A long note on healthcare and the NHS

But first:  Here is our phone number if you dial from the US:  011 44 148 465 4889

So I have a few things to say about the National Health Service (NHS) here and our current healthcare “discussion” in the US.

1-to a person (and I have talked to about 25 people here about this) they all think the Republicans are crazy on this issue.  They cannot understand why the richest country in the world just refuses to cover some 30 to 40 million of its citizens.  They just think it is ludicrous.

2-Last week Sarah hurt her back and has in fact had to see a doctor.  Since she doesn’t have a NHS number we didn’t know what to do.  She was actually on her back for 7-days with very little relief so we decided to make some calls.

Here is what happened:  I showed up at a local doctors office (about a 5-minute walk from our flat) at 7:30 AM.  You can make appointments by phone for days or weeks ahead of time but if you want to be seen that day you can show up early and get an appointment for later that day (I can’t do this with my doctor unless it is an emergency).  There was no line. 

I made the appointment for 9:20 that morning.  Sarah arrived, paid £50 (cost for non-NHS folks to use a doctor) and was seen right on time.  The doctor evaluated her (correctly), prescribed a strong anti-inflammatory and mild exercise and said the idea of resting a painful back was old news and common practice was now to get up and move.  If she still felt “poorly” in 3 weeks, she was to go back to see him. 

            We went to the pharmacy with the “script”.  Expecting to wait the traditional 1+ hr we have to wait at our local CVS, or to have to come back later, we were surprised to be told it wouldn’t be long.  We decided to wait.  To pass the time we turned around from the counter to look at the display behind us only to have to turn back around 1-minute later to pay for and receive Sarah’s prescription.  It took all of 2-minutes and cost £7.20.  I’m happy to report she is feeling fine and started running today.

3-at the pub the other night we had a healthcare discussion after band rehearsal.  After again stating that in the US we are nuts to even be having a “debate”, we talked about the NHS and the private systems here in the UK.  One person at the table did indeed opt out of the NHS system for the private system at his own expense after he retired from his job of managing a bank.  To purchase full medical coverage in the private sector he pays £80 a month.  I have a friend recently who had to have Cobra coverage for his family for 6-months as he changed college teaching jobs.  It cost him $18,000!  If you do you the conversion you get that in the US, private insurance can cost somewhere around 22X the cost in the UK.  Like I said, they think we are nuts. 

One thing they did say was for non-emergency elective stuff you get faster service here if you have private insurance.   In the NHS you just have to wait a bit longer not that you won’t get it at all…..

4-They also had a huge laugh at Glenn Beck et al who talked about Stephen Hawking (the BRITISH physicist).  Beck and others (including at least 1 Republican Senator) said folks like Hawking would die under the British system.  Folks here know Hawking is a national treasure, and just couldn’t believe the stupidity of the US on the issue.

5-At Kate’s school I talked to a self employed housing contractor.  He only does plaster.  We talked about health insurance and he said that as a small business he can actually support his family because of the NHS.  Without the NHS, insuring his family would cost too much and he would have to eliminate his business.

6-Recent news:  Sarah’s brother-in-law works full-time+ in NYC.  His employer provides health insurance.  Recently he has had some heart palpitations and wanted to get it all checked out.  So he had an EKG, stress tests, blood tests, all prescribed by his doctor.  All checked out.  Then they started getting bills from the doctor and the hospital where the tests were done.  Turns out his employer (an art gallery not doing particularly well during the recession) hasn’t been paying the insurance premiums for the past 3-months and the coverage lapsed.  Now he and my sister-in-law owe some $2000 they don’t have.  In the US about 70% of all personal bankruptcies are caused by medical bills.  This type of thing just does not happen in the UK.


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