By Carol Gould
My happiest moments in my forty-four years in Britain have been the publication of my books by British publishers but the saddest is my inability to return to the United States for many years because of a series of health crises. Right now, as 2019 comes to an end, I have not been able to get back to the USA since 2006. That’s right: thirteen years. It is a two-pronged issue. One is the difficulty getting travel insurance. Unless you want to pay a £1,000 premium for a two-month stay using a high-end British insurer it is virtually impossible to secure cover. (A dear British friend of mine did not heed my warning when eight years ago he went on holiday to Florida uninsured and had a stroke when he arrived Stateside. His UK family ended up nearly bankrupt.)
The other issue is just wanting to go back to live in the USA for good; because I have been a worker and taxpayer here in the UK for forty years I never paid in to Medicare. At 66 with multiple pre-existing conditions I am told I could get Medicaid but do I really want to embark on complicated paperwork when here in Britain I am superbly looked after by the NHS for every eventuality? Good Lord: when you think of it: from the day in 1976 as an MA student when I offered my GP in Knightsbridge a £5 note and he looked at me in horror, not a brass farthing has passed between me and a medical practitioner.
Every time I have been on a radio or television broadcast I have pointed out that had Franklin Roosevelt not died of a sudden stroke in April 1945 and lived out his fourth term he would have seen what Clement Attlee was doing in post-war Britain bringing in the magnificent National Health Service, which to this day treats everyone from cradle to grave. Harry Truman did not see the miracle of the NHS as a necessity for Americans and to this day money has ruled the medical and pharmaceutical sectors with insurance companies often tyrannizing hard-working Americans who happen to fall ill.
The fact that the United States does not have universal health care beggars belief. I was a delegate to the 2004 Global Democratic Convention in Edinburgh where presidential hopeful John Kerry’s sister Diana urged me to go to Philadelphia and campaign in my hometown for universal health care. When I arrived there the head of the Kerry campaign rang and told me that if I so much as dared mention ‘socialized medicine’ I would not only be thrown off the campaign but out of the Democratic party.
Just before Ted Kennedy died he said he was visiting the grandchildren of constituents who fifty years before were having trouble paying their medical and pharmaceutical bills. When I went to hear Sen John McCain speak in Maryland fifteen years ago he said ‘Ma’am, we will not have universal health care in my or your lifetime.’
This has to change. Americans deserve the care from cradle to grave that other nations enjoy. I am alive because of the British NHS. But the fact that I may die never seeing my American family ever again is beyond belief.