Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 12/8/2008 [Archive]

Natural Selection

Natural Selection

By Martha Randolph Carr

The greatest potential for disaster or real reform is starting to unfold in this country. While we have all been watching the stock market rise and fall on a daily basis till it became meaningless as an indicator of the economy, the number of Americans who have stopped taking their medication on a regular basis has also steadily declined.

Doctors and hospitals are reporting a sharp drop in the number of people coming in for preventive medicine as emergency rooms have seen an uptick in desperate people needing stop-gap care. The effect this will have on life-expectancy is harder to quantify because the insidious slide will go on behind closed doors and be anecdotal until there are bodies to count.

To say that government policy toward a universal health care plan has been resistant in this country is an understatement at best. However, the U.S. is the only western nation left that lacks one and each year our ranking in key categories for health and well-being has slipped.

As the unemployment rate in the U.S. rose in November to 6.7% or 10.3 million people so did the number of people who suddenly found themselves uninsured. Most people get their health insurance coverage through their place of employment, which means as the economic climate worsens the number of uninsured is going to rise to historical levels.

The 2006 U.S. Census estimated there were almost 31 million Americans already without any kind of coverage and 8.7 of them were children. Some states, such as Massachusetts were making strides at changing the overall rate by offering affordable health care and requiring every citizen of the state to purchase a policy or pay a tax. However, this was back in a boon time when the state could afford to underwrite the difference and most people could afford to pay the smaller amount. As we all know by now, everything has changed.

President-elect Obama declared on Friday that the worst has yet to happen and the truth is it's still unknown and undefined. New ideas are being put into place but no one can be sure they will work. The extent of the damage and the steps that got us out of it will only be in hindsight this time.

So far, the only solutions lawmakers are offering is in the realm of housing or jobs but the longer this crisis goes on without anyone looking at how to keep people hardy the more we will be faced with some very grim decisions. Parents will choose their children's needs over their own and most will choose food over medication. Many Americans are already making these choices every day but their ranks are about to swell.

Perhaps, now that insurance companies are asking for bailouts they will be more inclined to partner with the taxpayers who are footing that bill.

Washington has already shown a willingness to step over the free market line and prop up sick or dying corporations and banks. Now, it's time to put some of that same billion dollar effort into keeping the American citizens healthy as well. If nothing is done, the consequence will be fewer of us to put back to work.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. Martha will be appearing at the United Way in Canton, Ohio on January 27th. Open to the public. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: Martha's Big Adventure coming soon to World Talk Radio and Voice America. Email Martha at: or visit

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