A View From Across The Pond: Healthcare

By David Malcolm

There is no doubt in the world today that proper healthcare is a fundamental human right and not simply a privilege enjoyed by those who can afford it. Anyone who even glances at the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 will see healthcare listed there.

Here’s what Article 25 says:
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”

It’s always worth stressing that the National Health Service in the UK is not perfect. Regardless of government funding or efficiency, no health care service is truly perfect. Even Canada much-lauded system is not infallible. It is something that needs noting. That said, America deserves better. Saying that the NHS is failing now is not an excuse to keep what America has.

To many nations, a bottle of medicine is like a loaf of bread. It is a vital resource and to the mind of every civilized nation, it is an abomination that any man, women or child should have to consider either as a luxury. Yet drug companies and pharmaceutical businesses routinely inflate the prices of life-saving medicine just to see what the market can bear. They lobby politicians to keep their status and fund campaigns to people they think they can influence. It’s downright despicable, especially since they get away with it so often and no one can really stop them.

Here in Britain, we hear all sorts of horror stories about parents having to choose between their medicine and their children’s survival from a crippling disease. We hear about families almost bankrupting themselves and dipping into college funds to save their child. When a terror attack hits, no one should have to foot a bill of thousands of dollars just because someone they know got caught up in the attack. Stories like that make those attempting to repeal, replace or gut Obamacare seem callous and heartless, caring more for the wallets of their citizens.

Is America simply a selfish country? Is it so in love with money that it can’t bear to spend it on its own citizens? It always seems like Americans care more about themselves than their fellow man. Obviously, that is a grossly oversimplified view but it’s hard to see it any other way. Yes, Obamacare wasn’t perfect and it still isn’t but taking away and leaving your own citizens, your own voters, to die smacks of hypocrisy. How exactly do robbing people of their health insurance help people feel better or live longer? I would love to hear the logic in that argument because it makes no sense.

I do kind of understand why some of the arguments come from. The NHS itself is not cheap or easy to maintain and some people feel that it would be a waste of money. I find that to be slightly skewed though. America is one of the biggest economies and one of the richest countries in the world today, spending billions of dollars on its military force alone. America could absolutely afford to fund a health care service that all its people could benefit from. The money is right there and a quick look at the Veterans Affairs provides an excellent template for the system itself, with a few tweaks here and there. Provided that Congress and the President could stand up to the drug and pharmaceutical companies, the system could be set in place fairly easily.

In fact, it works out in the end. Sure, there might be a slight increase in taxes and a slight cut in the military but if a system like the Veterans Affairs program can be established and provide free healthcare, it’s a price worth paying. You can let the private companies exist and free to compete for those who can afford it. It gives people a choice if they prefer not to let the government option. Still, it might be that people go for the government option because it’s easier and it actually helps them. It gives people a real choice, it helps them live longer and healthier lives and it ends up being cheaper for the government in the long run.

Over time, a national health care system might become what the NHS is now: an institution that both sides accept as a good thing. Even the conservatives in the UK accept that the NHS has its own merits, even if they feel it fails in some areas. Health is a truly bi-partisan issue. Even with the recent turmoil, it is clear that both sides are willing to sit down and get something better out there.

The best argument for a national health care system is to consider it as an answer to every disease in the world. Germs and viruses don’t care whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, white, black, religious, old, young, rich or poor. Diseases don’t discriminate between people so why should the health system do so? No one is safe from disease or disaster. Even the richest men in the world may one day sicken and die. Even if they can afford healthcare, the fact is they can still get sick.

If America is to call itself a civilized nation, a nation founded on the rights of man or even simply a Christian nation, then it needs to settle health care right here and right now. It needs to realize that you can’t have a healthcare system founded on wealth rather than health.

The American people deserve better than what it has now.

I'm a historian based in the UK who likes jumping from one thought to next. I love to learn new things and explore other ideas.

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