It Ain’t So Bad Here

So it’s not perfect, not by a long shot, but as the author puts it, “a work in progress”, aiming for an ideal goal which, though perhaps not quite entirely reachable, helps guide us towards an increasingly beneficial society which works for, if not absolutely everyone, then at least as many as possible, and leaves if not no-one then at least as few as possible behind.


A crash course in social democracy by Ann Jones

We’re not strangers to praising ourselves and our own ways — as would be the case of most any nation and flavour of government and social structure — but we’re also willing to take that self-praise, and also, perhaps especially, that of our governing powers telling us how wonderful we are, with the appropriate amount of grains of salt.

Outside praise, however, is a measure that enables us to see how we look from the outside. It’s kind of heartwarming, and makes me appreciate what we have even more.

Again, not perfect, but I’m grateful for what we’ve got, for the freedoms, equality, security and benefits that are the cornerstones of the society that I’ve been lucky enough to be born into. I only hope that we possess the collective wisdom to carry on the good work, and keep building and improving on that which we have.

This year is an election year. Vote with your heart AND with your brain.


Obamacareface

Right. I’m not an American, but living on Planet Earth you can’t help having your ears and eyes blasted full of news and nonsense from the United States of Over There. A lot of it makes you shake your head in disbelief. One such thing is the continuing opposition against Obama’s health reform, popularly dubbed “Obamacare”—usually by those who don’t take much fancy to it. And it keeps resurfacing and bobbing around on the Interwebs at silly intervals.

And then you have the voices of a precious few who have understood, sometimes through painful experience, what the health reform really means if you are unlucky enough to really, really need it.

The image of Miss M. Turner of giveneyestosee.com, which has spent the last few years going viral on Facebook and elsewhere, and now also here. Click the image to visit her webpage and read her story.

And this is why we Norwegians have a hard time understanding the opposition against Obamacare, especially among people who would directly, and greatly, benefit from it. I guess that already having mandatory access to free health care makes us kinda strange like that.

Alas, you don’t really learn health care spells at Whitehouse­warts School of Presidency and Magic. Fortunately you don’t really need to.

Of course it’s not really free. Nothing is free. The thing is how we pay for it. Our health care is built into our taxes, just like our education. I pay my income tax in the knowledge that, should I need it, I get it back in the form of free (read: pre-paid) treatment.

But what if I don’t actually need treatment? What if I’m one of those lucky enough to go through life without illness or injury? Then it works just like health insurance: You yourself may be someone who pays through the nose for health insurance, yet you may not end up getting sick or injured, in which case you’ve wasted your money, and what you’ve paid for is simply the security of knowing that if you need it, you will have it, and that may help you sleep just a little better at night.

“Obama’s health reform came through, despite the fact that many Americans have fought hard for the right to end up living on the street if they get sick.”

— Knut Nærum, Norwegian author, 2010

The difference lies in how you and I waste our money. People who pay for private health insurance but don’t need their money back for the sheer good fortune of excellent health, are lining the insurance company managers’ pockets with gold. There are a small number of people suffering from severe cases of yachts and beach houses and sport cars and thirty thousand dollar suits who tap into your health insurance payments for their own benefit. Say hello to the One Percent.

I’ve no idea who this woman is¹ or whether she is really the one who said that or just a pretty face to catch the eye of the reader, but I think the words below her lovely chin actually make my case. Should anything stop you from paying extra for additional health insurance? I don’t think so, but it’s the predatory insurance market which preys on the weak that is the problem which needs fixin’.

Whatever health care money I and my fellow Norwegians donate through our taxes go into a common pile from which the health care system is financed for those who actually need it. Since I have a reasonably decent income, I pay more than those who make less, though people with larger incomes pay more, yet if I should find myself one day with a broken toe, some kind of bacterial infection, or the sudden appearance of an extra nose on my forehead, I will be sitting in the waiting room right next to the person who makes more than twice my income, and the one who makes less than half, and the three of us will be treated not in order of fiscal fortune but by medical need and urgency.

It’s a kind of contribute by ability, receive by need system, and what doesn’t go into payments for actual medical treatment goes into running, maintaining and improving the hospitals and the rest of the health care system, rather than executive pockets. Yachts, beach houses, sports cars and expensive suits are not considered medical conditions that qualify for free treatment or donations, and your medical condition is not weighed against the company CEO’s urgent need for another vacation to the Bahamas. Say hi to Socialism, which according to Republicans and their likes is your worst enemy.

Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko paints a frightening picture of the American health care system, and underlines some of the reasons why I consider USA a nice place to visit, but not to live. There’s a 10 minute excerpt of the movie which has to do with Norway, which I recommend watching:

This 10 minute clip was left out of the actual film, but was instead included in the Extra Features on the DVD. Yes, it tends to emphasize the good parts, presenting a glossy image of perfection. Nothing is perfect, but despite its flaws our system is working. We’re living it.

To use an experience of my own as an example: I am by no means a regular visitor at Norwegian health institutions, but in 2006 I thought I had suffered a minor stroke (I experienced temporary blindness in the entire right hand half of my field of vision on both eyes, plus balance problems and all-round numbness, and the whole thing lasted about half an hour) and rushed to the E.R., where I was swiftly rushed in and taken on a veritable safari through specialists and expensive tests and equipment.

This involved blood samples, eye checks, ultrasound, CAT scan, an MRI scan (those machines are noisy!), X-rays, more blood samples, blood pressure checks, respiratory check-ups, and a whole lot more, plus they kept me on observation for 24 hours, during which I was thoroughly looked after and occasionally fed (I can honestly say that Norwegian hospital food can be surprisingly good). Fortunately it turned out that what I had suffered was not a stroke but a rather intense migraine attack, and I was sent home with orders to rest for a few days.

When I posted about this on Facebook, friends in the USA expressed serious concern for my financial well-being, more so than for my health. They asked if I had medical insurance to cover my treatment, and I said no. They feared that, with the accumulated cost of tests and use of medical equipment, which probably ran into several thousand dollars, perhaps even tens of thousands, I would be in serious debt for years to come, but I said no. I paid a fee of about US$35 when I left the hospital, and that was that. My treatment was covered by the health care system, to which I and everyone else contribute through income tax.

Whenever, if ever, I fear for my health, I fear for discomfort, pain and possibly for death, but not for personal bankruptcy. I wish that everyone could have it that easy.

Footnotes:

  1. Well, I googled the picture: Her name is Michelle Malkin, and apparently that is her take on Obamacare.

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