It’s a sunny spring day in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city. It is a city, country I have grown to love and call my second home. I moved here for love nearly seven years ago and while it has not been without tribulation, I have been given a rare glimpse inside the work of a fully functional social democracy and the amazing benefits it has to offer.
I have just left my biennial mammogram offered completely free to every female resident over the age of forty. I received a friendly reminder in the mail that it was time again. I laugh to myself because it coincides with my birthday reminding me that I am in fact getting older. I arrived on time, was taken back by a friendly nurse, and was done within 5 minutes. I tried to pay, but the receptionist smiled and said, “no, it’s free.”
I feel so fortunate. I no longer worry in the way I did back home. I can see my primary doctor the same day with any issues. I sit here with a heavy feeling though-a guilt that wakes me sometimes at night. Sometimes I lie awake and think of my loved ones back home. I wonder if my sister, a high risk candidate for skin cancer, will be covered by the necessary costs of repeated trips to the dermatologist. Will my aunt be able to afford her cancer treatments and receive the best care regardless of her provider? Now more than ever, the fear of the instability of healthcare in this country grips me as it does most Americans.
Home is the United States; a country I am truly proud to call home. Home is also a country that allows money and corruption determine our health, something that should be a basic human right-not a means of capital. How is it that our great country is so far advanced technologically, scientifically, and culturally yet we are so far behind in basic healthcare for it’s citizens, especially when compared to other western nations?
I know the daily struggle of working class America. I know the fear of living paycheck to paycheck where health insurance is considered a luxury. I have lived it. I understand waiting too long to see a doctor for lack of insurance to only find it is too late. I have seen it. I have cared for the parents who suffer not only the loss of a child, but even their livelihood (savings, house, business) to the mounting debt that accrued after their health insurance reached its limit.
Why should I care though? I now live in a country that has provided some form of universal healthcare for its people since 1946 while keeping the cost down. I have had coverage since I first stepped foot in the country-a country where children have virtually free healthcare and medication, where a copay the equivalent of approximately eleven dollars is all one will pay in the course of any treatment from diagnosis to cure. I live in a country where parents get unlimited paid sick leave if they need to care for a sick child and on and on and on. So why should I care what happens back home?
I care because my mother, father, sisters, brother, nieces, nephew, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends are there and I want what is best for them. They are my tribe. I care because I am tired of watching insurance companies manipulate our system, manipulate our representatives. I am tired of watching our government and our representatives fight what should be a basic right, protecting their well invested interests. This all whist enjoying the best health coverage money can buy without paying a penny themselves.
But what can I do? I am one person. One voice. I can plea with you, the reader, to stand up and take what is rightfully yours. Call and/or write your representatives. One voice will not be heard, not invoke change. It never has. It takes many. Every man for himself does not work. It never has. It never will. It is time to start caring for each other again.
Lori is an American nurse and yogini living in Gothenburg, Sweden. She contributes to Mighty Nurse, AWHONN, American Nurse Today, and has been featured in The Huffington Post. Follow her adventures through her blog, Neonurse, or on Instagram.