Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
The TSA doesn’t hold a candle to the admissions’ desk clerks in U.S. hospitals or the front desk personnel in most U.S. doctors’ offices. Patients – especially the poorer among us whether insured or not – are used to being felt up and checked out before we get any services. Maybe that’s why when I was recently subjected to one of the more stringent pat downs at the Denver airport, it really didn’t alarm me that much. The TSA body-search and pat-down tempest really belongs to the ruling class and to those who have never felt violated by the U.S. healthcare system and its inhumane profit-taking.
I stepped up to the screening area knowing I would set off the alarms. My titanium knee does that. But because the full-body scanner had a line that wrapped around six or seven loops like a very un-fun Disneyland queue, I opted to stand in the normal metal detector line. I alarmed. I went to the pat down area to await a female screener. Before she could finish her sentence, I said, “I know. Just get it over with.” I did not object. I shut my eyes and ignored the lifting of my shirt and the quick but uncomfortable checks of my private areas. It saddened me that I didn’t care. Actually, I cared, but I’ve become resigned to our inhumanity.
Over the past 25 years, every time I seek medical care or help my husband seek medical care I am subject to intense scrutiny. And if I pass through the front desk check offs, I am never certain that the care offered or delivered is what is good for my body or simply what is more easily reimbursed by my insurance coverage. My body is not my own. My body is a profit center to be violated for someone else’s enrichment. The U.S. healthcare system does not put my healing and good health above its own profits – ever.
So, maybe when I am being directly and honestly patted down by uniformed TSA agents I am no more or no less invisible. I am more used to that feeling and that reality than the richer, more frequent flyer wealthy class could ever be.
So this week we see an outcry about the security checks and their invasion of privacy and violation of our bodies. Well, guess what? It isn’t so much news to most of us. Our bodies and our privacy are violated all the time.
Ever stand in the doctor’s office and have someone challenge your insurance coverage as if you were a criminal or at least one of those inferior people with inadequate financial resources? Within earshot of a whole waiting room full of people? I have. And I have sat silently when it happened to other patients and families. I’ve been turned away and seen others turned away.
I’ve made it through the healthcare financial screenings only to be fairly certain I’d get only so much care and the kind of care my for-profit insurance company stood ready to compensate. I’ve never been so certain I’d get decent care. At least after a TSA pat down you get to fly somewhere.
Rich folks aren’t used to being touched inappropriately but they do fly a lot more than the rest of us. So all of the sudden this week we see news report after news report about the trauma of the airport searches. The ruling class is troubled, so it must be news.
I suspect lots more people were financially strip-searched this week in hospitals and doctors’ offices and then left to worry and wonder. I suspect many others didn’t get care they needed or got care they didn’t need in much more invasive ways than most rich folks would be comfortable with. Patients were humiliated and left waiting. But, as a friend says, the profits are dear.
Why didn’t I complain about the enhanced search I had to have? Probably because I’ve been so used to the powerful telling me the value of my body for so long that I’ve lost the ability to be insulted by it. I’m conditioned to humiliation. And now I’m old enough to really hate the chatter about it on TV. My grandkids are watching, for goodness sake, do we have to talk about everyone’s “junk?”
Someday my body and health will matter as much as the wealthy person’s does in the United States; it’s just not this Thanksgiving. In that distant reality, a progressively financed, single standard of high quality care will prevail and I’ll be able to recapture the outrage for my personal privacy that was stripped from me decades ago in this corporate healthcare system.
Until then, I’m just one of the unwashed masses in the line – a profit to some and a potential threat to others. My body is not my own in America. Happy Thanksgiving.
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