I was born in England in 1994, where I lived until I was twelve before moving to Canada after the death of my mother. I was born very premature at 24 weeks, weighing one pound, thirteen ounces. As you might imagine, being born that early meant that I was riddled with potentially lethal health issues from the very beginning. Doctors told my parents that I wouldn’t survive, and if I did, I would live a severely limited life. I was in an incubator for days and weeks after my birth, constantly monitored and had tubes and needles and all sorts of other life-saving procedures and pieces of equipment running around-the-clock. My father once told me that he woke up each and every time my breathing changed during those first few weeks. Needless to say, my parents were utterly stressed during this time as I clung to life, with my thumbnail-sized hands.
Thankfully, I am here today, fully functional and in near-perfect health. A large part of that is of course, down to the incredible work done by doctors and nurses immediately after I was born — and all of those life-saving treatments and procedures were paid for by the State, with my parent’s tax dollars. One nurse recounted to my family that it cost £25,000/day to keep me in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) – In 1994, this would have been about $35,000 US dollars.
I mentioned that I was born in the UK. But what if, today, I was born in the United States? With the new healthcare legislation, there’s a very real possibility that there will be many born as I am, whose parents will be uninsured due to the new legislation, which essentially allows healthcare insurance providers to discriminate on the basis of pre-existing conditions. Here is a partial list of all of those pre-existing conditions.
My mother developed diabetes before she was pregnant with me and later on in her life, she underwent dialysis three times a week because her kidneys started to fail. That, too, is on the list of pre-existing conditions under which individuals can now be denied coverage.
If I had been born today in the United States, with all of the aforementioned circumstances still existing and my mother and/or father being denied health insurance, there’s a very real possibility that I would not have survived — the real cost of keeping me alive during those first few tentative days and weeks would likely have run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars. And my parents would likely still be paying off my medical bills, all 23 years later. They’d have gotten themselves into such unbelievable debt, that they’d be chained to the same mortgage forever. Not to mention the stress of all of that — and the impact that would have had on top of having a baby boy who was clinging to life.
Had I been born in the United States, there’s a very real possibility I would have died sooner, that I might not be here at all. After all, the constant examinations and a battery of testing and medicine that I had to receive afterwards, that might not have been covered by the GOP’s new healthcare bill.
That is the true cost of single-payer, universal healthcare. Not in dollar value, but in people’s lives. Real, actual human beings, upon whom one can place no price tag. And how exactly can you justify taking away the health insurance of someone whose pre-existing conditions is a mental illness? Depression — that’s on the list. Some people cannot control their depression, it comes and it goes in swings and sometimes for some, it’s chronic. And now they’re going to be burdened with potentially losing their health care for their ailment?
Health insurance providers and, by extension, the United States Government might literally be sentencing people to death because of things about their medical state that they cannot control. What kind of a country persecutes its people in such a fashion?
I am a product of a universalized, single-payer healthcare system— a system which covers everyone without asking for a checkbook, or proof of insurance. A system which doesn’t sentence people to death for not being ‘prepared’ enough for whatever curveball life may throw at them. And certainly not a system that persecutes people for things about themselves that they cannot control.
Single-payer, universalized healthcare is the only way forward for the United States, anything else is an affront to human decency and an affront to the very idea of a modern Western nation.