As students, we should care about health care

This week, the College Democrats hung up posters containing several key facts about healthcare. This propaganda declared four truths about the state of health insurance in America:

  1. Premiums are rising three times faster than wages. At this rate, in 2016 the average family will be paying $24,000 per year.
  2. 62% of all personal bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2007 were caused by health problems and 71% of those filing had insurance.
  3. Japan has the number-one life expectancy in the world, while the U.S. ranks 42nd. They pay $2,581 per person per year; we pay $7,290.
  4. Currently, insurance companies can discriminate against those with preexisting health conditions, the elderly and women.

These facts are shocking, and regardless of our political beliefs, they are, potentially, a strong instrument to compel us to take health-care reform seriously. We attend a privileged institution, where a fee covers all of our health insurance. Moreover, our University has—as we have previously discussed—been ranked at the bottom of the top 25 universities for socioeconomic diversity. Given these facts, it is tempting to watch the health-care debate in Washington as though it is a circus, to let it go on without establishing beliefs about the way health care should be reformed in America.

But we also neglect, when we think about health care in this way, our role—and responsibility—as students who attend an elite institution, students trained to think critically and articulate well. The health-care debate is relevant to us now because it is at the crux of contemporary political discussion. Moreover, there will come a time when we are not covered by Wash. U. or by our parents’ plans. It will matter to us what kind of health care we get.

But caring about health care is about more than just ourselves. What really ought to compel us to think about what’s best for America is the scene that takes place in any hospital emergency room, where only half of the people waiting have legitimate emergencies, and the other half simply have nowhere else to go for medical care.

At the root of the health-care debate is the potential to diminish human suffering—a reason we invoke when we talk about policy solutions for genocide or AIDS or world hunger. Health care is closer to home, and we have the potential to effect legislation if we are passionate. As students, we can call our congressmen and senators, write letters and attend rallies, participating in the public discourse that accompanies political debate.

Regardless of what we believe, health care has the potential to strongly affect our future and the future of our country. As students, we owe it to ourselves to engage in the national dialogue.

  • Dean X said my work was not sustainable. What did he mean? They did not want to pay my health insurance. This has been an issue for quite a while. For just one example, they gave my signature course “Karma and Rebirth” the “Cultural Diversity” rating, without my knowledge, while denying the same rating to its companion course, “Miracles, Marvels, and Magic,” in spite of a vigorous student petition, on the grounds that they did not want to make the latter class permanent! They wanted “Karma and Rebirth,” a course “rapidly developing the reputation as a course that no WashU student should graduate without taking,” but they did not want me teaching it. This was partly for ideological reasons (according to one colleague, I “let my Hindu students be Hindu,” etc.), but I think it was mainly economic. Since 2003 I have been an open supporter of organized labor on this campus, with the predictable reaction. I knew what to expect, based on my experience in grad government at other schools. Treating their workers, including me, decently will cost them some money. Health insurance for a faculty member with worsening low vision, who may require repeat surgery, will cost them a lot of cash. Why not give him nothing, and make an example of him?

    The last time I checked, “Karma and Rebirth” had not been assigned to anyone else, and South Asian religion classes have not been offered in University College (I am still here, and available to teach). The Freshman Co-op Focus course, taught pro bono, has not been offered, though I offered to teach it pro bono once more. Thanks for not crossing our virtual picket line. I am still here, ready for duty. So are many others, who have been laid off and denied benefits.

    I thank the alumni who contacted me after reading my recent posts, to inquire about me, and thank me for teaching your favorite courses. Apparently not enough of you know what is going on here now. I have been treated better than many others, who have worked here longer.

    You Webster students and alumni, please be aware that your school is implicated in this too. Webster makes extensive and exploitative use of cheap academic migrant labor, a policy concealed by a thick layer of redwash. If you say anything your courses will be pulled.

    Lecturer Dr. Jerome Bauer
    per veritatem vis

  • A footnote to my comment above: I have no intention of suing for medical malpractice, because there was none. I have had so many surgeries I have lost count, and I know the proper procedure. It was followed in my case. One reason health insurance is so expensive is that so many people are filing frivolous lawsuits against their doctors.

    So many of my life decisions have been determined by my need for uninterrupted coverage of my preexisting condition. I was job locked in graduate school, too, until I got a job in the library with union benefits, including good health insurance and paid vacation, and could afford to apply for my PhD, and stop paying the nominal dissertation tuition just to keep my health insurance.

    This situation is far too common in this country, and is easily exploited. I am glad you students are beginning to pay attention.

  • Tell me about it. I did double and then triple duty here from 1999-2007, strung along as a special medical case when it suited WashU’s corporate interests, terminated, in a very deceptive way, in the midst of a medical crisis which cost me my right eye when it did not. I was supposed to accept meekly my downsizing and loss of benefits, as so many others have done. Even this offer was withdrawn when I dared to protest, and Webster University’s Religious Studies Department similarly withdrew an offer of part time employment when I dared to suggest that my health insurance benefit ought to be an issue. Now, I am underinsured, undermedicated, and will have to give up the inferior health insurance I now have. My refusal to accept meekly the exploitation of my job lock situation, due to a preexisting condition (a rare form of advanced glaucoma, requiring repeat surgery and multiple medications), has put me on the brink of bankruptcy, like so many others. Tell me about it. This will happen to you, sooner or later.

    Some members of the disability rights community here in St Louis tell me that it is my duty to litigate, as a citizen with standing, no matter how severe is the personal cost. They inform me that Universities can lose all sorts of public monies if they treat their workers this way. I am afraid, though, that without my high blood pressure medication, my head will explode if I do.

    Let all our faculty and administrators take a year’s poverty sabbatical, to live without salary or health insurance, or a roof over their heads. Walk a mile.

    Then you can tell me about it.

    Lecturer Dr. Jerome Bauer
    –with 10,000 hours, at least, of sweat equity in Washington University in St Louis, and at least as much right to a voice as any Trustee with a bag of money, or any tenured professor
    –not yet expelled from the Company Town