Just before the start of the 2014 NFL season, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Devon Still was cut from the team’s main roster. In the offseason, Still’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer causing him to miss off-season practices and mini-camps which then affected his performance during training camp. In an act of charity and kindness, the Bengals front-office decided to place Still on the practice squad, which would allow Still to pay his daughter’s treatments.
Unfortunately, if Devon Still wasn’t granted this opportunity – or the opportunity to be a professional athlete, Still could possibly be facing what many working class Pennsylvanians are facing; full-time employment with no access to private health care, and that is why working class solidarity is the key for health care becoming a human right.
According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services in some of Pennsylvania’s largest counties, the percentage of uninsured residents on the county level range between 10 and 16 percent. Of those who are uninsured, over three-quarters of those have at least one family member with a full-time job. This means that 438,000 of the 600,000 uninsured people in Allegheny, Berks, Dauphin, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Luzerne, Philadelphia and York counties have at least one family member with a full-time job! Clearly having a job is no guarantee that your family will have access to care.
Of those 10 counties, the most unequal counties are York, Berks and Lancaster counties. In York, 42,227 people are uninsured and of those uninsured, 80.5 percent, or 34,000 people, have at least one family member with a full-time job. The same is true for Berks county, where 39,000 people are without insurance and 81.4 percent, or 31,600 people, have a family member with a full-time job. Lastly, Lancaster county has 73,500 people without insurance and 84.9 percent, or 62,500 people, have a family member with a full-time job.
The Devon Still story is a prime example of how having access to health care is essentially an act of charity within the employer, employee dynamic, and unfortunately, for hundreds of thousands of working class Pennsylvanian’s who have full-time jobs there is no charity nor access to health care. Within the ten counties listed above, 438,000 of 600,000 Pennsylvanians have no access to health care coverage even though they are a productive member of society. This goes against the conventional wisdom that those who need a hand up in today’s society are lazy and unproductive, and if we are to break down that conventional wisdom and make health care a human right – not about coverage, but about care – we must break the rural urban divide by reaching out to and build solidarity amongst working class Pennsylvanians.