What putting off health care means

It really is like that old Jack Benny joke, "your money or your life." Only when you respond, after a long, long time, "I'm thinking," it's not that funny.

Dentist with child from MPR, by Marisa HelmsA new poll from the Center for Studying Health System Change shows roughly 20% of us are now putting off needed health care. (Picture from Minnesota Public Radio.)

A New York Times editorial headlined "Maybe I'll get better on my own" really misses its own point.

Other newspapers note how many insured people can no longer access the system, or how some are living with pain rather than paying the piper, but here is the real bottom line.

It's a false economy.

Take one example from the survey. Health gains by kids made over the period 1997-2003 have now been wiped out. Many conditions missed in youth become chronic, and their cost can spiral.

I know. When I was a kid we couldn't afford braces. I had a molar removed around age 8, but didn't get my teeth straightened until I was an adult, and could pay for it myself.

Turned out a lifetime's history of migraine headaches were mainly  caused by my teeth. After a bridge went into my back teeth my productivity went up, my general health improved, and my mood changed.

What's being missed by today's kids is worse. Some will die. Others may never be truly healthy. We'll miss whatever benefits they could have supplied, as will their families. Class resentment will grow.

These are real costs. Unhealthy workers, sullen millions who care nothing for others' property, anti-social behaviors of all sorts, these are just a few of the costs borne when society doesn't care about kids.

It's not just "you can pay me now or pay me later." There are many ways society pays for failing to provide health care. You might be robbed by one tonight. And Second Amendment or not, if that robber has the drop on you you're dead.

It really is like that old Jack Benny joke, "your money or your life." Only when you respond, after a long, long time, "I'm thinking about it," it's not that funny.

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