Honestly, July was a busy month. I’m almost always up for road-tripping, though admittedly it was a bit of a challenge with two dogs, including a new puppy, when we drove to Memphis and back. For people who are used to living on an island across the pond, the wonders of this country never cease to amaze.

Right at the beginning of the month, of course, was the Fourth of July, and we’ve been in America enough years now to appreciate many of the traditions that come with the holiday. We don’t hold any grudges about that bit of a rebellion back in the 1770s. After all, we didn’t know that fellow King George personally.

But once the party is over for the birthday of America, I move on to celebrating another birthday—the birth of the National Health Service in England. As midnight turned in 1948 to July 5 in England, suddenly there was health care for everyone.

Aneurin Bevan was the youngest member of the Labour government elected two years earlier. In the space of two years, and moving against considerable opposition from the Conservative party, others in the government, the press, and members of the medical profession, Bevan nevertheless led the way toward the National Health Service. The idea was not Bevan’s brainchild alone. Ever since WWI, the country had been ripe for the possibility of collective action to solve the health care dilemma. But Bevan did speed up the time table and accomplish the task even as many said it could not be done.

Others said it would not last. Perhaps a decade. Certainly no more than 15 years. Yet the NHS just turned 70 years old.

Coming from my years in the NHS into the US health care landscape, particularly after recent court rulings striking down not the entire Affordable Care Act but pieces of it that matter a great deal to meaningful functioning, I find myself musing about the question of what independence means.

In my mind independence from fear has the greatest weight when it comes to health care. The key reasons people feel insecure are: I can’t pay my bills; Are my kids okay? And, what happens if I get sick?

Health care is part of a national security issue. Celebrating independence is more than the parties that happen on July 4. We have a choice about whether we want to create independence that lets people make choices to pursue fulfillment in their lives free of the insecurity and fear of what happens if they, or their children, get sick.

Whatever happens to the Affordable Care Act, will we be satisfied to backtrack to widening the levels of fear about getting sick and not having access to care? Will we be satisfied with going backward into fear, or will we be determined find a path forward that assures everyone independence from fear and the security of knowing that they have access to preventive care and if they become sick, income will not be an obstacle to care?

Antony Sheehan
South Shore Mental Health