Universal healthcare

Female surgeon ties her surgical mask around her face underneath operation lights.

Synopsis : We all have to deal with the high cost of medical care no matter where we live in the world. This hurts the poor more than the rich so it is of great concern to the vast majority of the world population. While some Scandinavian countries and Cuba have successfully made available the healthcare to its population for free or for a nominal cost , others do not follow their example calling it socialistic. Healthcare should be a basic human right and not a dole given to some while denying others.

One of the great concerns we all have is how to get well and at what cost when we do get sick. No one is immune to this problem because sickness is like a dark cloud that hovers over the mankind. Sometimes we get sick due to no fault of ours just like with the Corona virus now that has claimed a million or more lives worldwide and shows no sign of abating.

We are innocent victims because someone who is sick with the virus has infected us without us suspecting it so when we get sick suddenly and die, it devastates the family and the loved ones. There are many such infectious diseases out there that pose serious threats to our health every day because we are not aware of them. Some are deadly like the corona virus or tuberculosis while others can be cured if detected in time by the physicians who may suggest a cure that may be too costly for an average patient unless he or she has medical insurance.

Or one can have an accident that is so debilitating that it destroys the person. No one can predict accidents that can happen anytime through no fault of yours. A drunk driver may hit your vehicle and seriously injure you or kill you so how can anyone know what is going to happen?

More people die in road accidents worldwide than in all the wars ever fought in the post industrial period. I personally know a person who was a dashing young man with a good future but one day he had a motorbike accident that made him a disabled person for life and put an end to his career and dreams. He now hobbles on a crutch because his leg was amputated to save his life but what life he has? He now suffers from depression.

Another fellow had a serious accident that damaged his spinal cord that never healed and killed him within one year of his marriage to a nice girl. So accidents can happen to anyone anytime because life is unpredictable. We were so lucky that our son who fell from a swing in Mexico City one day and broke his elbow was taken directly to a wonderful hospital by a social worker where the doctors gave him the best care possible and joined his broken bone for free.

If the same thing had happened in the United States, our bill would have been in thousands of dollars. Anyone who has an accident while visiting the United States will be in big trouble if he does not have a medical insurance because the cost of treatment and hospitalization is very high.

We all get old someday if we do not die earlier due to some reasons but the old age for most people means heart trouble, eye trouble ,hearing loss, fragile bones that break easily, dementia, cancer of all sorts, lymphatic problems, prostate problems just to name a few. Some people who are not lucky live alone whom no one visits so they die alone and helpless in their house or apartment. The neighbors inform the police only when they smell the stench of death. We hear of such cases only too frequently.

So I started to think that the reason why most poor people in the world die from diseases and conditions is because they are too poor to pay for the expenses to get well and who do not have the medical insurance that could cover most of the expenses.

In many countries in Africa and Asia, people depend on the traditional herbalists to get well because they often prepare medicines at low cost or for free but can’t help in serious cases that need the hospital care under a trained doctor. (Read my blog called Gabar Buri here in this context.)

I went to a fellow when my finger was dislocated in an accident so he pushed my finger back to its socket, made it stable with two strips of bamboo and bandaged it to heal. He was a milk vendor who was reputed to have this skill of fixing broken bones so people went to him for help. He charged me practically nothing because he did it as a service to the poor.

You may have also heard of faith healers in some countries who treat people suffering from serious illnesses and charge very little for it if they are genuine but most of them are fake and make money by fooling people. Still desperate people go to them because they have no one else to help them.

The US president Barack Obama was greatly praised for making the Universal Health Care in America affordable to everyone but the opposition party tried to repeal the law and failed when the US Supreme Court favored the law and sided with the people.

Some European countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland among others have a birth to death medical coverage for every citizen for free because the government pays for it through taxation giving the whole world an example that free universal medical care is possible. Cuba is another country that comes to my mind that also gives free medical care to every citizen although Cuba is not as rich as the Scandinavian countries.

The question that we should ask is – why a supposedly rich country like the United States has such a high cost of medical care while other countries in Europe have free care for all that is paid through taxation? Politicians there deride the free medical care in Europe as Socialistic and counter to capitalism because they support the capitalistic way of doing things that support the rich pharmaceutical companies who make big money from drugs and who donate liberally to the campaign funds of the politicians. The private hospitals are very expensive .Who cares if the poor people suffer?

