In 2014, then Alabama governor Robert Bentley refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Today, his then-lieutenant governor and successor Kay Ivey continues his legacy by also denying healthcare to the people of Alabama. Alabama is one of only three states that still has not accepted the expansion of Medicaid.
Alabama is one of the poorest states in the country with over 17 percent of its residents living below the poverty line. Combined with the fact that nearly half a million Alabamians are without any form of health insurance, the prospects of receiving any form of medical attention in Alabama are grim. These circumstances have led to a rise in serious health conditions across the state including, most shockingly, leading the nation in deaths due to cervical cancer. Sadly, it ties in this position with its neighboring state of Mississippi.
According to Dr. Jennifer Young Pierce, head of cancer control and prevention at the Mitchell Cancer Institute at University of South Alabama, many types of cervical cancer are preventable with proper HPV vaccinations. However, due to a notorious lack of adequate sex education and the crumbling medical infrastructure in the state, only 20 percent of children between the ages of 11-15 have had their full rounds of HPV vaccines. Cervical cancer can also be detected and treated with routine screenings.
In the midst of the most dire public health crisis in the past 20 years, the cracks in the U.S. health system have begun to widen. Often praised by moderate Democrats and Republicans, the system of employer-provided health insurance is now falling apart. As a record number of people are laid off in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, they’re also losing their health benefits.
The greed of the private healthcare industry under capitalism has led to the exacerbation of what could become the largest humanitarian crisis in the United States within our lifetime. The necessity for healthcare as a human right is more evident every day. Cuba, where healthcare is recognized as a human right, shows us that when medical care can be provided without profit in mind, even a harshly sanctioned country besieged by U.S. imperialism can make huge leaps in medical research. Cuba became the first country to eliminate the mother-to-child transmission of HIV and developed a vaccine for lung cancer. All of their health services are provided on-demand and free of charge. There is no rational reason why people living in the richest nation on earth can’t enjoy a healthcare system at least as good as Cuba’s.