By: Adam Stromme
In its bid to valiantly stave off the red hordes of socialism, the Republican party decided to sow dysfunction in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”, by forcing 23 states to reject the funding for a medicaid expansion and launching a fatuous campaign for repeal to the doors of the Supreme Court on the basis of a technicality. This is critical, because Obamacare– far from embodying the sweeping rhetoric it has assumed– is really little more than a big medicaid expansion package, the product of a compromise with insurance providers to stay the implementation of universal healthcare. This means that the mandate necessitating that Americans above 132% of the poverty line acquire healthcare will go unfunded for many, exacerbating an already severe coverage gap that is set to hang 4 million Americans mandated to get insurance out to dry.
Not to mention the 31 million who are still left out of the picture completely.
For many people, violence is violence. Whether it be a school shooting, an act of terrorism, or the like, violence is typified by action: the deliberate bringing of harm upon others. Such actions regularly steal the headlines: an exercise in the media fulfilling its dutiful role to remind us that the world is a dangerous place.
But there is another kind of violence that garners far less attention than flashy, dramatic, “sudden violence”: its called systemic, or “slow” violence. The American healthcare system in the twenty first century is set to be at the forefront of this phenomenon yet again, owing to a devil’s brew of spiraling costs and a massive coverage gap.
We are well aware of many of the different kinds of slow violence already at work in society: poverty, discrimination and disenfranchisement are a few examples. Indeed, stories where slow violence is the hidden culprit, like the recent Baltimore protests, make up the vast majority of the most serious problems we face today. Yet news of it in itself rarely sells, and with good reason. It is much more difficult to make sound bytes out of issues of slow violence; where the culprits are elusive and the story is constantly unfolding behind the scenes. The accessibility of healthcare has suffered from this same reporting deficit.
Furthermore, the complexity of the issues in the American healthcare system has often forced people to grapple with an entirely different class of troublemakers, a class largely seen as innocent or, at worst, passive. But when slow violence becomes the paradigm, the causes of conflict and mismanagement increasingly start to become the impersonal forces set in motion by those in high perches– elected or otherwise– rather than those whose responses are symptomatic of the larger issue, and who are usually forced to take the blame. Understanding slow violence requires that we weigh responsibility for problems in relation to who can make decisions independent of external circumstances, and that often leads us right up to the doors of power.
Yet news of [slow violence] in itself rarely sells, and with good reason. It is much more difficult to make sound bytes out of issues of slow violence…
In the post ACA world, despite the will of America’s small but growing progressive movement, we appear to have all of the ingredients for a new round of slow violence against the American people. Mandated costs, poor coverage, and a first class economic infrastructure makes the entire fiasco of an uninsured first world population an embarrassment. But is this not just politics on the hill as usual? At what cost does all of this wrangling occur?
That is the magic of slow violence; because those who benefit from it are often those that are in power, continuing slow violence is always able to be considered in the realm of acceptable opinion. Preventable deaths racked up in the ERs and on the streets rarely risk capturing the media’s attention as they do during times of war. They are seen as unfortunate, rather than abominable. As a result, even modest costs are allowed to pile up until they become absolutely unbearable, and these are not modest costs. They are uninsured rates almost three times of those that accepted the expansion. They are coverage gaps that will bear most heavily on the economically unstable South (89% of the gap is in the former confederacy, which is suffering from a host of other problems to begin with). And they are being unheard.
Because those who benefit from it are often those that are in power, continuing slow violence is always able to be considered in the realm of acceptable opinion.
And so the injustice in healthcare against the poor and working class will merely become the most recent in a string of silent atrocities. Slow violence will continue to lurk beneath our headlines, sheltered from critical scrutiny under the banner of “entitlement.” And America will again be forced to wait until long overdue for the next challenge to this epidemic of maltreatment to occur.
Graph courtesy of OpenLeft.com