Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The American Healthcare Reform Bill: Matters Arising!

The United States of America is going through a very difficult trial at the moment and the whole world is watching with interest to see how they are going to resolve the uphill task. In fact the successful resolution of this trial would be the final nail on the coffin of racism and an ample opportunity for the United States to prove to the rest of the world that it is indeed the citadel of egalitarianism, parity, equal opportunity and impartiality and that democracy is a form of government worthy of emulation.

The morality of the United States has been in recession since the beginning of the 20th century and that recession took a nose dive from the early 1920s during the height of racism; however the good news is that from the 1960s the recession began to change and what actually brought about that change was a fierce and furious struggle put up by the American civil rights movement and campaigners who stood up in unison to challenge the evil of racism in a country that claims to be the embodiment of democracy and a ‘nation under God’. Sounds like evil and wickedness in the name of God!

That civil right movement produced a lot of fruits but not without bitter consequences. Many of the activists were falsely charged with phantom allegations and made to spend most of their life in the prison. Many were lynched, bombed and murdered. They witnessed horrors that have never been imagined by human mind. In fact what they went through would make the Nazi anti-Semitic ideology seem like a child’s play. The idea of going to the same school, church or entering the same bus with their fellow whites was something that was impossible. The apartheid regime of South Africa was very humane compared to the environment they lived in. The climax of the whole evil was the brutal assassination of Martin Luther King Jnr, a great apostle of dialogue, non-violence, civil rights movement and equality of all before the law.

As noted at the outset, the freedom the blacks and other minorities are taking for granted today actually began with the civil rights movement that reached its height in the 1960s and of course with the death of Martin Luther King Jnr. Today most Americans especially the blacks have so quickly forgotten what their fathers went through to guarantee the joy, equality and freedom they are taking for granted today. They may not have known the level and depth of sacrifice their fathers made to ensure that they are equal under the law with others in this ‘nation under God’.

It is therefore sad that despite all these achievements, one great hurdle is threatening to undo the gains achieved so far. Despite the fact that an average American especially white Americans would pretend that racism does not exist anymore in America, the fact remains intact that America is still deeply entrenched in the evil of racism. In fact racism is still breathing and kicking in the United States of America and this is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you look from the surface you may not see it but take a look twice, the United States of America smells of racism and it is quite unfortunate that a country that is God-centric and democratic and wants to impose that democracy on all of us, could still be so racist even in the 21st century. That hurts and it hurts painfully. Maybe it is time to remind America that we have come too far to arrive in 2009.

One of the evils of American racism that is likely to live with them for ages is the fact that it polarised America into two groups; the haves and have-nots. Simply put the rich and the poor or the bourgeois and the proletariats. The rich are very rich and keep on getting rich on daily basis while the poor are poor and keep getting poorer. The reason for that is simple. Those who are rich inherited their riches from their fathers and that continuity ensures that they are going to be rich forever. Most of them had their riches when America was still structured in such a way that access to wealth is allowed only to them while those who are poor and getting poorer had never from day one had the same and equal opportunity to compete and amass wealth like their rich counterpart.

How could they when they were not even allowed to own properties, go to school, vote, form associations and things like that could have propelled their financial opportunity and make them financially viable and equal today with their rich counterpart. In fact everything was to their disadvantage until the onset of the civil rights movement and consequent ‘equality’ that followed it. But even at that, things have not been easy for these poors. In terms of unemployment, the poors are still bearing the highest brunt and even when the job is there and despite their intimidating qualifications, they are not allowed to get the job or reach the highest echelon of their profession. They are not reckoned with. In fact they cannot get that job because they are not supposed. They do not belong to the mainstream white-dominated America and do not belong to the super race and things like that. They are simply not considered good enough to get a good job and compete with their counterparts from the rich background. The white Americans may not agree with this but it is innate in them.

The rich are the whites and the poors are the blacks as well as the Latinos. In fact mainly the blacks. The blacks in America have gone through hell all these years for a fault that is not theirs and the ugly fact that this type of thing could take place in that ‘one nation under God’ is still a mystery beyond human comprehension. It is against this backdrop that the world finds it difficult to believe and views it with utmost suspicion when America begins her rhetoric and jibe of being the citadel of democracy and wanting to export same to the whole world. The whole world wants democracy but if it comes to the one lacking egalitarianism of all under the law, equal access to employment, health care and other elements and fruits of democracy, we do not want it.

Against the backdrop of the above argument, one could easily understand the angle of the ongoing health care politics in America at the moment. It is such a very serious and thorny issue that white Americans actually brought loaded guns with them to town hall meetings being addressed by President Barack Obama citing the Second Amendment which protects the right to own and bear arms.

Prior to the introduction of this Obama’s healthcare bill, Americans do not have equal access to health care with the result that those who have access have advantage of better health care and longevity compared to those who have none. As I said earlier, those who have this advantage are mainly whites while the blacks and other minorities bear the brunt of the injustice. The status quo ante is what Obama wants to change for as a constitutional lawyer and professor of law, he is a firm believer in the fact that health is a fundamental human right issue and that everybody should be given equal access to the health care as obtained elsewhere especially in Europe.

For instance in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Northern Ireland, everybody has equal access to the health care which is managed by the National Health Services. Under this system, there is no discrimination in the guise of finance in accessing the health care because everybody is simply covered.

Before an individual starts work in the United Kingdom, he is expected to have a National Insurance Number, the equivalent of the American Social Security Number. It is with this number that he is allowed access to state benefits including health care. The meaning is that if you do not have the National Insurance Number, you are very less likely to have access to the health care. It is also with this National Insurance Number that individuals contribute to the upkeep of the service. In fact each week or month, the wages and salaries of workers are deducted as tax and National Insurance. The money deducted from this National Insurance forms the majority of what goes to finance the National Health Service, unemployment benefits and state pensions and others.

