Tuesday, August 11, 2009

mind the gap

American conservatives have, I gather, been attacking the NHS. (Guardian)

There's something they somehow miss.

If you live in America and happen not to have health insurance, it's complicated to organise treatment. By 'complicated' I mean that you might well be able to clear the bureaucratic hurdles if you had spent the last 6 months training for a marathon, were in peak physical and mental condition - but if you are, um, you know, sick, you are unlikely to have mental and physical stamina required.

In 2000 I had a breakdown. I lay on a bed in my mother's house, unable to move. What was needed was, I suppose, some sort of medication. I had no health insurance in the US. To organise the required medication it was necessary to make phone calls. Phone calls I might well have been able to make had I not been in the middle of a breakdown. I did not have the necessary social skills to take this on from a state of insanity, but there was something I could cope with. I could book a ticket online to Britain; I could get on the plane. Once in Britain, all I had to do was walk into a clinic.

The treatment offered by the NHS was flawed. I was living in short-term accommodation. I had no permanent address. I was offered cognitive therapy at the Whitechapel, in addition to the medication prescribed; by the time I turned up for my first appointment for cognitive therapy, I had moved. As it turned out, I had moved out of the district covered by the Whitechapel; I was no longer eligible for its cognitive therapy programme; it was necessary to start again from scratch. It would have been simple enough for the clinic to give me a map with the boundaries of its district; if they had done so, I would have taken care to find a new room within its boundaries. They didn't; the results were not good.

If I'd stayed in the US, on the other hand, I would not be alive today.


G.P. Butler said...

I'm glad you got on that plane!

D. Milam said...

I am certainly glad for your continued existence, as otherwise I would not have had the challenging pleasure of reading The Last Samurai.

Nathaniel said...

The people that wish to keep the healthcare system privatized are the same type of people that kept the education system privatized for so long. Granted, the public education system in this country is far from perfect, just imagine the state the country would be in if it didn't exist at all. Getting a public education in America is like sex and pizza: even when it's bad, it's still pretty good (and certainly better than nothing at all).

People with jobs that provide healthcare benefits are the same people who most likely had their college education paid for by their parents and were covered under their parents' healthcare insurance while they attended college. In other words, middle class to upper middle class people. But not everyone has the luxury of having their college education and healthcare taken care of by a benefactor. Some people have to work part time jobs and take out loans and scrape by. Then you get sick. The last thing a college student should have to worry about (in addition to all the financial worries they have) is how they are going to afford paying a hospital bill. No one is so healthy as to never get sick, so it is unrealistic to say that the solution is for the college student to simply never get sick. Aside from illness, there are still accidents, which are the number one cause of death amongst the 18 - 24 range, and the third killer of 24 - 34.

Again, college students have enough financial worries as it is. There is no need to add on the worry of healthcare. I speak from personal experience. I just went back to college this last year. I could have stayed in my previous job and kept having the mediocre healthcare coverage provided by my employer. I also would have killed myself because my job was absolute mental torture.

So, I went back to school. Come winter break, the last day of school, I felt kind of ill. The ill that you know is the first sign of the flu. You still feel well enough, but you know it's all downhill from there. I got really sick with the flu, and worse sick with bronchitis. I had several trips to the urgent care. Partly because of a bad mix of medication given to me by the urgent care. Still dealing with my bronchitis a month later, I got the flu again, which undid any healing I had done. Multiple doctor's visits, urgent care visits, and prescriptions. And the only way I was able to pay for this was because I have government healthcare provided by my state. Getting this healthcare was more complicated than anything I've had to do in my life. It should have been simple, but the people employed by the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) are retarded. They made multiple mistakes in processing my application. If I hadn't been so resolute in getting my healthcare (which I was and am legally eligible for) I would never have gotten it. It should not be that hard to get approved for government healthcare one qualifies for. It's even harder to go through when you are sick. Helen speaks from experience. So do I. Still, healthcare is still pretty good even when it's bad.

If government healthcare didn't exist, I wouldn't be alive today. How many people have died because universal government healthcare doesn't exist in this country? One can only guess. The mental and physical health of this country's citizens should be top priority. What could be more important? If a citizen doesn't have good mental or physical health, how are they supposed to go on living?

Lucie said...

As has been said here, I am glad you made it to England and got your therapy.

Helen DeWitt said...

Never did get therapy, kept moving from district to district. But I did get on medication, which would not have possible in the US.

Bernardo said...

The health system in Brazil is, I believe, something like the health system un the UK: you can have a healt insurance, but if you don´t, you can get treatment as well. Maybe note the best, maybe facing some lines and waiting, but you´ll get it.

Anonymous said...

My breakdown was six months ago. I also did not have health insurance and was living in the US. I walked into an ER asking for anti-depressants and then the police came to ask me questions about how I would like to die.
I answered truthfully. Suicidal or not, everyone must have an idea about their own death, how one wishes to die. [I thought; I think.] I wasn't suicidal at the time, but because I answered their question, the system said that I was. Objection your honor? Leading the witness.

Court ordered into the hospital's mental ward, a hopelessly flawed sterile white jail, I played their games and was released in less than a week. After that time, I truly was suicidal so I went to Kodiak, Alaska to become what's called a crack commercial fisher[wo]man - work without pay. I was completely healed after 6 months of open ocean, fish guts, and hard labor.

Short story: It costs $560.00 to ask for anti-depressants, to be detained and jailed, and then to be suicidal. I didn't even get the anti-depressants. And that's why I choose you, Luxembourg.

I'm really fucking glad you got on the plane.