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Single-Payer Healthcare is Sense, Not Socialism

How many more corpses do I have to transport to the morgue?

Consider this hypothetical scenario:

1 a.m.: The operating room nurses take the bed out of the room, wheel it to the staff elevators, come up to our fifth-floor ICU, and park outside room 52. On the bed is a man no older than I, lying there, completely still. The patient is sedated and ventilated, with no less than eight different tubes maintaining bodily functions for him.

1:15 a.m.: I finish receiving report. A car accident on the highway threw this man into a windshield, where he hit his head and developed a subarachnoid hemorrhage, or bleeding in the brain. The surgeon evacuated any existing blood and placed a drain in the brain ventricle to prevent an increase in brain pressure. Prognosis: Dismal without a month of continued care.

1:45 a.m.: His parents call the hospital and ask about him. I field the call. Fighting through tears, his mother asks what has happened to her baby boy, if he’s going to be okay. The only thing I can tell her is that they can come to the hospital.


2:15 a.m.: The parents, no older than my own, arrive. His mother is a blubbering mess, makeup running, hair disheveled, barely understandable through the veil of grief. What breaks me is his father. A single arm around his wife and a blank stare. A single tear tracks down his vacant face. When that levee breaks…

2:30 a.m.: I spend two hours talking to his parents. I offer them treatment plans, support, assurance, and faith. In exchange, they gift me memories. Photos of their smiles, moments with him, his accomplishments, his dreams. I can’t reconcile these memories, these images with the person lying on the bed.

4:40 a.m.: The bill updates. One surgery: $90,000. One night of post-surgical critical care: $10,000. The doctor comes in and explains that, for care, another surgery may have to be done, requiring their son to stay in the hospital for at least another three weeks. The color drains from the mother’s face. A silent whisper betrays her: “We can’t afford that. We don’t have insurance.” She immediately claps her hand over her mouth.

7 a.m.: Time for day shift to come in. I pack up my belongings and swipe out. I will decide which road to take home. His parents will decide when to let their son die.

6:45 p.m.: I am back at the hospital. I am greeted with a purple monitor: comfort care. They cannot afford to treat their son, so they must let him pass. The impossible choice has been made. Without saying a word, I walk into the room, sit down on the couch, and hold their hands. I will be there as long as I need.

7:15 p.m.: He’s dead.

While working as a care partner at my local hospital, I watched people with worse situations stand up and walk out with their family and multiple “get well soon” balloons in tow. They could pay; this man could not.

While this exact story may be hypothetical, albeit inspired by one of my own experiences, similar stories of people dying due to a lack of health insurance are true for thousands of families around the United States every year. It is far past time to dispose of the payment obstacle. The impetus is on Harvard and other such powerful institutions to use their voices to do good, enact change, and save people’s lives.

Many people who read this will agree with me wholeheartedly, but this story is not for them. This story is for those who fall prey to the maelstrom of misinformation, misconstruction, and misjudgment surrounding the system of single-payer healthcare under which all essential healthcare costs are covered by a single governmental source.

This is for those like the Harvard administration, which automatically enrolls every student in the Blue Cross Blue Shield sponsored Health Insurance plan and discourages enrollment in the state-sponsored Massachusetts Health Connector — established for those who have recently lost health insurance. This is for those, like the Harvard administration, who continue and propagate the current inaccessible system of private healthcare that has contributed to the death of more than 162,000 people in seven years.

There are many arguments I could make in support of single-payer healthcare. No, it’s not more expensive; some researchers have found it to save a net $2 trillion in a ten-year period. No, you won’t have to wait much longer for care. But all these arguments have been made by people more educated, powerful, and respected.

To all those who dispute a single-payer health system on the grounds that it is uneconomical, or inefficient: Your arguments have been refuted time and time again, by scholars and experts more knowledgeable than us both.

I can only say one additional thing to try to change your mind.

I will have to put this man’s cold, stiff, bare dead body in a body bag and take him to the morgue. You will not.

Anant P. Rajan ’24, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology concentrator in Leverett House.