America cannot be great without universal health care

America cannot be great without universal health care

When I was a kid, things like hospital bills, rent and mortgages were all vague and nebulous concepts to me. The most pressing matter to me was when the next Zelda game would be coming out. However, over time this mindset started to change and erode. 

When I was 16, I got sick. Very sick. White Wolff Parkinson's syndrome, a very rare condition that affects less than one percent of the population, or around two to three students total at The University of Alabama, to put it into perspective. 

This disease had an unfortunate tendency to increase my heart rate to around 300 or so beats per minute. It would happen randomly, while sitting down, going on a jog or hanging out with friends; it was always there like some sickly specter looming within the crevices of my cardiovascular system. I thought it was normal at first, just a regular thing that hearts do, like the occasional hiccup as part of its regular blood-pumping routine, so I never told anyone about it. 

It happened at night. My parents were both at work and I was alone at home. I wasn’t doing much out of the ordinary, just pacing around the house with my dog. But then my heart started racing violently, as it normally did when the syndrome kicked in. My entire chest tightened and I froze in place. Something was different this time. My breathing became harder as I struggled to keep myself up. My vision got blurry and my entire body was trembling. I reached for my cell phone and dialed 911. 

It was the first time my parents found out about my condition, and the first time I’ve ever been to the hospital for it. The doctors told me that, had paramedics not gotten there in time, my heart would have filled up with blood, and I would have died. They put a pacemaker on me to study it for a few weeks, and then two months later I went in for heart surgery, which permanently fixed the problem. The total cost of the operation was well over $30,000, enough to put my family into debt. We had to relocate to my grandfather’s house just to have enough money to survive.         

Unfortunately, stories like mine aren’t unique. Everyday, families have to make dramatic decisions about their health care options such as whether to get the medical attention that they can’t afford or to just ‘tough it out.’ Currently, there are around 28 million people in the United States who are uninsured, a number expected to rise significantly once the mandates of the GOP tax reform bill take effect.  

As of 2018, America is also one of the very, very few developed countries without a proper health care system, and one in which thousands suffer and die each year. In a country that so prides itself on freedom, on the well-being of the individual, on a happy and prosperous population, it fails to provide any of that, and instead places the burden of living expenses on society’s most impoverished.

If we cannot provide for those in need, then we do not deserve to carry the honor and glory of being a ‘great’ country. You can’t make America great again, because it has never been great for those who can’t afford its luxuries. Had my family been unable to shoulder the bill of my surgery, I’d probably not be writing this right now. And who knows how many more people have been in similar circumstances that we’ve now lost to problems we have the power to fix.    

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