with all that has been happening in america recently, i have had many discussions with my fellow americans regarding health care and obama's plans to "revitalize" the system. Because i live here, in the UK, and we have nationalised health care, people have been asking me lots of questions. and offering their opinions. most of those opinions are based on exactly that, opinion. since the american system basically offers you two choices, private insurance or no insurance, most people have never had the privilege of dealing with a nationalised system. or public option as obama is choosing to call it.
and the general consensus of most americans that i speak with is that the plan is a good one. it will benefit the poor, help those with little to no insurance, and on a whole wont really change the system. because what could be bad about health care that is free right? hmmm...
i recently had one friend point out that the new plan will predominately help those who really cant afford health care. he ended his argument by pointing out that we have never really been poor and in america. true. i have never really been poor. i have been a struggling college and grad student, working 40 plus hours to try and make ends meet. i have been a struggling new graduate, working a crap teaching job that didnt even pay enough to cover rent and bills. but i have been all of that as a single person, no husband, no family. so my friend was right in a sense that i have never really been poor and needed health care. but i have been without insurance and needed medical attention. oh boy, that was a challenge.
during graduate school and my first year out, i did not have medical insurance. i couldn't really afford it. but i did get sick in those 3 years. and i had huge amounts out of pocket to see a doctor and get prescriptions. and the care i received was different. the clinics i had to go to were not as nice, not as well staffed and well, pretty much you could tell that i was at a place that would see people on a cash only basis. its hard to be in america without insurance.
but hear me on this. i would take america with no health insurance over government run health care any day. there is no choice. because even though the care wasnt the same as if i had had health insurance, and even though the clinic may not have been as nice, i was still seen in a timely and efficient manner. the problem was address quickly and effectively.
timely and efficient are words that seem to evaporate over here. because health care is government run, everything is worked out on a cost/time/effort basis. will the procedure be lengthy and time consuming? if the answer is yes, then dont expect it to happen. doctors (GP's as we call them over here) are paid based on how many people they see in a day. when you have an appointment you are given 10 minutes. well 10 minutes at my doctors office. its less elsewhere. but when you allotted time limit is up, you have to go. my sister in law was actually told, and i quote, "your 5 minutes are up. if you have more questions you will have to make another appointment." she did have more questions. she had only briefly discussed her problem and had a questions about her daughter. she had to make another appointment.
and before you think "yeah, thats just an isolated incident. doesnt happen all the time" think again. if something is not cheap, quick and easy then its more than likely they wont do it. sometimes you get a doctor who is willing to take the time to actually talk to you and investigate, but those are few and far between. and the really disheartening thing is that even when you get a doctor who is willing to help, to really investigate, you still have to fight with the NHS system as a whole.
take my daughter for example. There is potential that due to the difficulty in labour and delivery, eleri may have some nerve damage in her right arm and hand. we went to the doctor to get it checked out. he agreed that there was potential she has some weakness and sent her to the hospital paediatrician/neurologist to check it out. we went into the GP on the 6th of November. The FIRST appointment available at the hospital is the 20th of January. that is almost an entire 3 MONTHS after i would have had the first doctors appointment. 3 MONTHS. but i cant do a single thing about it. the doctor mentioned that catching nerve damage within the first 5 months means that there is a big chance the problem can be corrected. by the time we get our appointment that 5 month window will be gone. She will be 6 months old already.
and there is not a single thing i can do about it. i just have to wait. but hey, at least its free right?
and what could possibly be wrong with free health care?!
the problem is that you pay for what you get. if you pay nothing, then that is what you can expect to get. nothing. and as a new mother who wants the absolute best for her daughter, nothing is just not good enough. waiting 3 months to see a doctor is not good enough. and what can i do about it? nothing. sucks.
i could pay to go private in the UK, but the cost is astronomical. essentially there are two choices in this country as well, government run health care at a sub par level or pay out huge amounts of money for private care. not too be a downer, but i foresee this as the way it will end up in the states. people keep saying that the public option really wont affect the system as it is now. but i dont buy it. at all. i have experienced government run health care. and it sucks. i can only imagine what americans will think of it.
to be fair, i will say that not every experience i have had with the NHS has been negative. when i went in to the doctor in the summer and was diagnosed with skin cancer, i had a fantastic NHS doctor. she was brilliant. quick, efficient, and free. so in that instance the government run and paid for health care was perfect. but there have been more times than i can count that have been awful.
so forgive me, fellow americans, if i can not jump on board 100% with obama's plan of government run health care. I do agree that something needs to happen to change americas system. it does not work for every one. i do understand that. but i do not think that health care run and paid for by the government is the right answer. i know that the NHS is a more extreme version of what obama wants. i realise there are many differences between what i have described and what obama wants to implement. but the basic principle is the same.
and in my opinion the outcome is the same. government run health care sucks.