I lived on and off in London between 1975 and 1981 after which I moved to the United States. From 1981 until 2009 when my Mother passed away, I flew back to London almost every year to see her, and during the last two years of her life I was there more often. Throughout all those years I met and spoke to many people from all walks of English life: the “char” (cleaning) women, cab drivers, pub denizens, porters, nannies, titled Ladies, young and old, rich, middle class and poor amongst whom, as I observed, there was one commonality that remained unwaveringly Constant throughout whether the Government was Conservative or Labor, whether it was an economic upturn or a downturn. That Constant was a Sense of Security amongst the citizens that I had not encountered neither in Lebanon when I was living there, nor in the United States where I am now living.
It took many years before I realized that what endowed the British people with that Sense of Security was derived from knowing that, as upright citizens, they are Guaranteed Healthcare, Education and Affordable Housing. Guaranteed! Other than paying their taxes, they did not have to sweat and struggle in order to afford these basic human rights and the dignity of a respectable existence. I experienced this first-hand when my Mother was ill during her last two years when we had to go almost every week to the doctor’s office (the Brits call them Surgeries), call the ambulance so many times, when she was in the emergency room and in the hospital on many occasions, when the doctor came to her home on weekends, at the pharmacy to pick up her meds for which we paid barely anything, same as all the other free services. I also observed after talking to many patients and hospital staff how the National Health Services (NHS), as one small example, provided pick-up minibus service to and from the hospital for people who had doctor or hospital appointments for cancer treatment, or because they had broken limbs, or for any reason that prevented them from driving, or taking public transport. It was truly incredible!
One morning, while waiting in the ward for my Mother to be wheeled back from the X-ray laboratories, a disheveled-looking woman came in. The Desk Nurses and Staff greeted her by name, asked her to take a seat until they found her a bed. Meanwhile, they brought her tea and biscuits. Huh? Later on, I asked one of the nurses I knew what was going on. She explained that the woman lived alone, was old and lonely and that once in a while she would become so anxious that she’d call an ambulance simply in order to be taken to the hospital, fed, cared for and given a chance to talk. In other words, free TLC (Tender Loving Care)! I was astounded!
The British system provides National Health (this includes medications, rehabilitation, dentistry, physiotherapy and all areas of well-being) for any and all citizens. There are, also, regulated Private Hospitals and Private Doctors that non-citizens (such as myself), and any citizen who can afford to, can avail themselves of. Moreover, there are Private Health Insurance Plans for the benefit of those citizens who can afford Private services. The British health system is set up so as not to exclude anyone, and to offer different options. Is it perfect? Of course not. There is no perfect system anywhere on our planet. For systems to work optimally, whether they are corporations, governments, or any establishment that deals with the public on any level, there has to be conscientious managers, adherence to proper rules and regulations, as well as strict oversight. This does not always happen, and the British system has had its scandals and wrongdoings, as have we. However, it is a formula that has been working relatively quite well in England. So why argue with success, rather than emulate it?
This brings me to the United States where there has been talk of health care since the Clintons were in the White House, up until Obama and now with Trump and the dismantling of The Patient Protections & Affordable Health Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare), and as Bernie Sanders and the new members of our Congress are calling for Medicare for All that Conservatives and the Republican Party are calling Socialism! It is truly disgusting to hear the arguments and to continue with a horrifying system whereby there are some families going bankrupt due to the enormous medical bills that they have to undergo; where there are people who wait until they need emergency room care because they can’t afford to pay for health insurance that would allow them to have regular medical checkups; where there are individuals not taking their medications regularly because they can’t afford the exorbitant price of the drugs they need to stay alive, where there are citizens excluded due to pre-existing conditions, and on and on and on with one heartbreaking story after the other. It is heartless, inhumane and bloody callous!
Surely our politicians can go beyond their political parties and agendas in order to come up with healthcare for the citizens of this nation that affords them security and dignity. Surely they can, but they won’t. And, as long as our corrupt politicians continue to think along Party lines on a vital issue that affects all of us, nothing will happen. And, as long as those same corrupt politicians continue to be bribed by the healthcare industry, by Big Pharma and by the insurance companies, nothing will happen, either. It is not Socialism to think of the welfare of citizens, especially the indigent, before greed and labels. Isn’t it time for every politician, as well as for each of us, to step back from the banal and senseless arguments and find a formula that can work for all our benefit?
Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein and the new activist crop of young forward-looking, brave and unabashedly unapologetic political figures in our corridors of power (watch Nancy Pelosi, the Wicked Witch, stymie their efforts on every front that does not mesh in with her war-mongering, corporatist and hypocritical agenda!) are right on the issue of healthcare, as well as on some other issues. They need our support. They also need access to all media platforms in order to explain and flesh-out and tweak their preliminary proposals, this includes the Mainstream Media (MSM). However, our MSM are a corrupt bunch of paid hacks who do not give a rat’s ass about ordinary human beings and their concerns. They are despicable and not worthy of anyone’s respect anymore. How tragic for this nation!
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which the US is a signatory, and in Article 25, number 1 says:
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself, and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstance beyond his control.”
After all, we, the citizens of the US pay taxes throughout our working lives. Why are we made to feel that the government would be doing us a favor by applying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights principles that allow people a Sense of Security, dignity and respectability? Anything short of that is dereliction of our duties towards each other and an abandonment of the title of “Civilized Nation.”