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Health and citizenship

· Health-care benefits during the crisis ·

How can one reconcile the idea of citizenship with blaming someone for illness, interpreted in terms of its cost to society as a whole? This question is becoming ever more important in a period of economic crisis when the item “health” is presented solely from the financial viewpoint, since people have completely lost sight of the value of public assistance as a sign of civilization and an indicator of a culture that does not assume in the abstract human rights and  slogans, which today risk being purely reminiscent of the centrality of the human person. There are many indicators of a regression that is leading to the reintroduction of the social stigma of illness. It is enough to think of the Danish campaign for prenatal diagnosis with a view to the abortion of unborn babies affected with Down Syndrome, or of the insistence on the social burden of disability, old age and the lack of self-sufficiency. What was a cause of pride to a whole country, the construction of a health-care system marked by recognition of neediness  as a cause for unconditional social and economic solidarity, in the face of waste and the bad administration of public funds, is also becoming the source of an irrational campaign which demands that a person, as it were, “deserve” to be born and to have social assistance.

In fact, a dangerous ratio between citizen and contributor is being increased,  forgetting that no citizen necessarily identifies with the  contributor since as long as he does not work he does not contribute, he cannot be a contributor when a pathology prevents him from working and he will not be a contributor when he loses or fails to find employment; rather he will remain enmeshed in poverty and marginalization.

The new health-care bureaucrats have taken the notion of a health-care business too seriously. They are forgetting that their own policies are an expense for society and that the costs of medical services, operations and hospital stays are not written on the Tablet of  the Law of the economy but are in fact decided in accordance with market prospects in which the rationalization of expenses is increasingly moving in the direction of guaranteeing profits to investors that have no equivalent spin-offs for social assistance to citizens. Yes, it is necessary to do something about the health-care system, to rationalize expenses, to review costs, but all this must be done while discussing the priorities, revising, then once again discussing, forms of investment which are not lacking in the health-care sector. It is not enough to indicate the cost of an operation in a patient's medical history if they do not also specify how much the whole sector earns, from the technical and administrative staff to the pharmaceutical companies. Because expenditure is also income and perhaps the issue we should face is also the item of income that goes into the pockets of one section of society. If we do not want new and subtle barbarities to return, we must have the courage to envisage the economy as a crucial means for the life of society and not vice versa.

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St. Peter’s Square

Dec. 12, 2019

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