The good side of the UK model is that no one is left behind or denied health care because of his social status. Everybody has equal access to the health care and nobody has an edge over others; they are all equal when it comes to the health care and the type of care the Queen receives is the same a homeless man somewhere in Peckham receives. With this method, there is no draining of the pocket of individuals simply because they are compulsorily insured by the state healthwise. Individuals are not expected to pay for healthcare from their purse, however there are some health services, they must pay for with their money if they decide to take advantage of that. Luxury health care services like plastic surgery must be paid for by the individuals. In fact the UK model is the best and is worthy of emulation by others including America.

I am therefore flabbergasted that Americans who have no universal health coverage could dare to criticise the UK NHS despite the good work they have been doing for over sixty years now. For us in the United Kingdom, it has been over 60 years of non-stop saving of lives, bettering the health of the nation and eradicating diseases. NHS has simply done a lot and is worthy of praises and Sarah Pallin should be aware of this. She has no moral audacity to criticise the NHS since she is not only a political failure but a coward who resigned her position as the Governor of Alaska instead of facing the challenges before her. How then can she criticise the NHS, when she is unable to do a little job entrusted unto her with confidence by the people of Alaska. She abandoned her state and her people in the heat of recession when they needed her the most.

The United States should therefore think NHS and adopt it and the reason why it should be adopted by America is because of what happens in my own country, Nigeria. Due to corruption and despite her quantum mineral resources, Nigeria is still listed as a poor country. Majority of Nigerians live in abject poverty and ignorance of their rights. In fact it is only about 5% of the 145 million population that is aware that health care is a right they are entitled to. In Nigeria there is no provision of any type to cater for the health of the people. Individuals are expected to dip into their pockets to pay for their health care which is often inaccessible and exorbitant where accessible.

The Nigerian health sector is basically divided into three sections of the primary, secondary and tertiary health care sectors. The primary health care sector is the sector that is supposed to be nearer to the people and should be the first point of call for them when they have any problem. And if that problem could not be handled by the sector, it has to be referred to the secondary health care sector which in Nigeria is either General Hospitals or Federal Medical Centres. In extreme and rare cases, if the illness is not rectified, it has to be referred to the tertiary health sector which is teaching hospitals and research institutes attached to universities.

In all these journeys, individuals are expected to pay from their pocket. The state is not and never involved. Even the ambulance services and in fact everything has to be paid for by the individual and the consequence of this is that it leaves the individual poorer than he was before coming into contact with the health care system. And if he is poor, it means no health care! This is not a good development and this type of scenario is replicated in most developing countries and it is basically because of this that these countries bear the highest brunt of world diseases and illness and languishes in poverty and misery.

In these countries, health care is only given to those who can afford it by the private sector while corrupt politicians simply steal the state money and travel abroad for health care where they are well received and taken care of without questions being asked as to how they are able to raise the money for the journey and treatment or why they cannot go for the treatment in their own country or even be forced to go back with the money and invest it in their country health care system.

Now let us go back to the American system. Putting into consideration what I said at the outset, am sure you are able to follow me now. In America, the health care is an individual affair. You are expected to cater for your own health care and the meaning is that you are more likely to take care of yours if you are rich and less likely if your are poor and as I also noted earlier, the rich are more likely to be whites and the poor are more likely to be blacks and other minorities. Another option of being covered health wise in America is through contribution in the work place. This is a situation where employees salaries or wages are deducted by their employers to cater for their health care but as I noted earlier, when majority of those on unemployment are blacks and minorities, how then can they be assured of health care cover?

It is basically these dilemmas that pricked the conscience of President Barack Obama into pushing this universal health coverage so that all Americans irrespective of sex, religion, status etc would have same and equal access to health care. It is this noble idea that advantaged Americans are fighting tooth and nail to thwart. Those who have access to health care have been fighting to retain and maintain the status quo ante simply because they are rich and can afford it without bordering about what happens to millions of others who cannot afford it due to poverty and other disadvantages imposed on them by those who have. Interestingly, the conscience of these people of ‘one nation under God’ is not even questioning them and telling them how evil their fight to exclude their brothers from the advantage they are enjoying could be.

These are people who go to church every Sunday with big Bibles capable of scaring away Goliath and who profess Jesus Christ every now and then and yet find it difficult to see reason in accommodating and tolerating their fellow Americans on an issue that centres on human life.

The fact is that the world is evolving, moving and changing very fast and America has no other option but to join the band wagon. We do not live anymore in the 1920s or 1960s; am sure we have come a long way out of that and for privileged Americans to keep fighting and blocking this laudable decision, would be not in the interest of democracy but obviously against it. Democracy thrives when people are equal before the law in all aspects. For a group to be placed on higher pedestal compared to others is not in the spirit of democracy and obviously a sign of selfishness, idiocy and non-challant attitude towards the plight of others and a smack on the biblical injunction for us to be our brother’s keeper.

Americans should know that the whole world is watching them. She invaded Iraq and Afghanistan due to the need to give them democracy and has been fighting to install same democracy in Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe but it would end up being ridiculous if America continues to fight this health care reform bill in her own backyard while fighting tooth and nail to impose democracy on the rest of us. Charity begins at home and America must teach others that charity does not only begin at home but that there is also a virtue in democracy, equality and especially equality in access to health care which is a fundamental human right.

America we are watching you and what happens next maybe the strengthening or collapse of democracy in different parts of the world that look up to you as a model and we are going to hold you responsible if democracy dies.

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