less secondary damage. The heavily insured are usually best cared for, while those who have no insurance, often just quietly wait. They wait to see if the symptoms will just go away, if the problem will resolve itself with home treatment, and they go to work.

A common misconception is that the under insured are not workers, which is not true. The cost of running a country in which up to 13% of service profession workers, earned minimum wage, and 10% of workers in the poorest states in the nation, earn minimum wage,  makes for an economically skewed  landscape in which some are just too poor to pay for health care. When you consider that even double the minimum wage, is barely enough to survive on when paying for basic living expenses, the picture becomes much clearer.

In 2007, a 12 year old Maryland boy died because an untreated tooth infection created deadly bacteria that spread to his brain (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-02-15/local/35444526_1_maryland-dental-action-coalition-dental-care-deamonte-driver ); thus drawing national attention to a problem that had become so commonplace that many people could tell of similar experiences that they either experienced, or knew about. If you are looking for a medical horror story that has economic underpinning, you don’t have to look far; even Barak Obama in his 2008 speech, alluded to his mother’s experience  of having to battle for medical treatment during her final days, and he made the following statement:

“In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills”


Obama lamented such an unjust scenario and when he took office he provided the impetus for Obama care, or the Affordable Health Care Act that was signed into law in 2010, and was one of the biggest medical overhauls since the 1960’s when Medicare and Medicaid legislation was passed.

In 2014, we may get to see it in action. Just maybe, there will be less hardworking men and women with decayed teeth in America, and perhaps the poor will begin to live a while longer.


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