the 67 (part III)

I’ll tell the man to turn the jukebox way down
and you can tell the friend there with you
he’ll have to go

To more Hawaiian guitar, we rolled into work, the driver of the 67 turning the volume up for this, one of his favourites. I must remember to hum this tune if I ever get caught out by a burglar, rapist, or murderer here. It will lull me into a sedative calm, making my soul somehow untouchable. But I lack complete faith, as proved by the decision to take out health insurance here. It’s expensive, at well over 10% of my monthly income, but if I do get stabbed in the stomach, I want neat stitches & I want them quick.

‘Oh yes, you’ll be covered for emergencies,’ Mr Botha reassures me, ‘but nothing else for the first three months. So if you have diabetes and have an attack, we can’t help you there.’

‘Right. And if I’m shot?’

‘Hundred per cent. As I said, any emergencies are covered.’

‘So my partner, if he gets beaten about the head and needs an operation, we’re covered for that?’

‘Hundred per cent, yes, madam. Emergencies.’

‘And there’s no small print there? I mean, the only reason we’re joining is for emergencies. If we get cancer or something, I guess we’ll go home.’

‘Hundred per cent. All emergencies.’ Mr Botha pauses. ‘My sister’s there you know.’




‘She likes it there. Doesn’t want to come back. And she’s married now.’

‘To an Englishman?’

‘Hundred per cent.’

‘So I guess she enjoys the National Health Service there, yes?’

‘Hundred per cent. She doesn’t wanna come home.’

‘Right. Yes. I mean health insurance here is bloody expensive. God knows what the majority here do. I guess they have to hope they don’t get hurt. But they’re most at risk, no?’

‘Yeah. It’s tough.’

‘It seems very undemocratic. Anti-democratic, even.’

‘Yah. So is that all then Muzz Richards?’

‘It’s Pawson. We’re married but I’m Pawson.’

‘Hundred per cent. So is that all?’

‘I’ve never had health insurance before you know. I’ve lived in places where I’m much more likely to get ill than here, places where you get malaria once a month. And I’ve never had health insurance. I’m not sure why I’m getting it here really. You guys must be laughing hey! All those terrified middle classes shelling out their savings just in case… But I never had insurance when I lived in Angola.’

‘Oh. Ok Muzz Pawson, you send off your forms and I’ll make sure you’re all signed up and ready.’

We say goodbye. And I’m left wondering why I’m paying for health insurance here, at a time in my working life when I’ve probably never been so badly off. I didn’t have health insurance in Angola during the war, nor in Ghana, nor in Mali… I certainly don’t have it in the UK, although more and more people are buying into Blair’s world of fear. I think about the health insurance schemes (did I hear scams?) of the BBC. All those journalists who live and work in dangerous places without any health insurance. Of course, the foreign journos on ‘proper contracts’ are insured. The people you see on your television screens, you don’t need to worry about them. They’ll have health insurance. But not the ‘small’ people, the stringers all over Africa and Asia, the people who really know what’s going on, not the ones who drop in and drop out as they climb the career ladder, but the real people, the real journalists. None of them have health insurance. If they get malaria and die, the BBC forks out a bit of cash for the funeral. That’s about as good as it gets. There’s lots of stories all about this. And you won’t see them here, on this BBC staff blog. I think I will start an ex BBC-stringers’ blog. That way, you public can learn all about what really goes on at the BBC, and how journalists are really treated. Never too late…

P.S. I heard, later, that 3.2 million South Africans are signed up to some kind of medical aid/health insurance scheme. Together with their dependants that means about 7 million people have access to the best medical treatment in the country. Which means that about 37 million don’t. Which makes the stares of shock you get when you tell people you don’t have medical insurance even stranger. Doesn’t it?


3 thoughts on “the 67 (part III)

  1. […] larap wrote an interesting post today on the 67 (part III)Here’s a quick excerptBut I lack complete faith, as proved by the decision to take out health insurance here. It’s expensive, at well over 10% of my monthly income, but if I do get stabbed in the stomach, I want neat stitches & I want them quick. … […]

  2. Dear Dean, I’m delighted you like my blog, but I must confess that I hate insurance companies with a passion: they largely trade on fear and creating fear. The idea that my blog is being used as information – particularly free information – for insurance companies and brokers makes me feel rather ill. I think you should all be nationalised or run as non-profit organisations, as health and education should be. Lara

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