We encounter them constantly in places as varied as subways, airplanes, restaurants, and stores. They’re at McDonalds and WalMart, in Target and Starbucks. Over and over again, we are forced to witness their malformed and diseased bodies and to breathe their contagion. These are the uninsured—sick, injured, disabled—a burden to all the rest of us. Obamacare, while forcing many to give up policies that would not have paid for a blood pressure measurement, leaves millions still uninsured. And make no mistake about it, those millions threaten us all.
First, since they don’t get basic health care and refuse to stay out of sight at home, they are a source of contagion to the rest of us. They walk through the malls or restaurants, coughing and sneezing, spreading their disease and potentially infecting others. And since few restaurants offer either health insurance or sick leave, many work while sick to serve or prepare our food. Who knows what dread illnesses they carry? Influenza? Tuberculosis? Pneumonia? MRSA? AIDS? Flesh eating and blood sucking diseases?
Second, many have chronic conditions that are offensive and unsightly. Some have facial distortions or deformities, missing eyes or ears or teeth while others have chronic diseases such as PTSD. Others have grotesquely ugly tumors on ears or noses. Others limp or walk slowly, getting in the way when we want to get our business done quickly. Still others are morbidly, offensively obese. Their deformities shock our aesthetic senses, making us uncomfortable.
Third, lacking any other source of medical care, they are forced out of desperation to crowd emergency rooms, slowing down response to those of us who actually have emergencies. They also drive up medical costs for the rest of us since emergency care is by far the most expensive product of our health car system. When they can’t pay for it, someone must. Inevitably, that someone is us.
But there is a solution—a solution that has worked before and can work again. When Southerners feared the power of newly freed slaves, they segregated them. When native Americans were in the way, we put them on reservations. When we thought Japanese Americans might be a threat to us, we put them in internment camps. Much the same might be done with the uninsured. We could surround tracts of useless land with electric fences and move the uninsured onto that land. Our country is blessed with vast tracts of undeveloped land, land not usable for much else with no timber or minerals, no arable land, no potable water. Since the land is essentially useless, we would not be wasting land that might be valuable if developed. And if the internment camps or reservations did turn out to have some undiscovered value, we could just move the remaining uninsured, those who have managed to survive, onto other barren land. That has worked before—just ask native Americans.
This plan removes from the rest of us the threat of contagion from the uninsured. It removes from our sight their grossly offensive deformities. And it could be done at virtually no cost. Those who have suspicions that my plan might be inhumane can be comforted by the fact that the uninsured already die on average about 15 years younger than the insured and that the current system largely ignores their needs anyway, often leaving them to die unattended in the crowded barrack-like conditions of understaffed charity hospitals. And who knows—they might over time adapt to their new environment—find rocks or brush to use for shelter, evolve into sage brush eaters? And if not, surely the loss of only few years of useless takers’ lives need not be a concern for the rest of us.
Disclaimer: I do hope some of you Republicans will read this. This disclaimer is for you. Republican politicians’ proposals lately have been so extreme and outrageous as virtually to parody themselves. Lest those Republican politicians get consider trying my proposal, I want to point out that what I have written here is satire; it is to be read as irony, not as a serious proposal. It proposes a horrible solution in order to call attention to the horror of the problem—that we are the only developed country in the world that does not provide universal health care and that many of our fellow citizens die for lack of health care.