A three point plan to keep America healthy

Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act is facing a yet another test, with the Supreme Court controversially set to rule on the bill’s constitutionality. Were it to be overturned, millions of Americans would once again find themselves with the prospect of no healthcare. Jennifer Weiss and Leonard Benardo offer a few original ideas about how the state could step in to fill the gap. 

Leonard Benardo Jennifer Weiss
31 May 2012

With June upon us, health care advocates, insurance companies, politicians and the Conference of Catholic Bishops are anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature achievement to expand health care access and coverage. No doubt, contingency plans will be crafted should the legislation be overturned: Insurance companies will plot ways to get the pre-existing condition clause repealed as the critical next step; members of Congress will devise strategies for future health care battles; advocacy groups will gin up campaigns to reduce the number of the uninsured; and Michael Moore will be readying his next ideological salvo against the US health care system.

But what about the immediate needs of those bereft of health care coverage?  What kind of contingency plan could be put in place for them? The nation will need to find some quick alternatives to get health care to the people if Obamacare meets its demise. After examining existing institutional structures and laws, we have identified several imaginative approaches to keeping our country healthy. 

1. Build in a health care exam in the strip search procedure during arrests.

In April, the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement officials could strip search people arrested for any offense before admitting them to jails, even when there’s no suspicion of contraband. This was hardly one of the Supreme Court’s more popular rulings, particularly among civil libertarians who claim that it would jeopardize the privacy rights of millions. But matters might not look so bleak if correctional officers got standard medical training and administered annual exams and preventive screenings at the time of the strip search. After all, you are already naked. Beyond serving as one solution to our health care crisis, it’s also a jobs plan providing professional development opportunities and employment growth for those working in jails.

You may think this isn’t quite fair—hardened criminals would be getting access to health care while law abiding citizens would not. But here’s the beautiful part: Now even those arrested for minor offences can get strip searched. So if our plan goes forward, after being read your Miranda rights when pulled over for driving with a noisy muffler or riding a bicycle without an audible bell, you can rest easy knowing that you’ll finally get that prostate exam you’ve been long putting off.

2.  Train police officers doing “stop and frisk” duty to identify medical concerns.

This is of course the poor man’s version of the strip-search health exam, but a less extensive health survey could still be executed by cops when they “stop and frisk.”  While making contact with a “suspect’s” outer clothing to see if there is a concealed weapon, police officers with the right training could, for example, identify reflex issues, protruding bumps, scoliosis, dermatology concerns, obesity, even malnutrition. 

Now one may object to this approach as statistics make clear that African Americans and Latinos get stopped and frisked far more frequently than Caucasian men.  But once we attach health care exams to “stop and frisk,” we might see a movement of Whites lobbying to end the imbalance of who is disproportionately stopped.  And, in the name of efficiency, if as reported almost nine out of ten people being stopped in New York City are innocent, then let’s make the stop worth their while and give them a little health care.

3.  Train transport security staff to provide radiology services.

The influx of full body scanners in airports across the country has proven to be an additional nuisance to travelers eager to get on their way. But what if these 360 degree monster devices not only detected if you left a penny in your loafer but were also surrogate x-ray machines providing a full range of radiology services?  With the proper training and a quick scan, TSA airport personnel could pick up tumors, fractures, even cavities, then send you to your gate— or, if necessary, re-route you to the nearest hospital.  Racial profiling would be implicitly undermined as it’s only a person’s interior that will matter.

Should the health care law be gutted or overturned next month we’ve shared our prescription for making the best of a bad situation by deputizing correctional officers, policemen and TSA officials as medical screeners.  Americans know that with a little creativity there is always a silver lining in the strange laws and practices governing our lives. By implementing this three point plan, we pledge to strengthen job skills and provide people the health care coverage they so richly deserve.

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