iPhones, Choices, and Clueless Men from Utah
Early this morning, while I was taking my pills, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz went on television to talk up the GOP’s new plan for healthcare.
If like me, you have a chronic illness, you’ve probably been on the edge of your seat watching the news unfurl about the new Republican healthcare plan that some are deeming Trumpcare. And after an early look at the plan, it seems we’ve had good reason to be worried. It’s a lengthy document, but Vox has a really handy explainer here.
There are a number of things about this plan that frighten me, but before I even had a chance to examine it in full, I watched the now Twitter-notorious Chaffetz interview in which he said something that I haven’t stopped thinking about all day.
“Americans have choices, and they've got to make a choice. So rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.”
I immediately balked. Dude may as well have said, "Let them eat cake." I’ve known Chaffetz to say some pretty offensive things in the past, but was this man honestly comparing the cost of healthcare to the cost of a fun new tech gadget? And furthermore, was he implying that the people like myself who are struggling to pay their medical bills are simply fiscally irresponsible?
The only explanation I can think of for such a completely callous lack of compassion for the sick and disabled is that Jason Chaffetz is superhuman. He has never gotten ill, or broken a bone, or had a loved one suffer from an unexpected heart attack. He’s never contracted a virus, and he wasn’t born with a lifelong, incurable illness with expensive medications.
And to that I say, good for you, Jason! I hope you live forever like the family in Tuck Everlasting and you never have to pay a single medical bill and you can use all that superfluous cash to buy thousands and thousands of iPhones and put them in designer cases. But for the rest of us, compassion would be nice. And nicer than that? Some sign that you’re in touch with reality.
Because the reality is this: people who are struggling to pay their healthcare aren’t lazy. They aren’t spending their money on the wrong things. It absolutely does not compute to say that because you have made other purchases in your life that you don’t deserve to live, and to live with a reasonably good quality of life.
It’s probably easy if you’re healthy and your family and friends are healthy to think it’s as simple as Jason thinks it is. But here’s the thing: health is a privilege, and it’s one that can be snatched away from you at a moment’s notice and without clear reason. I’d challenge any healthy person to imagine what they might do if they were told tomorrow that they have a lifelong illness that costs $30,000 a month to treat –– because trading in your iPhone isn’t going to cut it.