Discrimination in Healthcare

6 years ago I had the (unfortunate) opportunity to get braces. I had wickedly awful looking teeth and I refused to smile because of how awful they were. Thankfully I had health and dental insurance to cover part of the *very expensive* cost of my braces. Today I am able to smile proudly with perfectly straight teeth!

My mom recently got her wisdom teeth out and only had to pay $50 because her insurance covered the rest. If I ever have a toothache or need a check-up it is as simple as calling and making an appointment. Not everyone is as fortunate as my family and I are to be able to pay so little for dental care. After reading the article The Painful Truth about Teeth by Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan I realized just how lucky I am and how privileged I am. 

In Maryland, hundreds of people waited in the cold for dental care. A lot of these people held steady jobs but were just unable to afford the cost of dental care. Dee Matello owns a small business with her husband and back in 2016 she and her husband both voted for Trump because he vowed to be the voice of the working class of America. Matello hasn’t received dental care, and for years she has had an ache in her back molar making it almost impossible to chew on that side of her mouth. 

Many of the people that showed up for this clinic had a steady paying job but did not have the dental insurance or the extra cash to make it to the dentist. Why is something as simple as the dentist so expensive and unreachable for so many working-class Americans?

The divide between the rich and the poor is something that keeps on growing, and now it is having detrimental effects on peoples lives. The working-class in America can no longer go to the dentist or doctor without breaking the bank. While the well off people are able to drop $2,000 on a single tooth, the working class has to save up, or wait until it is a dire emergency to get their tooth fixed. 

A study done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported by NPR sent out a survey asking Americans about their overall health and the results were quite fascinating. The health of Americans was declining and gender, race, and income played a big part. What this study showed was that white men with a higher income had the best health. While this is unfortunately not surprising, it is quite frustrating to think about. 

For thousands of years, there has been a divide between the upper and lower class. Upper class has always had the ability to own land, and generally had more rights than the lower class did. Not only was there a class divide but there was also a race divide. 

In Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington, the first chapter discusses the medical exploitation of blacks. Washington talks about how slaves were often used as vehicles for medical research and that slaves often couldn’t get the same medical care because of their work conditions (Washington, 29). Just as the working class in America today, healthcare was difficult to come by and often not an avenue taken unless it was a dire emergency. The sixth chapter goes into the idea that just because there was an end to slavery it did not mean there was an end in the scientific racism that was happening (145), there was no equality between whites and blacks in the medical field. They had a poor and unreliable medical system. 

I made the connection between Washington and the article we read for class because of just how unfair our healthcare can be. Working people can not afford something as simple as getting a tooth pulled, and the blacks were unable to get just healthcare because in both cases an unreliable healthcare system is in place. While these are not even close to the same magnitude, it serves to show that for years people and races have been unfairly discriminated against and their health has suffered because of this.

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