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  • Kate

Healthcare in Cyberpunk 2077

The videogame Cyberpunk 2077 is set in a futuristic California city. There are two electronic shards, reading material found by the player, that makes a great argument for why the dystopia of corporation-only healtchare is horrible. Only that "dystopia" is very similar to the USA's current healthcare system.

blue background with text "... Yes? The whole point of cyberpunk - the genre, I mean - is that society is a hellhold because the government has essentially collapsed under capitalist pressure, abdicating its responsibility to make life not suck."


"Emergency on Demand" from The Rescue mission.

How did it happen? When and why did we as a society decide that human life is a commodity? A luxury?
My mother passed away at 45. She still had decades of life to live until it was all stolen from her by common pneumonia. If she had held even the cheapest Trauma Team policy, she could have cured with an hour. But she couldn't afford it. My mother died five months before her scheduled appointment with our family practitioner ...
The idea of privatized healthcare is deeply ingrained in our public psyche. Already in 2020, there was widespread consensus that 500 eurodollars a month was a fair price for Trauma Team insurance. Health wasn't something you were given, it was something you earned. The private system may not be perfect, but there's no alternative, we thought.
Now cross the Pacific Ocean to the USSR where they also have highly trained medical technicians, high-precision nanosurgical suites, specialized antibodies, intravenous probes, the list goes on. Emergency airlifts using modern AVs equipped with cryotonic chambers? They have those, too. The difference, then? They don't leave their people to did on the streets, at the store, in their homes. They don't force anyone to purchase their lives from a corporation as if they're the ones who own it.
Public healthcare isn't some unachievable utopia. It is a REALITY.
Trauma Team, on the other hand, treats its policyholders as both potential patients to be treated and potential products to be bought. They save lives only because there is profit in it. A saved life is a returning customer. Client death can also bring in fiscal gains in the form of organ and implant resale, though of course in regulated, smaller sums. An emergency care provider can't afford to give its managers reasons to deliberately kill off its clientele base for short-term windfalls.
Surely, you ask, these medical “professionals” are also guided by their Hippocratic Oaths?
Please ...

I really like this shard as it clearly states that human life shouldn't be a product and public healthcare ia achievable. So many other healthcare related shows may say "hey the opiod crisis was bad" but won't directly state this exists because we have a system that treates health as a product, humans as product, and none of this had to occur if we made healthcare a public good.

Is health the same as toys or guns? Or is it a special good? The dystopia offered by Cyberpunk is a world where the rich are healthy and the poor don't have access to healthcare. We live in that world, only not as heightened. We don't see people left to die on the streets, we only hear stories of the people who didn't get the healthcare they couldn't afford. It's a lot different to physically see the disease and death in the videogame.

cyberpunk image of a skyline with a tall skyscraper with a blue neon healthcare cross, next the text that in dystopian future of cyberpunk and currently in USA, many hospital workers cannot afford health insurance

"Trauma Team Leads the Way" from Edgerunners Content.

Second-rate equipment, under-trained medical “professionals”, and high death rates – this is the best Night City’s public emergency services have to offer. In addition to poor performance metrics, so too has their public image suffered. Scandals involving city EMTs colluding with scavengers have gone from rare to commonplace.
Recent cuts in municipal healthcare spending have led to the outright collapse of a medical system that already underperformed by most standards in the developed world. Ironically, this so-called “reform” resulted in a greater drain of doctors, nurses, paramedics and dispatchers from the public sector. Where quality healthcare was spotty before, now too is even calling the emergency hotline. Should you be among the lucky to reach a dispatcher, expect more than a half hour for an ambulance to arrive. And should you not bleed out before reaching the hospital, you’re even less likely to find an available bed. Recent data show a survival rate for traffic accidents in Night City at a meager 17%.
For comparison, the average survival rate for traffic accidents across all Trauma Team policies is 91%. Response time is guaranteed to never exceed 3 minutes. Heaven on Earth? No. The minimum we all deserve. Something to keep in mind as you plan your personal budget... Purchase Trauma Team’s Platinum-level coverage for the cost of Gold and safeguard your life today. Limited-time offer.

This shard reminds me of the healthcare companies that sabatoge public healthcare and then call that proof it doesn't work. The corporation of Trauma Team is making claims about municipal healthcare, but there is no municpal government in Night City. It is a lawless state only run by corporations, the only hospitals are owned by Trauma Team.

cyberpunk background of a health pod with an Internet comment of someone mad that Trauma Team will abandon people who are dying if they are not a paying customer

Part of the dystopia in Cyberpunk 2077 includes:

  • If you sign up for a trial subscription and cancel it, you can never receive healthcare again.

  • There are 3 different subscription packages, and the lowest level means that if you get injured they will make sure you are alive but won't take you to a hospital.

  • The hospital they take second and third level subscribers differs in care level.

  • At the lowest level, if you die before the ambulance gets to you, they will only charge your dead body 50% for the ammunition needed to get to your body.

  • The second level has the same response time as current USA urban areas (7 minutes).

  • You will be charged a surcharge if many people are hurt at the same time.

  • The Trauma Team will kill people to get to their client, as that's the person's that's paying.

  • The Trauma Team is told not to help anyone who is sick unless they are a paying subscriber.

While Cyberpunk 2077's dystopian healthcare can be laughable, with gunmen on ambulances to shoot their way to a client, it's also earily accurate. What happens when the customer is always right and healtchare is just another commodity? Well then other people can be hurt as the customer is paying you only to save the customer.

The World Health Organization has stated health is a right, not a product since it's constiution in 1946, yet many Americans still view healthcare as something you only get if you are rich enough. It's really refreshing to see a videogame take the idea of "health as a product" to it's absurd height of an amulance team killing non-subscribers at the request of their subscriber.

It's really satisfying to see on forums people express frustration with this "health as a product" system.


Are there any other videogames or media that show that healthcare as a product is dystopian?


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