Thursday, 14 April 2011

An ideal that’s also value for money

President Obama (stick with me this will all become clear), one of the finest orators of his generation, or any generation, was elected with a mandate of change. After eight years of another George Bush, America had woken up and voted for a young black Senator with a clarity of mind and a vision for change. He has successfully begun redefining America’s relationship with the Muslim world. He has put environmentalism towards the top of his agenda and would seem to have won the war against those small but vocal groups that doubt the impact of climate change. But there is one massive area where even he continues to be frustrated, healthcare.

President Obama, the figurehead of a movement for change, has smashed headlong into the wall of spin, campaign funding and lobbying by the established ‘big health insurance’ companies. Bill Clinton, the last ‘President for change’ made healthcare reform his top priority and got nowhere. If the juggernaut that is Obama, and all he represents, can’t break down a wall that says universal healthcare is communist pinky propaganda, perhaps it will never change.

Which is why I count my blessings when I pick up my prescription that Aneurin Bevan fought that same fight over fifty years ago and that the British people recognised free healthcare for all was not a conspiracy but a building block of the good society. I often wonder how it is that so many Americans have moved so far away from the British, politically, when we have so much more in common? The NHS may not be perfect but as an ideal it is beyond reproach.

However I would say that, because I’m diabetic which means I get all of my medication for free. If I was suffering from Crones disease I wouldn’t get the same consideration. Many Crones sufferers have to maintain a course of steroids throughout the rest of their lives in order to keep the chronic condition in check. So why do diabetes sufferers get free medicines but those with Crones disease don’t? Likely it is because diabetes sufferers form a larger electoral group and have a strong representative organisation in Diabetes UK.

So in a weird circle, it is in fact the political weight and lobbying of diabetes patients through organised representation that makes sure we get the full and uncompromised service from the NHS. The ideal of universal healthcare is one thing and the implications of paying for it are another. I had to make a choice recently between private health insurance and the NHS. I chose the NHS. Why? Well because it made sense for me to do so with my particular chronic condition. If I had Crones disease I’d have had to go private and still be paying for the NHS through my taxes. This way I get an ideal that is also value for money. Until President Obama can find that same economic/moral balance I wish him all the luck in the world, he’s going to need it.

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