My beau and I went to Canada for vacation a few years in a row. We love the food, the culture, and the hospitality. We’ve made friends there, too.
Two Canadian friends have successful businesses. Another friend works as a housekeeper.
They represent both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum — the rich and the “just getting by.”
They have one thing in common: they have a great deal of freedom and choice in their work.
My beau and I have unique talents. He’s a business manager with a nose for details and I’m a writer with a passion for the human experience. We both have a passion for travel, the arts, antiques, and fine food.
One Canadian friend recognized our passions and asked, “Why don’t you two go into business for yourselves?”
Before he could even finish his question, we shook our heads. I said, “We can’t. He has diabetes. I get migraines. We have two kids. We need our health insurance.”
At this, our Canadian friend shook his head sadly. I found this conversation — and his reaction — profoundly frustrating.
Canadians have a national healthcare system that provides basic medical care for everyone. The health plan has problems, but what federal program doesn’t? People can buy premium packages and travel insurance if they want to increase their coverage.
I had the unique opportunity to experience Canadian healthcare up close and personal when I contracted strep throat in Quebec City.
The clinic wasn’t great, but it was no worse than some of those in the U.S. I got the antibiotics I desperately needed along with a new perspective on healthcare.
I began thinking about the myriad of opportunities I’ve passed up because I needed to stay in a “work for the man” job, just to keep health insurance.
I had to pass up a job as director of a nonprofit arts and culture program. I would have rocked that job. But health insurance was not part of the compensation package.
The American Dream is defined as “the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.”
An equal opportunity
To achieve success and prosperity
Through hard work, determination, and initiative.
But the American Dream has been undermined by one single fact: the majority of Americans can be bankrupted by disease or injury if they don’t have health insurance.
You could work your whole life, and lose everything in an instant. It happens every day. American workers have no safety net.
And so, we have become sheep. Our fear of losing everything keeps us obedient.
We’re afraid to step out of line.
We don’t take risks.
We don’t explore the fringes of our imagination to find new ways of earning a buck.
We allow ourselves to be kept penned up in jobs we hate, while precious seconds of our lives tick away and our personal goals and dreams remain unrealized.
A brilliant entrepreneurship dies before it can even take shape because its creator must first consider how she will pay for her kid’s inhaler if she goes without health insurance.
The same fear also keeps people working long after they should have retired. Some work until the day they qualify for Medicare. They work their whole lives and then die. It happened to a dear friend. Six months after he celebrated his retirement from the DMV and got his pension, cancer killed him.
How does this issue impact the American economy as a whole? I don’t know numbers — I’m not an economist.
However, I am a sociology buff, and I know one thing: Societies flourish when individuals feel empowered to build something greater than themselves.
- An artist can build a business painting frescoes on the side of dilapidated buildings.
- A leadership coach can start a nonprofit to help low-income, at-risk women dig their way out of poverty.
- A union metalworker can live off his savings for a few months between contracts to explore his newfound passion for digital video production.
These people have the potential to be masters at their craft, but without basic health coverage, they cannot take the first step without the potential for catastrophic failure.
Having a national healthcare system could also do wonders for people who do want to continue to work for “the man” and can’t find a job.
An older man can leave his job to start his own business five years before he qualifies for Medicare, that job vacancy becomes available to someone else. Meanwhile, a grandmother could retire at 55 and spend a few years helping to raise her grandchildren while her daughter works on her degree.
As a country, we have been debating the issue of national healthcare for something like 135 years. Several presidents — including FDR — tried and failed to initiate national health programs. Opponents derided proposal after proposal as “socialist” and “communist” and “anti-American.”
While the suits debated the issue, four or five generations of incalculable human potential was lost.
Now, imagine what potential will be lost if we allow the suits to continue to debate for another 135 years.
When a country supports its citizens by providing basic healthcare, people can shift their energy from survival to advancement.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of waiting.
Esther Hofknecht Curtis, BSOL, MSM-HCA is a freelance writer from Smyrna, Delaware. Follow her on Facebook — go to https://www.facebook.com/TheArdentReader19977/