Break the System: “Health Care is Justice” (Part#4)
Universal Health Care Access
Health care should be a human right — it saddens me deeply that as I write this, this is a subject of controversy. Regardless of who we are, what we’ve done, what we earn, we deserve the compassionate health care by quality medical staff that we can access. Maybe you don’t agree on that for some strange principle — but perhaps you can see the overall societal benefits of health care.
New Evidence That Access to Health Care Reduces Crime (2018) by Jennifer Doleac shows that three out of five incarcerated inmates have a substance abuse problem. Further, half of federal prisoners and two thirds of county level jail inmates are experiencing severe psychological distress. Doleac suggests a strong need to open more mental health treatment facilities. In a study cited by Doleac, the implementation of these treatment facilities can reduce violent behavior caused by drug usage and property crimes used to fund these costly addictions.
“Reducing demand for illegal drugs might also reduce violence associated with the illegal drug trade. The authors estimate that each additional treatment facility in a county reduces the social costs of crime in that county by $4.2 million per year. Annual costs of treatment in a facility are approximately $1.1 million, so the benefits far exceed the costs.”
However, these treatment programs will only have use if they are accessible. Instead of relying on a health care system that relies on costly health insurance, we can remove the barrier by having Medicare for All.
According to Doleac, when Medicaid expanded, we saw a reduction in both violent and property crimes. Medicaid expansions increase the number of individuals receiving adequate treatment by as much as 20%.
In further review, Medicaid expansions have reduced violent crime by as much as 5.8% and property crime by 3%, thus, the Affordable Care Act is estimated to have saved society $13.6 billion solely in its effect on crime reduction.
It is also important to understand that many people with mental illness are NOT perpetrators of crime but rather are more likely to be victims of crimes! According to Cherly Platzman Weinstock in Risk of being a crime victim goes up with mental illness, having a mental illness will increase one’s vulnerability to crime. Between the two binary genders (all that was studied), men with a psychiatric disorder had a 50% increase of reporting crimes against them whereas women saw an increase by 64%. Substance users and those with personality disorders are among the highest at risk.
In the article: “We hope that the study findings will highlight the importance of the risk of being subjected to crime and violence that people with mental illnesses right across the diagnostic spectrum face,” said lead author Kimberlie Dean, associate professor and chair of forensic mental health at the University of New South Wales in Matraville, Australia.
“We also hope it will motivate more research to improve our understanding of the risk and how to combat it and (help) towards re-balancing public perceptions about mental illness,” she told Reuters Health in an email.”
The fact is: universal access to health care, which includes psychological healthcare, benefits everyone by reducing the likelihood to become a victim of a crime.
Jonathan Heller, 2016, wrote Our Health Instead of Punishment to discuss the link between health and crime. In this discussion, physical and mental health care outcomes are listed. This includes chronic disease such as diabetes, infectious disease, developmental issues and a variety of psychiatric issues. Because physical health issues, such as chronic diseases, can lead to chronic unemployment and debt from health care can lead to inability to pay bills, which is likely to lead to poverty and possible arrest, these are considered factors in relationship to the criminal justice system.
Based on our previous discussions, about employment and houselessness, we can infer that inaccessibility to health care can lead to poverty, houselessness and unemployment.
According to Unemployment Risk Among Individuals Undergoing Medical Treatment for Chronic Diseases (2015) chronic disease can increase the risk of unemployment.
From the article: “However, in every day life, these people face social issues such as gaining and retaining employment. Thirty per cent of employees with cancer resigned their posts voluntarily and 4% of employees with cancer were dismissed in 2004. It has been reported that cancer patients and survivors who can work find it difficult to resume working, continue working or to find a new job. Based on this evidence, it is assumed that people with other chronic diseases may find it equally difficult to find and retain employment.”
As we previously discussed, chronic unemployment can lead to the commission of or increase the victimhood of crime.
In Science Daily, we learn 85% percent of homeless people have chronic health conditions (2011). From the article: “Poor housing conditions and poor health are closely linked,” said Dr. Hwang. “We need to treat both problems.”
As such, we can see healthcare can not only in and of itself eliminate some burden of crime, it can also eliminate, or reduce, other societal ailments that cause additional crime commissions or victimization.