American public schools have a long history that we can be proud of. Since early settlers in the Massachusetts Colony made school compulsory for children in the 1600’s, more and more Americans, regardless of economic standing, have been able to attend elementary, middle and high school. Property taxes funded schools. Government intervened over time to ensure that schools were open, accepting, and inclusive of all students. Education became a right for all children, not just a privilege for some.
Americans have also decided over the years that police and fire protection are essential for all people regardless of ability to pay for services. Thus, our police and firefighters are now funded through our tax dollars. When we call the police station for assistance, we are not asked, “How do you plan to pay for protection?” Likewise, when we call the Fire Dept., the dispatcher on the other end of the line doesn’t ask for a check or insurance information.
Education, police, and fire services are provided to all American because we have decided that every person has the right to learn, to be safe, and to have his or her property protected. Does it not follow then that Americans ought to implement a national health care system that is provided to everyone regardless of his or her employment or economic status? We educate our children because they are important to us and to our nation. We train and equip our police officers because our safety matters to us. We provide training and fire fighting equipment for our fire departments because we value or homes and businesses. But what about our bodies and our health? Aren’t they important, too?
When you boil it down, our health is the most important thing we have. If we break a leg, we ought to be able to have it fixed without financial worry. If we need expensive tests, we should not have to tap our children’s college funds to pay for them. If our children are sick, we should be able to obtain care for them without worrying about how to pay the bills. We all need health care at various times in our lives. It is a necessity. Isn’t it time we start talking about it as such?
We can debate how to fund it and how to make it work for everyone. But we can no longer debate whether or not we need it. We do. It is a shame and a disgrace that we leave our health care and that of our loved ones and fellow Americans to the mercy of private enterprises such as insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and the health care lobby. The private sector has failed. Americans of all ages are struggling to pay for insurance, if they can even get it. Far too many of us are doing without essential care because it is too costly. And this is wrong. We all need affordable and accessible health care; it is time to ensure that we all have it.
We, as a country, claim to care about our citizens. We say that government exists to serve the people. We say that we stand for equality. Well, when it comes to the allocation of health care resources, we don’t have any fairness or equality. We seem to care little about those who are less fortunate than we are. We don’t want government to serve all the people because we are selfish; we fear that we may have to give up something so that others may share in the bounty.
Before our public school systems were set up, there were only private schools for the children of the well to do. Then we decided that that education was priceless and that everyone deserved it, so we made it public and funded it. We later did the same with police and fire services. Now, we must do the same with health care. We must begin to see our health and that of ALL Americans as a priceless commodity that must be cared for and protected, Only then, when we agree on this new way of thinking about this issue, can we take the steps to move forward, together, regardless of political party, to make health care available and affordable for all Americans.