The story of the 38-year-old north Texas teacher who died after getting the flu and then declining to take her prescribed medicine because “it cost too much” reminds us again how inhumane and broken our country’s health care system remains under capitalism.
Her story strikes a chord because the vast majority of Americans—those with insurance purchased through for-profit companies and those without insurance—have encountered and dealt with the high cost of medications their entire adult lives. How much is it now the norm, not the exception, that people go without medicines they don’t deem absolutely essential because of exorbitant costs?
Heather Holland, of Willow Park, Texas, west of Fort Worth, died recently after she was hospitalized and went into septic shock. The second-grade teacher had been prescribed Tamiful, but, according to her husband in an interview, she thought the $116 price tag was too much and decided to deal with her flu symptoms without the medicine that might have saved her.
Her death is tragedy. Obviously, no one can say for sure the medicine would have saved her life. Her husband later bought the medicine when her symptoms worsened. But here’s the fact that sticks out: The $116 price tag is way too much money for a medicine that has the potential to save lives during a major flu outbreak. Holland was right. It DOES cost too much. Those people that profit off people’s suffering and even death—Holland’s story is not only a cautionary tale but also actually a twisted advertisement for taking Tamiful no matter how much it costs—participate in the immoral, shameful debacle that has become our health care system.
Let’s be clear: Tamiflu and other medications to treat the flu should be free at the point of delivery. Under universal, single-payer care, it would be free, as would other prescribed medicines.
We need to ask the remaining medical professionals who still stand on the sidelines on the issue of universal health care coverage why they don’t speak out on the immoral high costs of receiving medical treatment in this country. Holland got the flu during a major outbreak. She didn’t intentionally put herself in harm’s way. Her lifestyle didn’t contribute to her demise. She was a random victim of the flu.
We can parse through the arcane world of pharmaceutical development or note the obscene profits of drug companies, but the fact remains that capitalism exploits working class people—truck drivers, teachers, computer programmers—by promoting inequality. Capitalism is just the opposite of equality and freedom. The exploitation and oppression can and often does result in people dying. In fact, the specter of death due to unaffordable health care is a central component that capitalism uses to scare the masses of people in this country to keep them in line so they will work their entire lives to enrich a relatively few wealthy people.
Perhaps, the real issue here is that the teacher’s death is yet just one more tragic story of our health care system that will be forgotten sooner than later. Capitalism is the problem. Single-payer, universal health care is the solution.