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More On the Weakest Link April 30, 2009

Posted by Dwight and Lynn Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, ethics of care.
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I posted earlier in the week on how the threatening ”swine flu” pandemic makes evident the limits of self-reliance as a virtue.

Unfortunately, that point continues to be reinforced.

The Centers for Disease Control and other health experts have been advising that if you feel sick you should go to your doctor and stay home from work.

But if you don’t have a doctor because you lack health insurance or if you aren’t entitled to sick days at work, your options for complying with the CDC are limited.

Sure, you can go to the emergency room and wait around for 12 hours infecting everyone else in the vicinity. And you can call in sick, take the hit on your paycheck, and pray your boss won’t fire you. These are options, but they are not good options and it is likely many people won’t choose them.

The consequences for the rest of us are dire.

There are now roughly 45 Million Americans who lack health insurance and the number is growing everyday. A recent Kaiser Poll suggests that 60 percent of Americans say that “they or a member of their household have delayed or skipped health care in the past year” and many are “substituting home remedies or over the counter drugs for doctors visits.”

And about half the workers in the United States lack the benefit of paid sick leave—most of the people who serve you food, for example.

Obviously, the free market is not distributing resources efficiently when events like the swine flu pandemic threaten. As Priscilla Wald, the author of the book Contagious (Duke University Press, 2008) writes:

In the telling of the outbreak story, the media present the pandemic as solely a medical problem. But it is a social problem as well. Poverty and inadequate health care are the most effective vectors for the spread of disease.

The lack of health care and other benefits is not just a problem for the people who lack them. It makes all of us more vulnerable. Hopefully, this time, this disease will weaken on its own.

A little luck is always a good thing.

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