Hello, Icelanders. American-born citizen here. I’ve noticed there’s been a lot of speculation as to what opening a private hospital—as one Dutch company hopes to do—would do to a country with a national healthcare system. As someone who grew up in a country with private health care, I beg you: Please, do not let this happen here. Here’s why:
Not once in my entire adult life in the United States did I pay a visit to a doctor for a check-up, nor did I visit a dentist. This wasn’t a political stance on my part, but rather because I was one of the millions of Americans whose employers did not offer some kind of healthcare plan. As such, I went through life hoping I would never become seriously ill, rather than going in for regular check-ups that could help prevent serious illness. I figured that if I got sick enough, or was seriously injured, I would simply go to the emergency room and then skip out on the bill—which would most likely ruin my credit rating.
The credit rating angle is interesting, too. If I did ruin my credit rating by skipping out on an emergency room bill, this would likely shut me out of being able to take out loans that I might use for paying for healthcare.
Even being covered isn’t enough
But even being lucky enough to have an employer who deems you worthy of a health plan doesn’t guarantee you much. What if you lose your job? What if you want to look for a new job? What if you don’t want to work for the rest of your natural life just to have something resembling decent healthcare? What if you have a plan that doesn’t cover exactly what is damaging or has damaged your health? Well, hope you saved your pennies.
One of the first things I did when I came to Iceland was go in for a general check-up, and go see a dentist. I was delighted to do so. In fact, the common notion that we are all entitled to basic healthcare is one of the reasons why I moved to Iceland in the first place. When my daughter was born, we paid for nothing. And I am pleased that my daughter, who requires special needs care, can enjoy not only basic healthcare but additional assistance because we predominantly consider it a given that everyone is entitled to this.
I mean, sometimes I imagine what would have happened if my child had been born in the US instead of here in Iceland. I imagine arguing with my insurance company, if I even had one. I imagine maxing out credit cards, drowning in debt, cutting corners to poverty levels just to get the kind of services that cost little to nothing in this country.
Don’t let it happen here
Opening a private hospital in this country would siphon away healthcare workers from a system that is already in desperate need of support. The private health sector would grow, while public health would wither. It would divide us between those who can afford to stay healthy, and those who will have to either rely on their bosses to offer healthcare, or simply cross their fingers and hope for the best. This isn’t theory; this is reality for millions of Americans right now.
Do not listen to the speculations of the country’s neoliberals. You need only look westward to see the end result of introducing private healthcare. I can attest, from firsthand experience, that introducing a private healthcare sector would ruin us.
Stand up for justice. Stand up for equality. Fight corporate healthcare.