By Pieter Cranenbroek
“Health is wealth” as the proverb goes but if it were up to British and American conservatives, people need the latter to be able to afford the former.
In one week we have seen people in Manchester marching against the Conservative Party’s NHS reforms whilst across the Atlantic Republicans shutdown the US as they are unwilling to let president Obama make America a more humane country to live in. The current state of affairs in both countries needs to change. Right now.
2013 so far is the year of conservatives showing their true colours. The British Conservative Party desecrated the National Health Service, the very thing they said they would not touch before entering office, while US Republicans are currently holding American society hostage as a statement against better health care for everyone.
These are poignant examples of conservatives merely representing a small percentage of the population that does not require help. If the conservatives get their way, it will leave the Scrooge McDucks of society unaffected whereas the poor; well, who cares what happens to them?
Being uninsured is not a lifestyle choice
The essence of Obamacare is already explained in its official name: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Simply put, the idea is to expand public and private insurance coverage and increase the affordability of health care in order to decrease the uninsured rate. Republicans oppose Obamacare because they believe people should be free to decide whether or not they take insurance. However, when talking about a person’s health nobody needs freedom.
Being uninsured is not a lifestyle choice but for some people it sadly is a necessity. When you can barely make ends meet, insurance is a luxury. More or less “forcing” people to take health insurance by making it more affordable therefore is not a restriction to personal freedom; it is a humanitarian deed. Opposing universal health care is like opposing world peace: no logical argument can be made to support that view.
Similarly, “reforming” the NHS is simply throwing a spanner in the works; you must be mental to sabotage something that was running rather smoothly. British conservatives, however, are well on their way to destroying a perfectly good health system by basically pushing health care towards the private sector. The Tories have planned £20 billion of budget cuts until 2015 but conservative voters needn’t worry as the ones with private health insurance are not likely to be affected. Once again, conservatives let the rich grow fat off the stocks while leaving the workers out in the cold.
Lessons from the 1980s
The first adverse effects of the health care reforms have already appeared. The number of emergency departments failing to see 95 per cent of patients within four hours nearly tripled compared to last year. Predictably, health care service does not improve when you cut public spending and expect institutions to compete. These lessons were already learnt from Thatcher’s privatisation programme of the 1980s.
Cameron intends to remedy the situation by spending £500 million on emergency departments in the next two years, a plan that will prove to be as helpful as a farmer selling 200 cows and buying five new ones to replace them.
The situations in both the US and the UK require urgent change. In America people living paycheck to paycheck need every penny to get by and cannot afford more days of unpaid leave, just as it is vital for people with a life-threatening illness to receive treatment as soon as possible. People in the UK, too, need to speak up like the fifty thousand people demonstrating in Manchester last week.
British citizens cannot wait for the next elections and stand idly by as the Tories ruin arguably one of the best aspects of its society. By 2015, it may be too late to resuscitate the NHS. The Republican senators and the British conservatives may, just like Cameron, not know the price of a loaf of bread but they ought to know the importance of health. At least you’d think.