My daughter passed out at church. Seriously! It was strange and scary at the same time. She and I went to early morning mass together before dawn. We were kneeling beside each other in prayer when I heard a “BOOM!” Figuring someone had dropped a book, I opened my eyes to see my 19-year old lying like a potato sack on the floor with her eyes rolled back into her head. She was unresponsive.
Of course, I panicked. I didn't know what to do. Fortunately, a doctor was seated nearby and came over. As he began to examine her, she returned to consciousness. We eventually walked outside where a caring friend had called a medic. The ambulance arrived, and two competent medics examined my daughter with careful detail. Good news: dehydration was the culprit, and the problem could be easily solved. Crisis averted.
At no time was I asked for proof of health insurance. At no time was I asked for payment. I am sure there will be plenty of time for that later. We received timely emergency care on demand.
A “crisis” would have occurred if my daughter had passed out and there were no medics to call. In much of the world, that is a reality, and it is a true crisis. A “crisis” would have occurred if my daughter had fallen, and the medics had refused to treat her until I could demonstrate 100% ability to pay. Neither of these scenarios occurred because we live in America. Health care is abundant and available in emergency situations. Moreover, our quality of care is the envy of the world. There is no “crisis,” and the use of that term only serves to inflame passions and urge quick action on an issue that is hardly monolithic, and hardly solvable with a purely political remedy.
Unfortunately, by using the phrase “crisis” so often, our politicians risk creating a crisis rather than solving one. The dictionary defines a “crisis” in a helpful way. A crisis is “a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, esp. for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.” It is hard to argue that “all future events” will be made better or worse if we choose to do nothing right now or we decide to take time to address meaningfully the multiple problems we face. This moment is not a “turning point,” unless of course we choose to act too quickly and without much thought, at which point we will have actually created a crisis for the worse.