In the wake of the Boston bombing, we're all struggling to understand what could bring two people to cause so much death and destruction. It's been a traumatic week for a nation that, unfortunately, isn't new to dealing with the trauma of terrorism. During our collective mourning, we have witnessed wonderful acts of bravery and kindness that renew our faith in humanity, that shed light on this tragically dark chapter in American history.
Five days ago, Jeffrey Bauman's legs were blown off waiting for his girlfriend at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. When he woke up later in the hospital, his first thoughts were not for himself, but for us all. Unable to speak, he urged the hospital staff to pass him a notepad so he could provide vital information about one of two suspects. His strength of resolve in that moment was what allowed police to identify the suspects and eventually track them down.
The survivor's story is both tragic and heroic. On top of the physical and psychological trauma, Jeffrey is also faced with a very hefty hospital bill. The man who helped federal officials crack the case hasn't even fully recovered and he is already being forced to calculate how he will defray the exorbitant cost of his care. As a part-time worker at Costco without any benefits, he's like 1.9% of Massachusetts' residents — he can't afford health care coverage.
Jeffrey Bauman did not cause this tragedy. Jeffrey Bauman could not have foreseen it. Jeffrey Bauman cannot pay for it. Instead of being rewarded for his act of bravery and compensated for the permanent injury he bears, he now falls victim to a health care system that disinherits the disenfranchised and vulnerable. Although the injustice of Bauman's story is particularly poignant, it isn't that different from millions of Americans who can't afford the price of health care.
Any attempt to make health care a right rather than a privilege is brought down by right-wing opponents who believe that "letting the uninsured die rather than offer them assistance is 'what freedom is all about.'" If liberty and freedom are what America stands for, then accessible health care is what our nation should stand for, too. Everyone should be free to be healthy, and the best way to pursue this goal is by establishing a public health care system that doesn't discriminate.
Thankfully, thousands are shocked by this injustice and have come together to donate a total of $337,951 to help cover Jeffrey's massive medical bill through "Bucks for Bauman!" — an online crowd-sourcing campaign started by the victim's friends. Although these donations are heart-warming, the concept that we would have to rely on people's voluntary donations to care for the victim of a nation's terrorist attack is profoundly disturbing. It highlights just how broken and primitive our health care system is.
Good health is often a matter of luck. It's not always under one's control. The Boston bombing exemplifies the unique fragility of human life. On Facebook, Jeffrey Bauman's father sorrowfully explained that his son was at the Boston Marathon to see his girlfriend run. "Unfortunately, my son was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," his father said. Jeffrey helped the U.S. government find two people who are suspected of trying to tear America apart. That America is not standing behind Jeffrey in his time of need is troubling. It just doesn't sit right.
Let's honor the victims and heroes of the Boston bombing. Let's tell them that they are not alone. Let's collectively commit to underwrite the guarantee that every victim has the care they deserve, not through arbitrary donations but through structural interventions. Let's take this moment to re-examine a health care system that could produce an injustice like this one. Let's show the world just how strong and united America really is.
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Note: The author will be donating to Bucks for Bauman! and highly encourages you to do it too. Until we fix our health care system, we should give every dollar we can to this hero.