The case that Obamacare—or, indeed, universal healthcare—is an imperative in this country has just been made by a group of undocumented immigrants.
According to the Los Angeles Times, a group for restaurant workers has joined forces with a community clinic to form a cooperative that gives health care coverage to undocumented immigrants—basic care for $25 a month. Over 75,000 restaurant workers in Los Angeles alone don’t have access to health insurance because of their immigration status. Why should anyone care? As Mariana Huerta of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles (ROC-LA) says:
“Restaurant workers are preparing, serving, and cooking our food. So many of these workers reported that they go to work sick. That is a public health hazard for consumers.”
That statement ought to make everyone sit up and take notice. We don’t make health care coverage available to the very people who handle our food in the public realm. We guarantee that sick people will be involved in food preparation and service. How crazy is that, as a matter of public policy?
And what about all the other uninsured in this country, those who aren’t undocumented immigrants? Exactly who else are we rubbing elbows with, sharing in their germs, because they can’t afford healthcare—and certainly can’t afford to miss work?
In 2010, over 50 million people—one in six—in the United States were uninsured. According to figures from 2007, published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the uninsured included almost 12% of education and health care workers, 22% of food service and other service industry workers, and 17% of professional and finance workers such as real estate and (believe it or not) insurance agents—among others.
A huge portion of the people who feed us, educate our kids, sell us services, and literally handle our money do not have health care coverage. One in six people don’t have it. Think what that means in terms of how many times each of us must have exchanges with sick people every day.
How much risk do we want to take? Is it okay for us to be exposed to hepatitis, for instance? Hepatitis travels like wildfire through the food supply and it can kill. Is it acceptable for our kids to be exposed to measles, mumps, and diphtheria because they attend school and play in public parks with kids whose parents can’t afford to get them immunized? Is it reasonable to risk having epidemics run through our schools, our neighborhoods, our families?
The liberal point of view holds that we’re a wealthy country and should be able to provide for the needs of our population. However, there are many who simply don’t respond on a humanitarian level—often those who are politically conservative, with the rather Darwinian attitude of ‘survival of the fittest,’ or every man for himself. For those people, the plight of the uninsured can be broken down to a simple matter of their own self-interest. The most—and perhaps only—compelling reason for these people to get behind Obamacare can be stated in the words of the great American hero, Smokey the Bear: The lives they save may be their own!