“You’re just lucky it didn’t happen here,” a US-based friend said after hearing of my near death through having been run over by a cement truck. “They’d have been asking for your insurance details as soon as they got you out.”
Thing is, prior to President’s Obama’s Affordable Care Act, I might not have had those details.
I have a pre-existing medical condition. When I was two, I caught a virus and, unfortunately for me, in the process of fighting it my immune system destroyed the cells in my pancreas that produce insulin, leaving me with type 1 diabetes.
The issue of pre-existing medical conditions like mine shot to the top of the US political agenda after late-night comic Jimmy Kimmel delivered an emotional 13-minute monologue on the subject of the birth of his son, who was found to have a congenital heart condition.
Jimmy Kimmel reveals details of his son’s birth and heart disease
“No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life,” Kimmel said through floods of tears. “It just shouldn’t happen. Not here.”
He continued with an appeal to make healthcare accessible to all, including those with pre-existing medical conditions.
It came against the backdrop of President Trump’s American Healthcare Act rising from the grave, like Freddie Krueger or some other fictional bogeyman.
There will be another attempt to get it through Congress today.
An amendment has been included that will provide $8bn towards securing healthcare coverage for people like William Kimmel, or me.
But Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, described that as “like administering cough medicine to someone with stage four cancer”. He might be right. It isn’t expected to be a deal breaker for the hard right Republican House Freedom Caucus. That speaks volumes.
Those Republicans. They’ll bang on about their desire to “protect life”, referring, of course, to abortion. But once you’ve been born? If you’re not healthy and/or wealthy, then screw you.
Kimmel didn’t put it that way. Whist he is a liberal, he has a much lighter touch than a columnist like me, or some of his rivals; the Stephen Colberts or the Samantha Bees, who have been eviscerating President Trump with brutally effective humour.
Kimmel tends to generate controversy when he’s too soft, not too tough. That, however, might help to explain why his emotional appeal to both Democrats and Republicans – “we gotta look after each other” – has had such an impact
I have to admit, I was almost in tears watching it myself. Things like that resonate with me, given what I and my family have been through.
But it wasn’t just because of the emotion of Kimmel’s appeal, or even the fact that it stirred memories of the troubled birth of my own son (his heart rate swung violently at one point and my wife was rushed into surgery, but he was healthy).
I found it absolutely chilling because it took me back to the issue my friend raised: what would have happened to me had my accident happened in America? Would I be here writing this now? Would I even have had an accident – I might not have got as far as my third birthday?
I was not born to wealthy parents. When my diabetes was diagnosed, we were living in a council house on the edge of Sheffield. In the US, my parents might not have had good coverage, like a lot of Americans modest means. They might not have had any.
Obama’s Affordable Care Act was constructed not just with pre-existing conditions in mind. Its aim was to prevent people from falling through the very limited safety net existing before it.
Watching a sorry, and depressing, UK election campaign, looking back on some of the events of the last six months, I haven’t felt very good about the country in which I live.
But there are three letters that provide some soothing balm: NHS.
It’s desperately underfunded. It doesn’t always work very well. I’ve decided to try and write a book chronicling some of my experiences with it, and the events following my accident. The current draft contains some pointed criticisms of our health service because some of the things I want to say need saying.
On one occasion, for example, I was left writhing in agony after being transferred to a new hospital because they couldn’t find a doctor to approve morphine that had already been prescribed for me. Partly it was down to a funding issue - we need more doctors. But it needn't have happened had the transfer process been managed a bit better. Let’s not pretend the NHS is perfect.
However, it is still a damn sight better than what some people have. It’s a damn site better than Trump’s American Healthcare Act, a piece of legislation that will leave millions of people like me without cover again.
Some of them will die.
When Obamacare was being pushed through, Conservative Euro MP Daniel Hannan infamously went on Fox News to say he “wouldn’t wish the NHS on anyone” branding it a “relic”.
It’s a relic that saves lives, including mine. Twice.
Watch Kimmel’s monologue – it’s available on YouTube. When you do, consider what he says. I hope, I’d even be moved to pray, that we don’t ever get to a place where we need someone like him to make the same points in this country.