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Politics & Current Affairs

Sick Poverty

The Washington Post’s columnist Richard Cohen asks what happens if you’re both sick and poor? What do you do if you have no health insurance?

“From the 14th floor of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, I could look across the East River to much of Brooklyn and Queens. Behind me in the hospital bed was the woman I love, who was sick, very sick. She was attended by some remarkable doctors (including her own indomitable daughter), and I would sometimes drift to the window and look out over a city with several million people and wonder: What do they do? What do they do if they have no health insurance? That question has stuck with me. There have been several more hospital stays and many more visits to the doctor, and so I am, in a very painful way, an expert of sorts on the American health-care system. It is an inelegant monstrosity, a beast that consumes lives and money and makes some people rich and many more poor. It is a quintessentially American operation, created out of pragmatism and prejudice — a belief in what works and as deep a belief that the government can make nothing work. It is the product of tiny minds, some of them in Congress, and they have now set about improving the system in a way that exhausts Washington’s store of cliches — herding cats, making sausage and the rest.”


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