Today, few issues are non-partisan. However, one subject that is becoming less partisan involves how people rate the quality of healthcare in the United States. Access to affordable, high-value healthcare matters to all individuals, though it touches some more intimately than others. In the first three months of 2018, more than 28 million children and adults were uninsured. Though that number has dropped by approximately 20 million since 2010, in large part due to the Affordable Care Act, problems with access to healthcare remain. About five percent of children between the ages of zero and seventeen—some of the most vulnerable individuals in society—remain uninsured, and far more are considered underinsured.
Even children and adults who are covered by private or public health insurance face difficulties accessing healthcare. The high cost of care, inadequate coverage, and lack of services or culturally competent care fuel disparities in access to healthcare. Access to healthcare frequently varies based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and zip code. As a result, people often experience unmet health needs, delays in receiving appropriate care, inability to obtain preventive services, financial burdens, and preventable hospitalizations—all of which further increase health care costs.
As I’ve written before, going forward, it is important that we consider which principles should guide changes in healthcare policy. Based on the overwhelming evidence and experiences around the globe, it is clear that policies should reflect key values like equity, compassion, and solidarity, as well as a focus on prevention and evidence-based care. Together, we need to figure out how we can best translate these principles into action—begging the question of how we can improve dialogue around such an important topic.
Curator Kimberly J. Soenen and her colleagues have some ideas. Soenen is curating a multiplatform photography and art exhibition called “SOME PEOPLE” (Every)Body which reveals our universal vulnerability as it relates to the nation’s healthcare policy debate. The exhibition includes images, writings, and art of professional journalists, writers, artists, and healthcare providers. Comprised of a growing digital and soon-to-be live exhibition, select contributions are viewable on Instagram at @HealthOverProfit.
I had the privilege of contributing a brief piece, which tells the story of the included image here. As I note in my contribution to the exhibition, we need to confront key questions such as: “To what do we owe each other? Who is the ‘other’ or ‘some people’? and How can we nurture each other’s vulnerabilities rather than ignoring or exploiting them?”
As art often does, I suspect this exhibition will help us find answers to these and related questions. It will allow us to see the healthcare policy debate more clearly—both in terms of our vulnerable bodies and universal fragility and our potential for resilience.
Soenen aims to open the live exhibition in Chicago in 2019. She is working to engage patients, medical students, healthcare providers, policymakers, mental health professionals, members of the private health insurance industry, and other key stakeholders. News of the exhibition and related programming across the United States will be announced in the year ahead.
You can get involved! Crystal Hodges, a contributor to “SOME PEOPLE” (Every)Body, is creating an art installation that communicates the ways in which individuals suffer as a result of current practices within the United States private health insurance industry. Soenen is collecting correspondence from private health insurance companies to patients to be included in Hodges’ art installation. The installation will be unveiled on opening night in 2019.
If you would like to contribute a letter or multiple letters or documents concerning denial of a healthcare service, delays or restrictions in services, inflated costs, onerous bills, bankruptcy caused by medical bill debt or other challenges associated with healthcare delivery, send PDFs or scanned letters to Kimberly Soenen at:
Subject Line: DENIAL
*Letters will be reviewed and considered for inclusion. Retract the personal information you wish before submitting.
Because, in a debate that affects all of our lives and bodies, we all have something to contribute.
Follow “SOME PEOPLE” (Every)Body on Instagram @HealthOverProfit.