Healthy Black Lives Matter (Single-Payer, Part 3)

January 23, 2016

Healthy Black Lives Matter: Race and the Single-Payer System

Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) has a website I would urge all of you to take a look at. It covers most of the issues that might concern us in shifting the economic and palliative paradigms of health care. In addressing “Frequently Asked Questions” about single-payer health systems, however, one word that scarcely appears, is “race.” How would a single-payer system affect the dynamics of social stratification of race? How would the hierarchy of white privilege fare under single-payer? The answer to this is the slogan that Bernie Sanders should have adopted over a year ago:

Healthy Black Lives Matter

In the single-payer system the phrase “all are equal in the eyes of the law” extends firmly into the world of health care. I suspect, however, that the possibility that African-Americans and Latin@s would have equal access to high quality medical diagnosis and treatment is precisely the factor that makes the single-payer system unacceptable to many people who vote in a conservative pattern.

The crisis in Flint, Michigan regarding the lead poisoning of its population should be monitored under many different rubrics, but the quality of health care that the afflicted residents receive should be given particular attention. If “Black Lives Matter,” it is not simply that they should be free of antagonistic treatment by police, but that these lives should be as healthy as possible.

In this regard, one of the most important FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on the PNHP website is: “Why shouldn’t we let people buy better health care if they can afford it?” PNHP responds by saying that “If the wealthy are forced to rely on the same health system as the poor, they will use their political power to assure that the health system is well funded. Conversely, programs for the poor become poor programs. For instance, because Medicaid doesn’t serve the wealthy, the payment rates are low and many physicians refuse to see Medicaid patients. Calls to improve Medicaid fall on deaf ears because the beneficiaries are not considered politically important.”

This answer could be thought of as the equivalent of everyone having to drink the same water. If the families of high level automobile manufacturing executives had had to drink the same water as the families in Flint, Michigan, do you not think that more care would have been taken to monitor the quality of water? Health care, like drinking water, is a fundamental human right. “Healthy Black Lives Matter” should become one of the primary demands — perhaps the primary demand — for those of us who want to see a fundamental change in the distribution of medical knowledge and resources.

Part Four: Dignified Black Deaths Matter, Too (End of Life Directives, White Privilege and Single Payer Equality)

Part Five: The 1980 AIDS crisis as a Forecast of Baby Boomer Amnesia