The National Health

I wasn’t going to mention Melissa Mia Hall’s death here—this is economics and politics, not sf—but now it is clear that, as usual, there is an overlap:

If she had seen the doctor, most likely he would have suspected more than a pulled muscle and would have ordered a life-saving EKG.

As Texas lawyer, writer and Melissa’s friend, Laurie Moore, wrote to me, “She would’ve had a huge doctor bill she couldn’t pay, and would probably have lost her house over it, but she would be alive instead of taking pain pills and dying in the night. “

In the end, Melissa didn’t die from an overdose, not even an accidental one; Melissa died of the very heart attack she feared….

Melissa worked hard. She owned a home. She paid her taxes. She was trying to live a dream – the American Dream – that supposedly we as citizens are promised – the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. For her, that couldn’t be achieved in a traditional job that came with the perks of health care.

This is the quintessential “hard-working American” who gets talked about by The Teabaggers as if nothing ever goes wrong and they never need “government help.” (link h/t Dr. Black) This is the woman of whom Peter Cannon (via Rose Fox)* said:

Melissa contributed hundreds of reviews to PW, in all different genres, as well as dozens of Q&As. In recent years, ever reliable and diligent, she was reviewing three books a week for me…

This isn’t someone who was getting “fails to perform” ratings or “stealing” a house. This is someone whose every effort was aimed at making money and paying bills to keep what little she had gained. She used her skills—human capital, painfully developed—and made rational decisions.

And the rational ex ante decision not to use the medicines she needed or to have to pay out of pocket for an exam that may well lead to more expenses that are beyond her liquidity constraints are, well, exactly what we teach as “correct” in Ph.D. micro- and macro- Economics courses.

So this isn’t a science fiction post, because no one who reads and writes science fiction would believe that a hard-working, conscientious person with great skills, a positive personality, and diligent attention to opportunities would die because they couldn’t afford to live.

It’s an economics and politics post, one I wish I hadn’t had to write.

*Full disclosure: I’ve known Peter Cannon for years; he edited both myself and my wife at PW. (Full, full disclosure: he fired me, after having previously turned down my request to quit for a while. Both were good decisions on his part.) I’ve met Rose Fox several times and she edited my wife for a while when PW still paid something resembling minimum wage for the effort required.