This is not the first post on this blog I have written with this title. I first used it three years ago, in 2013 when the Affordable Care Act was being debated. This post summarized the story of writer Jo Clayton, who died for want of health insurance. The ACA was upheld, and I was able to add encouraging reports later.
Now the ACA may well be doomed. (This turgid pdf tells you why — skate down to page 43. Lord, these people need an editor.) Nor are the allied services of Medicare and Medicaid safe. Healthcare may be expensive. ACA may be a royal pain in the ass to deal with. All three programs are in crying need of adjustment and fixes. But ACA’s vanishment will literally destroy a lot of people. People who blog here. Whose books you read. Whose life and health is sustained only by the meds or doctor care that the ACA helps them with. This is not a metaphor, not a figure of speech, not writers making the words do the loop-de-loop. This is really real. We are now being advised to get the health treatment we need, now, because it may be unavailable later. To get insurance if we can, now, because it’ll be harder to kick you off if you’re already on the rolls. To switch from the Pill to implants, because birth control may be constrained in future. Winter is coming, and GRRM would know.
I’ve asked witnesses to put their stories in the comments to this blog post, so that you can hear it in their own words.
It is sober fact that most artistic careers do not pay a living wage. We are not all J.K. Rowling or Brad Pitt or Mikhail Baryshikov. Poets starve in attics; actors wait table; artists lay out ads; novelists write tech manuals. Mostly we are cool with this. Poverty for a creative is often a deliberate choice — if we didn’t have to create we would go be CEOs of General Motors or something. We can live on ramen noodles. But health costs are beyond the artist. They’re beyond nearly everybody; medical bankruptcy is the most common cause of insolvency in the nation. The Muse can’t stand up to medical bills.
I hate to state the obvious. But we can’t write if we’re dead, folks. Ouija boards are a lousy publishing platform. We need health insurance.