Thoughts on health care, part III

By Nicola Pearson
(posted 4.6.11)

The thing about our current health care system in the United States is it’s never going to change, not while our politicians have comprehensive health care coverage, paid for by the taxpayers. How can they really represent the general public if they don’t know what it’s like to shop around for affordable health care, to risk being told no, to lose their health care when they lose their jobs, or to pay for policies that don’t really cover anything? They can’t.

In addition to this, while we’re begging them to change the system and give us a public option, our health insurance companies are using money from our premiums to contribute to our Congress member’s campaigns so that they won’t give us a public option. And our Congress members are accepting those campaign contributions. So not only do they not understand what we’re struggling against to get health care, we don’t even really have their ear.

So either we have to take away Congress’ health care and make them all punt on the open market or we have to demand that we be brought up to their level, that what is available to them through taxpayer revenue, be available to us. And no, I’m not suggesting that they dip into the pocket of the taxpayers further to level the playing field. I’m suggesting that what the federal government takes out of taxes currently to give their employees health care, be put back in the pot and everyone pay something like the British pay, 3 percent, to have a national insurance stamp. Or you can make it 5 percent if you want something better than the British.

The question we need to ask ourselves in this country is, if it’s good enough for our public servants, why is it not good enough for our public? You may not hold public office, but I know you serve. I’ve always been impressed with how much Americans volunteer, sit on committees, raise money, support their neighbors, hold bake sales, make donations, start guilds. Not everyone does, of course; there will always be freeloaders. My economic theory classes taught me that too. But for every freeloader, there are people like my wealthy friends, who grumble that they don’t want a public health option because they don’t want to pay for everybody else, then they roll up their sleeves and get down and dirty to help people that need medical attention and don’t have health insurance. The trouble is, the number of uninsured is rising exponentially in this country, and pretty soon there’s not going to be a bake sale big enough to cover how much you need to raise for all the unpaid medical bills.

I believe that when Americans make up their minds to join the rest of developed world and offer their citizens universal health coverage, they will design a system that is the best in the world. Because America has this wonderful melting pot of information from all over the world in the form of her immigrants. She uses this information, learns from it, adapts it, and improves on it to end up with the finest result possible. That’s true of America’s cuisine, art, music, science, technology—why not her health care?

In fact, it is because of this that I decided to write these articles on this subject. When I became a citizen of the United States, the director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service made a very compelling speech to those of us being sworn in, about how this nation is built around immigrants, how the U.S. history books are filled with their endeavors and accomplishments, and how it is our turn now to go out and write the next chapter of American history.

As someone who has lived with a national health service, I feel it is incumbent upon me to let you know that it’s really not that bad. In fact, I think you might enjoy some of its more desirable benefits: peace of mind, better health, higher employment. That’s why the NHS came into being in the first place in the UK, to try to ensure full employment during times of peace. We could use a little of that in the U.S. right now. A national health service is good for our doctors and patients alike. In fact, the only ones likely to suffer in this country if we implement an NHS are the health insurance companies.

Ask me if I care.

Nicola Pearson is an award-winning playwright from Sauk City. This is the final installment of her three-part commentary.

Read part I

Read part II

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