I feel like most things I write (and many I say) I must preface with “remember I’m British”. I’m finding this more and more recently. Like things don’t click. Like a piece of every puzzle is missing. What has been bothering me recently is universal healthcare, or the lack there of! I just cannot wrap my head around it.
The UK has a single tier payer system. We fund the National Health Service (NHS) through every single working person in the country. A tax which is called National Insurance, is deducted from paychecks, percentage wise of income. It is not optional. This means that our healthcare system is essentially free. GP visit, free. Ambulance call-out, free. Minor surgery, free. Major surgery, free. Childbirth, free. From the ingrown toenail to the years-long cancer treatment, it is all almost free. We pay a small prescription fee and pay subsidized dental fees for over 18s. Under 18s, receive free dental and optical care (because children shouldn’t suffer purely based on who they were born to).
And I’m struggling to wrap my head around how the US has got so far and does not have a universal healthcare system?
I have spent more money on healthcare in the last 12 months on insurance, fees and co-pays than I have in the previous 27 years of my life! My first year here, as a server and insurance-less, I survived on Googling illnesses and hoping for the best. Luckily I’m a well person, so not a huge deal. I was excited when I secured my teaching job at the thought of having healthcare again and being able to attend a medical professional when I needed it. Little did I know that no visit is free (minus my OB/GYN, thank you universe). Every visit has a co-pay, then surprise bills in the post for astronomical amounts. I thought that’s what insurance was for? Apparently not.
So, yeah, woe be me. It sucks but I can afford it. What breaks my heart is hearing my students tell me they don’t have glasses/visit the dentist/see a doctor because “my mom can’t afford it”.
What kind of civilized country can we call ourselves (Americans) when we deny basic healthcare services to children?
I can see how it’s gone a little too far for complete universal. Too many people. Insurance companies living the life. But can we not do it for the children? We’re trying to raise the most ambitious, problem solving, creative, communicative generation yet. Preparing them for the hundreds of careers that have not yet even been invented. Why can we expect to do that when they are not as healthy as they can be?
Jimmy can’t get straight A’s if he cannot see the board.
Jerry can’t get straight A’s if he’s had toothache for the last month.
Jemima can’t get straight A’s if she’s had a persistent tummy ache for months.
If my students are sick, I want them to have medicine. If they have a toothache, I want them to see a dentist. If they can’t see the words they’re reading, I want them to have vision correction.
I want to live in a society where we set our students up for nothing but success. My students do not deserve to suffer because they were born in this family, not that one.
Now, I have no actual game plan here. But I know someone does and those people need to be listened to. I would gladly pay an extra $100 in tax a month to know that my students are medically cared for when they need it. Knowing my own children will never suffer due to my circumstances.
I been missing Europe something awful lately. The familiarity, the views, the people, the culture, being to close to everyone and everything. But also I miss free healthcare. It honestly is enough to make me choose to raise a family else where. I never want my own kids to be put in a situation of suffering through circumstances beyond their control. Now, I hate English weather (and sometimes the binge-drinking, hooliganism that we all exude) but the NHS is currently enough of a draw for me when thinking of having a family. It is in no way a perfect system but it does not discriminate. The NHS diligently and lovingly cared for my mum, for years. The last thing my family would have needed while facing years of struggle, heartbreak and grief, would have also been worrying about how we were going to pay for it. Wise-up America.
No-one should ever suffer JUST because they are poor.
*On a side note, to anyone who campaigns/believes that health care plans should not cover contraception, fuck you. Fuck your big old white male self. You do not get to control what other people do with their bodies and their lives. And if you’re anti-contraception, you better as hell be pro-choice (which you’re probably not) you ignorant fuck.
**This does not apply to any other people who are anti-abortion but pro-contraception. You do you, boo.