Health care jus­tice will re­quire eco­nomic jus­tice

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION - Send let­ters to let­ters@sun­

In the past three months, more than at any pre­vi­ous time in my 28 years as a physi­cian, the med­i­cal com­mu­nity has tack­led its own im­plicit and ex­plicit racism. Is­sues such as bi­ased lab­o­ra­tory norms, his­toric racial in­jus­tice in the field and pre­con­ceived no­tions about non­whites are be­ing widely de­bated. The cat­a­lyst, ob­vi­ously, has been Black vic­tims of po­lice vi­o­lence and the dis­pro­por­tion­ate ef­fect of COVID-19 on mi­nori­ties.

One ques­tion, nev­er­the­less, nags at me. Can we dis­cuss racial jus­tice separately from eco­nomic jus­tice?

Ac­cord­ing to the Eco­nomic Pol­icy In­sti­tute, ris­ing rates of un­em­ploy­ment dur­ing the pan­demic have hurt Black Amer­i­cans more than any other group. This is a health eq­uity prob­lem be­cause, as the Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion re­ports, 49% of peo­ple re­ceive health in­sur­ance through their work. Un­em­ploy­ment means a loss of health in­sur­ance cov­er­age, which is now the case for 18% of Amer­i­cans.

If the Af­ford­able Care Act is over­turned, 23 mil­lion more Amer­i­cans will be with­out in­sur­ance dur­ing one of the worst pan­demics in mod­ern times. And this, too, ac­cord­ing to the Kaiser Foun­da­tion, will dis­pro­por­tion­ately harm African Amer­i­cans.

We must fight racism in medicine; and I, for one, feel for­tu­nate to be em­ployed by an or­ga­ni­za­tion that is on the fore­front of the strug­gle. I won­der, how­ever, how much more ef­fec­tive we would be in erad­i­cat­ing prej­u­dice and bias if we also worked more for health care eq­uity and eco­nomic jus­tice.

This means ad­vo­cacy for truly uni­ver­sal health in­sur­ance cov­er­age, re­gard­less of cit­i­zen­ship, em­ploy­ment, in­come, race or eth­nic­ity. It means cre­at­ing a sys­tem of health care that is about medicine, not profit, founded on the prin­ci­ple that health care is a ba­sic hu­man right.

We should all strug­gle to­ward that. Hrayr At­tar­ian MD, Wicker Park


A sign held up at a demon­stra­tion for health care jus­tice in June in Dou­glas Park.

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