There’s been an insidious post making the rounds of facebook the last few days that you’ve perhaps seen. It’s a “letter to the president” about Medicaid and government subsidized health care in general. Pictured is a young physician with a kind face. He’s not terribly attractive, sort of nondescript. He’s the kind of guy you’d see at your neighborhood block party, with whom you might strike up a conversation. He’d tell you about working in the ER and the conversation would naturally turn to stories. Maybe he’d recount a time he saved a little boy’s life, or the craziest thing he’d ever had to un-lodge from someone’s head. His effusive and charming manner would make you trust his judgment, you would lean in and laugh easily at his anecdotes. Then he would get a bit more serious and tell you something like:
During my shift in the Emergency Room last night, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient whose smile revealed an expensive shiny gold tooth, whose body was adorned with a wide assortment of elaborate and costly tattoos, who wore a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and who chatted on a new cellular telephone equipped with a popular R&B ringtone.
This is that point when something in the back of your throat should begin to tickle. Something is off. But this man is a doctor, he’s just telling you a true story! He goes on:
While glancing over her patient chart, I happened to notice that her payer status was listed as “Medicaid”! During my examination of her, the patient informed me that she smokes more than one pack of cigarettes every day, eats only at fast-food take-outs, and somehow still has money to buy pretzels and beer. And… Congress expect[s] me to pay for this woman’s health care? I contend that our nation’s “health care crisis” is not the result of a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. Rather, it is the result of a “crisis of culture” a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on luxuries and vices while refusing to take care of one’s self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance. It is a culture based in the irresponsible credo that “I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me”. Once you fix this “culture crisis” that rewards irresponsibility and dependency, you’ll be amazed at how quickly our nation’s health care difficulties will disappear.
This is the part of the party where my response depends on how many beers I’ve had, but here are just a few of the responses to this on facebook:
We must stop these poor people from having “highly maintained appearances”!!! They should wear barrels and top hats with the top popped off!
And sure. We think of the poor and we wonder why Medicaid Guy has a nicer phone than us. It seems wrong. This guy is just tapping into a common sense idea. He’s a doctor trying to give an unbiased observation of the state of our system? Right?
If you replace “unbiased” with “privileged and kind of racist,” then yes.
Your nice doctor neighbor sure wants you to know that black people are the problem. Are R&B ringtones more expensive than other genres? No. Would he be outraged by non-gold dental work? No. That’s code. White people use it because they can’t say, “this ghetto black lady came into my office and had the nerve to express herself in a way that I find culturally inferior and was unable to pay for insurance on her own.” This racial aspect is not coincidental. It’s tapping into the idea of “welfare queens” and lazy black people. If a white girl with porcelain veneers (which are more expensive than gold ones) and a country song for a ringtone came in, would this be an issue? No. People who don’t have health insurance or have it through Medicaid aren’t in this situation because outrageous costs or a bad economy. They are dumb black folks gold-toothed, sneaker wearing, R&B listeners working the system to get a free ride. Yaknowhadimean?
But let’s talk about this living beyond her means. Did Dr. Starner Jones ask her when she got her (again, less expensive than porcelain) cap? Might it have been before she was on Medicaid? Could it possibly be that a friend did her tattoos? Were her shoes knock-offs or gifts? Did he ask her how much her new phone cost? Is he aware that new phones are often free? Does he think a new phone, a ringtone, shoes, fast food, cigarettes, or *gasp* pretzels and beer could possibly, even added together, equal the cost of health insurance? You know, monthly? Should people who are on government assistance not be allowed to buy beer? Have tattoos? Use cell phones? Who gets to decide what is living within your means and what is frivolous? No one knows this woman’s situation but her.
For people who don’t want to be told how to spend their money, Dr. Starner Jones and his ilk sure have no problem telling other people how to spend theirs.
So fuck you, Roger Starner Jones, MD. The problem with health care is not a “culture” that “rewards irresponsibility and dependency,” it’s privileged assholes like you that are so narcissistic they think if they can do it, anyone can. It’s a culture that puts so little value on human life that it believes the punishment for not balancing your check book should be life-threatening medical neglect. It’s that you think skipping the pretzels and beer will magically fix whatever situation has made this patient eligible for Medicaid or the system that has left millions of Americans uninsured. Not lazy, black Americans, just Americans: unemployed, part-time and full-time workers, mothers and children, people without families to support them, the homeless, the self-employed, all races, all ages. People who are just trying to get by. And I, for one, think they should be able to have a fucking beer without your snarky judgment… or better yet an R&B ringtone.