I wrote earlier in a blog that some poor Americans went to Guantanamo base in Cuba and asked the doctors there to treat them for their illness but were chased away by the American armed guards. So very disappointed they went to Havana and asked people where they could get some help. They directed these poor Americans to a very good hospital where the doctors attended to them immediately and gave them all the medical help they needed for free.

The Americans were in tears when they were given bags of gifts as well by the hospital staff and very low cost medicines that they were to take later on and openly wondered why their countrymen vilified Cuba that gave them free help? They could not praise enough the doctors there.  Michael Moore has made a documentary on it and on the healthcare system in the US that is worth watching so I will give you the video here to watch.

Sicko Part 1

Sicko Part 2

Source : U tube video

Indian government now has passed a law that covers all Indians up to 500000 Rupees in Medicare expenses so that no sick person is denied medical help. India also makes low cost generic drugs to treat most illnesses and has become the low cost pharmacy of the world. It exports billions of dollars’ worth of medicines to numerous countries including the United States but the big pharmaceutical companies try to put many road blocks to India because the generic drugs hurt their lucrative business of making money out of people’s misery.

There are some NGOs that collect usable pacemakers from patients who have died in U.K and send them to many countries where the patients desperately need them but can’t afford the high cost. This way the NGOs do the charitable work that they should be praised for. There are some charitable organizations in India that provide free of cost artificial limbs to the victims of accidents. These limbs are made to order to fit perfectly the patients who are given hope and a new lease on life. The Government of India also provides subsidized wheel chairs to some people of old age and motorized wheel chairs to those who are the victims of serious accidents that caused the amputation of their limbs.

I like to see the health care as a basic human right because as I wrote earlier, some people get sick due to no fault of their own like in the epidemic of Corona Virus so to make them pay for the vaccine is like putting salt on their wound. All countries should vaccinate their citizens for free and pay for it through taxation. They should also buy the low cost vaccines from countries that have a proven track record to reduce the tax burden on their citizens.

There are many religious organizations in India that operate free or greatly subsidized hospital care to anyone in need but they alone can’t cope with the demand because their hospitals have limited number of beds so this responsibility must be shared by the governments that have greater resources to set up many hospitals.

In many countries we see the problem of healthcare for the common people because the family doctors who treated patients at low cost have disappeared supplanted by greedy doctors who charge hefty fees for their services and who often suggest non-essential but expensive tests that increase the cost. ( Please read my blog called Where are the doctors? in this context ).

The Muslim hakims in many countries still heal the sick people with their vast knowledge of medicine they prepare themselves and charge very little because service to people is their main objective. I was once helped by a hakim whom I considered an angel because his ointment healed me completely. But they cannot be found everywhere so people still have to go to an allopathic doctor. (Read my blog called Where are the hakims? here in this context )

The hospitals in some countries now demand a huge deposit from the patient before they admit him and tell him to deposit more just after a few days. It does not stop there. Many doctors come to check the patient so they have to be paid a big fee that the hospital puts on the bill. Some doctors refuse to be paid by the insurance company and want to be paid in cash for a surgery or other services as it happened with us. At the checkout time , the anesthesiologist, pathologist and even the janitors fell in line to be paid in cash. The guards let us out of the hospital only after we had given him the proof that we had paid all the bills.

What is very sad are the huge bills that the relatives of the patients have to pay after the death of the patients so the families are doubly hurt. The hospitals then call the funeral parlor people to collect the body because they work in cahoots with them and collect a good commission from them for doing so. The funeral parlors include this commission in their bill to the relatives of the dead patient so everyone makes money at the expense of the grieving family.

I have come to realize that making money from the misery of others has become very lucrative business because people do not have a choice in the matter. So I admire any government that helps its sick people in a humane way and gives them all the support they need at such times. The universal health care is or should be a right and not a business to make money from so President Obama will always be remembered and praised for his landmark Affordable Health Care law for all Americans.

Another issue is the cost of burial or cremation that everyone faces at one time or the other. The governments that operate cremation facilities at low cost protect the families from the predatory Funeral parlors so that is another way all governments can help their citizens. I hope one day everyone will have the right to live a healthy life and get help from their government when they get sick and die.

When Emperor Aurangjeb was on his death bed, he ordered that he should be buried as a pauper wrapped in a simple white sheet by the side of the road. He wanted no grand mausoleum and epitaph but wanted to lay under the sky forever.  He was a cruel king but in death he proved that we come naked to this world so we should be buried in humility as well when our time comes.   

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