When I lived in America, the woman who I shared a house with needed to go to the emergency room. Every time anyone saw her or spoke to her, a bar code on her arm was scanned and a random amount was added to the total bill, for which she had no idea if her insurance policy would cover her when she was eventually discharged.
She was in an open ward with other patients which was no cleaner or more technologically advanced than anything I’ve seen in the UK. The staff were no more polite or any more professional. The food was no more fresh or nutritious and the cleaning staff didn’t sideline in performing cabaret show tunes for the entertainment of their patients.
One night in bed, a 5 minute conversation with a general practitioner and a pack of de-stressing pills later, the total bill was over $400.
I dread to think what goes through the mind of someone in a car crash. I can’t imagine anything less likely to aid in ones recovery from a serious operation, than wondering how much of the bill you’re going to get stuck with–despite that you’ve already paid into a scheme which is ostensibly designed to help, but which all too often fails to deliver.
Compare and contrast this stressful and sinister system to what happens in the UK. From minor cuts and bruises requiring a stitch, to heart and lung transplants and chemotherapy, the NHS is “free at the point of use”–which means the tax payer contributes to a health care system everyone can use, regardless of their ability to pay.
The care and attention lavished on the great British public, by the NHS, is not without its problems. But the crux of a recent Republican Party campaign against President Obama’s plans to revolutionise the American health care system, hinge on a series of TV ads which attack the British system, saying in typically loaded terms that a more social approach to health care is one step towards socialism.
There are certain key-words which, when used in American politics, immediately have people of a certain persuasion running around like headless chickens. “Socialism” is one, “liberalism” is another. Knee-jerk, push the button, hear the voice conservatives have, needless to say, bitten the bait and reacted exactly as they were pre-programmed to, when it became obvious in the run up to the Presidential election McCain & Palin stood no chance of winning and the damage limitation machine swung unto action.
The problem with this particular tactic of offensive misinformation, is that they are trying to paint the NHS out to be a killer example of how not to do a health care system, when in reality it is one of the best in the world. Yes, there are headline grabbing examples of what happens when it goes wrong. Having family members who work on the front line in Accident & Emergency, I can tell you that it is by no means a perfect system.
But the very idea that it is a system anywhere near as inhuman and inefficient as one which judges someone’s right to treatment by how wealthy they are, or bases the outcome of an adjudication on whether or not a patient lives in a county whose governor is in the pocket of a pharmaceutical giant, isn’t one which I would have thought it right to be proud of. Unlike we British, who are genuinely proud of the doctors and nurses and professional staff in our NHS.
The Conservative party, in the UK, are not traditional allies of the NHS. But even they have learned from the mistakes of Margaret Thatcher, in the century which gave the world mass privatisation and Reaganomics, to leave the NHS alone, if you want to win votes. Even the fixes to the NHS they are likely to introduce, should they win the next general election, would never take us anywhere near to such an antiquated and open to corruption system as that which is so preciously and short-sightedly defended by their sister party in the US.
So, my beloved American readers, take it from your uncle Jim. Whatever TV ads and newspaper opinion pieces they are bandying around about my NHS in your country at the moment; no matter how many posh MEPs with bad teeth they roll out on the evening news headlies, prepared to slag-off the health care system which has been saving lives and providing the best doctor and surgeon training in the world, since 1948–I guarantee you, NONE of these people have ever had to see what it’s like in the emergency room of an American hospital, when they can’t afford exuberant health insurance.
You voted for change, now get some balls and do something about it!