Not only has healthcare for too long been at the service of the politically elite and wealthy in the United States, but it – along with medicines – have yet to be realized as rights for all citizens.
Now that the spotlight is again on a healthcare system that has even failed its veterans—widespread scheduling abuses, data falsification, long waiting times at hospitals and lengthy delays leading to dozens of deaths, the same abuses which permeate public and private healthcare institutions—perhaps Americans will work to include healthcare as a social and economic right.
Existing political inequalities should also be challenged by asking how and why politicians thrive in a healthcare system while sending soldiers off to war only to return and die in the same system.
Two examples of such political elite are former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, architects of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Bush never had to endure waiting lists or scheduling abuses when needing colonic polyps or skin lesion surgery. Unlike veterans, he was immediately treated for episodes of losing consciousness and a knee surgery. Without any delays Cheney has had many medical procedures too. From heart attacks requiring bypass surgeries and a transplant to coronary stents and angioplasties, including diabetes, diminished kidney functioning, high cholesterol and chronic coughs and colds, his medical costs have totaled millions of dollars. Despite a net worth of over $30 million, Cheney credited his long life of being in the right place at the right time.
Cheney and Bush might have experienced an American medical odyssey but for some veterans they have endured an American tragedy. A scattering of audits in 731 medical facilities ran by the Department of Veterans Affairs found almost 60,000 veterans have been waiting more than 90 days for an initial medical appointment. Some were pressured into entering a different date in the appointment system. Others with mental health needs had to wait up to more than 100 days. Along with prolonged and deplorable conditions, veterans sometimes received inadequate therapy. Others are prescribed questionable drugs and medicines that, while enhancing profits of the pharmaceutical industry, are addictive and can lead to more severe trauma, psychological suffering and illnesses.
While Bush and Cheney—exemplars of wealth and the politically elite—benefited from scientific and medical advancements, veterans have not. Failure to acknowledge such political inequalities and dismissing healthcare as a social and economic right is a gross violation of human rights. So is an inability to analyze abuses of power and inequalities as embedded in pathological institutions and archaic ideologies. Violence against veterans (and citizens) can be concealed in corporate structures of perpetual war. The Bush-Cheney Administration is guilty of this violence, pursuing useless preemptive wars. Their structural and ideological violence has flooded both veterans and private healthcare systems with wounded soldiers and citizens, some who will never be made whole again.
The real scandal is a warring plutocracy that provides healthcare for the few while marginalizing the many. If measured in cash value, this plutocracy has cost much more than it is worth. When measured in political and social worth, it has bankrupted America, causing enormous human sacrifice and suffering.
As for former Commander and Assistant Commander-In-Chiefs Bush and Cheney, should they be held accountable for their structural and ideological violence against veterans and citizens?
Meanwhile, Americans will have to pursue a morally corrupt and profit-oriented healthcare system as if it was another war, mobilizing resources and personnel to ensure that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of their personhood.
“Every man who lives is born to die,” wrote John Dryden. How one lives is of great importance. Sadly, the roots of so many diseases in America consist of plutocratic fascinations and implementations of perpetual warfare, including political elites that have caused unnecessary suffering. Making healthcare a right would begin to reverse these pathologies of power.