My name is Philip. I have had the privilege of visiting the US several times over the last few years. Two times on a J1 visa to work over the summer and another for a shorter but still sweet visit. I struggle to stay away: the wide open spaces, impressive vistas but mostly importantly, the inherent warmth of the people I’ve met in my time there. I have been welcomed, befriended and loved. That spirit stays with me, even after the plane ride home.
I have also been very lucky, I was born in the UK. I was born prematurely, c-sectioned. The intensive care unit being the first surroundings I became familiar with. I got better, thanks to the diligent work of the hospital staff lookingn after me and despite a traumatic start, my mother and father got to take me home. They could start their life with me, unburdened by worries of payments and costs.
Both my father and I have been rushed to hospital at least once in our lifetimes since then and have left healed and healthier with no bill attached to our treatment. My mother has recently had procedures to help with her vision as she grows older. All without fear of how we’d find the funds to pay. I have lived a life, grown up to become an adult knowing nothing else but universal healthcare in the National Health System (NHS).
I am lucky. I have loved ones in the U.S. whose debts get bigger and bigger with each treatment, people who I’ve met who are almost afraid to get sick because of the cost incurred, friends who have suffered because their medication has been switched to something cheaper. I don’t know why it has to be this way.
Well actually, I do because we live in a world, in a system where profit is the goal above everything else – even our own lives. I’m sure you’ve heard the horror stories about the NHS: the waiting times, the care coverage. The NHS is in crisis, they say.
Every winter, on the loop, for over a decade. This is because providing a basic level of healthcare for all isn’t profitable for the powers that be. For years now, our health service has been undermined, sold off and smeared. The health service that meant I am here today, alive.
Under a private system, my birth and it’s complications could’ve cost my parents up to 23,000 pounds. That’s 30,000 dollars. Money they just wouldn’t have had. The NHS isn’t perfect, I’m not here to tell you it is. A universal healthcare system is always going to be a struggle in the society we live in but the benefit to an average person, the lives saved and prolonged with it in place far outweigh the frustrations of sitting in a waiting-room chair a while. Something that still happens under the current US system despite privatization.
Most people in the US pay into work-based health insurance, taking about 20% of their earnings. In the UK, we pay 13% into a host of benefits and assistance services including disability allowance and unemployment. The NHS is just a small fraction of that. Let’s be generous and say it’s 5% of the money I currently earn, that’s just under 11 pound a month… 14 dollars. A quick run to Wal-Mart. You could have this too, you just need to make yourself heard, be so loud they can’t ignore you.
Put People First! PA believes that healthcare is a human right, just like me. They fight for universal healthcare, to support the poor and dispossessed who cannot afford increasingly expensive private insurances. I have U.S. American people that I love and I don’t want to see them suffer anymore. Their lives and their health are priceless to me.
I don’t want to come across as preaching, I just want you to consider there is an alternative. You don’t need to spend ridiculous money on medicines, you don’t need to worry about whether or not to call an ambulance. There is an alternative, we just have to fight for it.
This content originally appeared in Put People First! PA’s semi-annual newsletter, The Keystone. The Keystone is a great introduction to Put People First! PA, our work, and our community. It’s all written by our members for our own communication and education, and for supporters and new relationships to get to know us better. Each issue features reports from our work, news about our victories, stories about the health care system and the other issues affecting our communities, and poetry and artwork. Check out past and present editions here: Newsletter Archive.