14 Aug


10 years ago I my sister and I were visiting our parents in Georgia when our 4 kids (aged 4,4,3 and 2) all got sick. We took them to see my parent’s doctor. Rather than test them all she tested my daughter as she’d shown symptoms first. She diagnosed scarletina and prescribed them all a 5 day course of antibiotics. It cost us $50 for the appointment, some more for the lab test and over $200 for the medicine. In all it cost  just over £200. We were not able to claim this back on our holiday insurance as the company treated it as four separate incidents and therefore subject to four separate £50 excesses. Bastards. This, I sincerely hope, will be my one and only experience of an insurance company deciding what it will and will not cover vis-a-vis my children’s health.

Whilst we were in the waiting room my Mum described a time she’d been in this doctor’s waiting area before and overheard one side of a telephone conversation conducted by the receptionist. It went something like this…

No you really need to take both medicines

Could your family maybe help?

Ah they already have…

Is there anyone else you could borrow from?

Is there no-one else?

Maybe there’s something you could sell?

It was all my Mum could do to stop herself from marching up to the receptionist and telling her she’d pay for the meds. And that’s what universal healthcare is about. Those who can, paying for those who can’t.

At home the children would have been seen the same day by their GP and the antibiotics would have been free. Well not “free”. Obviously. As a taxpayer I contributed to the social fund that bankrolls the NHS. But even if I personally had not been paying taxes, it still would have been free at the point of delivery. I cannot imagine not being able to give myself or my children the medicine we need because I haven’t got enough money? Over 45 million Americans don’t have to rely on their imagination…

We all know healthcare isn’t free. Neither is education, policing, refuse collection, street cleaning, the fire service, road repairs, the army, the navy, the air force, the coast guard… need I go on? What you don’t get to do is pick and choose which of these services your personal portion of  all the taxes collected funds.

I get heartily sick of listening to (some) childless people whine on about how their taxes shouldn’t fund education because they don’t have children.  I don’t, however, get sick of pointing out the obvious… I don’t have a boat but I wouldn’t dream of withdrawing “my funding” of the coast guard! Actually, I would be absolutely FINE with people withdrawing their funding of public education, so long as they also forego any support they may require  in the future from those generations they refuse to invest in. So no government pension funded by their taxes, no public social care, no NHS nursing, no NHS doctors. If you don’t want to educate them you don’t get to  benefit from their skills. If only.

No. You don’t get to pick where your taxes go. That’s up to the democratically elected government. And if you don’t like what they spend your money on then don’t vote for them. You have to bear in mind, however, that you may be in the minority. And if the majority DO like what the elected government do this does not permit you to opt out. Democracy isn’t optional that way. But at least governments can be voted out. What do you do if your medical insurance company is run by a board full of twats who make decisions the policyholders disagree with? What entrenched fear makes people prefer to be beholden to a private company designed to make a profit for its shareholders for their health care, rather than a national health service designed to… provide health care? (and try not to lose too much money!).

Aaarrgh! Come live here for a while before you go slagging of our health service. There’s not a single  British government dared to suggest dismantling it, not even the evil harridan Thatcher herself (though she’d have loved to and ultimately her lapdog Major did a pretty good job of forcing the free market onto the NHS, so good that hardly anyone noticed… until they turned up at the local hospital to find half the wards closed – make no mistake, New Right fucked up the NHS well and good).

It is not compulsory to rely on the NHS in Britain. The vast majority of us do so but we are free to invest in private health care just as we are free, for example, to send our children to private schools, use private security firms or employ private home nurses. What we can’t do is opt out of supporting public health care, public education and public police services.

I’m somewhat torn between a desire to see all the private schools and hospitals burned to the ground and just being happy that those who can afford to go elsewhere take the strain off public services. But it’s not that simple. It irks me that someone can pay for their child to have better education facilities than mine. Excellent school buildings should be a right, and they should be paid for by everyone who can. Notice I emphasise the facilities, I comfort myself with first hand knowledge that paying does not guarantee better teachers!

I think health care should be a right, not a privilege.

What’s evil about that?

Those who can afford to, pay.

Those who need, receive.

I’ve been in both these places. Life’s like that.


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