A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. James Madison, 1822.
Three aspects rushed through my mind before I penned this article: The song ‘material girl’ by Madonna; the song ‘Alien in New York’ by the Fugees (I think so) and; the quote from the new testament by Jesus Christ ‘and again I say unto you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.’ Matthew 19:24. My mind rushed straight to a situation in which I envisioned an ailing immigrant who is at the door steps of a clinic in any town in USA. I come from Africa originally and I the health care system from my former country is very different from that of USA. I happened to have read a book by Simon Johnson and James Kwak: White House Burning; The founding fathers, our national debt and why it matters to you, 2012, Pantheon Books, New York. In that book they put forward some ideas that USA (that is the people) need to look into in order to beat the recession (where many people lost jobs) from the 1990s to around 2004. They talk of tax cuts as incentive to boost a larger middle class; they talk of social security contributions by many; they talk of a universal health insurance plan that will set level payment rates for services and medications; reduce on national defense spending; transition from fossil fuels toward new energy sources; they talk of limiting size of financial institutions and their risk taking ventures; they talk of government directly sponsoring such small programs like education grants, housing and welfare, agriculture subsidy; they talked of reduction of tax expenditures and tax holidays; they talk of encouraging people to consume less, save money and borrow at low interests. I happened to go through eligibility criteria to get insured in USA and know about acceptance that was short lived, denial because I was not in ‘status’, acceptance again when my level of stay in USA was established and finally confirmation that I am an insured person in USA. All these aspects were communicated to me and a form was attached to my communication to be filled if I was contesting any decision. I did write back to have my names spelt correctly! I also managed to know about the appointment system of my nearest clinic and accessed the system that works on health needs of immigrants (immunization, physical check-ups, tooth, eye, ear and skin care). I am yet to get authorization to join a city-based gymnasium once my physician approves and signs a certain filled form. My first day of walking-in, is still on mind. I walked into a freshly scented building of glass and humming sounds of distant lifts (oh, sorry elevators) and in the lobby a receptionist called for me. She directed me to a corridor where there was another lobby of the ‘walk-in’ clinic. This particular health facility has 6 clinics with almost 50 medical doctors of different specialties as well as attending health workers. A receptionist nurse handled me and took my vitals. He told me to wait for one hour as they schedule an appointment to see my physician. I was told it was good I walked in before 8.30 a.m otherwise I was to wait for a day before I saw a physician because the numbers of patients is large now. So many of us are uninsured (I was still uninsured before 2013). Actually there are so many Americans who are uninsured. My physician finally saw me, the laboratory and x-rays were done and the prescriptions cost me USD 8. I had with me all my results on a CD! I also had a file and a Family Health Center ID number generated for me. I looked at the medication I was given at the pharmacy, it was to last me a month with chances of three refills! My insurance and the pharmacy discount program ensured I get these services to the fullest. I was also asked to book for dental care. That evening a call from the Dental care department got me working on details to that effect. I have since had a thorough dental check up and care as I write this. My next appointments are scheduled as follows: next immunization for Hepatitis is in August; dental in August and; physical check-ups with my physician on September. All I have to do is plan ahead and have these appointments in mind. I can call ahead and cancel/reschedule appointments. I am the kind of person who is cautious about my life. I shall make sure I fulfil my appointments. I am an alien in USA, but living in a country where life is respected it is easier for me to go through the doors of the health facilities now after getting my insurance card!