Letter: The Health-Income Connection
To the Editor:
Let’s continue the comparison between medical care and financial planning made in your Aug. 4 editorial, “Bottom-Up Medicine.” Self-management of retirement funds is problematic when people do not have the skills or support to manage their savings — or if they have no money to save. Comparing savings to health is brilliant; in both finances and medicine, we miss the point when we talk about individuals taking charge — of their finances and of their medical care.
The real crisis in the financial world is the widening gap between rich and poor, and in health care it is the fact that it is too hard currently to stay healthy. McDonald’s, which has been implicated in both crises, had the nerve to suggest that, rather than providing a living wage to its workers, it would offer an online tutorial on how to save money (that daily pack of gum will break your bank). I will point out the blatantly obvious: If you are bringing in less money than you need for food and housing, you sure can’t save any. And, if you cannot afford healthy food or a safe place to live, your health will suffer. We all know by now that it isn’t just fast-food workers who are struggling to make ends meet. The concentration of wealth in this country is unprecedented.
Which brings me to medical care. I am all for people taking charge of their health and taking an interest in their risk factors. But let us look honestly at responsibility. Why are people so sick in the first place? Why do people have so little income that they cannot save? Lack of regulation in both spheres has led to a population that is growing sicker and poorer, and putting the burden on their shoulders adds insult to injury. I advocate for a single-payer health care system that first and foremost recognizes the role of government to assure people access to the things that will keep them healthy — such as affordable healthy food, bike paths and sidewalks, regulation of environmental toxins and — and this is indeed a health issue — a living wage.
Rebecca Jones, M.D.