Healthcare in America

HEALTHCARE IN AMERICA….In TNR this week, Benjamin Healy reviews Uninsured in America: Life and Death in the Land of Opportunity, which provides an up close look at what healthcare is like in America for the 40 million who lack insurance:

Rotting teeth are a consistent motif among their interviewees, and with a poignancy not often found in policy books, the authors peg tooth decay as a reliable barometer of one’s employability and caste status. As one uninsured woman who works part-time in a call center (and therefore out of public view), tells them: “I’ve gotten toothaches so bad, so that I just literally pull my own teeth. They’ll break off after a while, and then you just grab ahold of them, and they work their way out … The hole closes itself up anyway.” As the insured reader guiltily and involuntarily runs his tongue over his teeth upon reading these lines, the authors’ caste argument essentially proves itself.

And there’s plenty more where that came from, as the authors present through their subjects a laundry list of ominous examples of untreated suffering, ranging from gallbladder disease to diabetes to asthma, addressed alternately by hopeful neglect and homemade cocktails of alcohol and over-the-counter pain medication ? or in the harrowing case of an Idaho man with recurring bone spurs in his feet, a power sander.

Good old American healthcare. Best in the world, baby, best in the world.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation