We are publishing the work of all the winners and runners-up this week, and you can find them here as they post. Excerpts from some will also be in the special Learning print section on Sunday, June 9.
U.S. Citizens Are Dying and We Can Save Them
I have a luxury that 27.3 million Americans don’t: health insurance. Without it, my family would be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt or I’d be dead.
In June of 2017 when my blood became dangerously acidic and my kidneys started to fail, I went to the ER. In June of 2017 when Alec Raeshawn Smith’s blood also became dangerously acidic, he died before anyone could save him. Alec didn’t have to die though; the insulin prescribed for his Type 1 diabetes could have saved him from the diabetic ketoacidosis that killed him. Alec, who had recently turned 26, could no longer afford his insulin because he was kicked off his mother’s health insurance plan. Unable to afford the $1,300 a month cost for his insulin, he turned to rationing the insulin and died within one month of becoming uninsured. In the weeks after both of our incidents with acidosis, I went back to hanging out with friends and enjoying my summer. Meanwhile, Alec’s family was left making funeral arrangements.
There is only one way to prevent innocent people like Alec from dying: adopt national health insurance. With a single payer-program where the government subsidizes the cost of treatment, any and all citizens would be able to receive and afford any medically necessary treatment. Many fear that this program would cost an exorbitant amount of money and it is true that U.S. citizens would have to pay more in taxes to support it. However, US families, would save more money because they are no longer paying as much for health care costs like co-pays, premiums and deductibles. According to some studies, Senator Bernie Sanders’s health care plan, which includes restrictions on drug markups, could save the U.S. government $2.1 trillion in the long run.
I have health insurance. Insurance that covers hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, but that coverage runs out in nine years. My life after 26 is uncertain. Will I have a job that provides health benefits or will I be left hoping I won’t get sick again? Health insurance can no longer be a political bargaining chip that gets thrown around as if people aren’t dying without it. To make nationalized health insurance a reality, people like you need to decide health care is no longer a partisan issue; it’s an American issue. If we adopt a nationalized health care system, I will no longer live in fear for the day I might not be okay; I’ll know my name will never be splashed across newspapers reminding politicians that they’ve killed one more citizen with their complacency.
Berchick, Edward. “Who Are the Uninsured?” The United States Census Bureau, 14 Sept. 2017.
Epstein, Randi Hutter, M.D., and Rachel Strodel. “Diabetes Patients at Risk From Rising Insulin Prices.” The New York Times, 22 June 2018.
Haavik, Emily. “Mother Calls for Lower Insulin Prices in Wake of Son’s Death.” 10NEWS, 13 May 2018.
Stanley, Tiffany. “Life, Death and Insulin.” The Washington Post Magazine, 7 Jan. 2019.