It’s funny how political history repeats itself. Actually it’s not funny at all. It’s damned depressing when the repeating political debate is socialised medicine—the argument which keeps circling eternally around Washington DC’s roundabouts; going round and round and never moving forward.
To make matters worse, US media fuels the anti-nationalised Health Care argument using the UK Health Care system as an example of the failure of socialised medicine. I was particularly entertained by an American newspaper which said that if Stephen Hawking had been British the Health System would have given him up for a lost cause. I sincerely hope the obvious stupidity of that statement got someone sacked. Mr Hawking was born and raised in the UK and is a proud supporter of the National Health Service. I have heard worse horror stories too about death lists and emergency care waiting lists and denial of necessary treatment. And always the accusatory fingers point across the pond to say: “See, they tried it and look what they have.”
And what do we have? We have the National Health Service (NHS) which guarantees free medical treatment for all. We have socialised medicine that works. We have access to care and treatment that is not dependent on your insurance package. Got anything like that, America? No. You don’t.
I might just find it all distantly maddening if not for the fact that London has many roundabouts too. The political traffic circles outside Parliament now feature the same sort of congestion problems: debates about Health Care Reform. Apparently the UK has been reading too much of its own press in US media, and now British politicians threaten what I believe to be one this country’s greatest social achievements: the NHS.
I do not claim to be an expert on Obama’s plan and frankly reading the current White Paper circulating through Parliament gives me a headache, but I do know the NHS works. No matter what, you are covered. For Free. No matter who, you are covered. For Free. You have health care. You can get sick, you can get injured, you can give birth and you are covered. For Free. Your children are covered…every child. You do not have to rely on the medical package offered by your job. It’s free.
I have lived in US unable to afford health care. In fact, once I moved to the UK it was the first time I had been covered since I could no longer be claimed by my parent’s medical insurance. Yes, I did get emergency care when I broke my leg in Nebraska, but it cost me dearly, and if I had not had monetary help from my parents I would have been in dire financial difficulty.
I have given birth twice in the UK, both ended in emergency C-Sections with nearly week-long hospital stays. During my time in an NHS hospital I received regular care. I was visited by a breast feeding counsellor and a physiotherapist. I paid nothing. After the hospital released me, a midwife visited me every day for two weeks to check on our progress. I paid nothing. (If you think that is disgusting, wait until you hear how much PAID Maternity Leave we get in the UK.) And I am not even a citizen (though I am a resident with Indefinite Leave to Remain, so back off immigration).
My friend Sara was not even a resident when she needed emergency medical treatment on a tourist visa. She had an over-night stay in hospital and medication free of charge. They even sent a record of treatment to her doctor in Illinois.
I know how much my friends and family have struggled with medical bills of all varieties. I think it is scandalous that such a prosperous country allows any citizen to suffer medically or financially. Even more shocking is the possibility that a country which has already established a working system would ever consider going back. Health care should be a guaranteed right for everyone!
So please, if people in the US attempt to use the NHS as an example of why America should reject socialised medicine—quote this article to them. Tell them the NHS works. It is not perfect, no government run system is. But it works when you need it for anyone who does need it for free. Bear this in mind when you hear slanders thrown by the ignorant or by those with their own political agenda.
If you live in the UK, I beg you not to allow the current government to strip away this remarkable institution. Fix it yes, axe it—no! I am better off, my family is better off and the NHS is very high on my list of reasons why I will never ever move back to the US again.
Stayed tuned for affidavits from an NHS Consultant Doctor and a UK political leader…because I am not about to let this issue drop any time soon.