Friday, August 14, 2009

Fools rush in

Maybe I'm the fool here for opening a can of worms but I've been slow fuming all week over the race to criticize both the British National Health Service (NHS) and the similar system in Canada. I hold both a British passport and a US one. I chose to become a US citizen several years ago so telling me to "go back home" as someone did very recently when I defended the NHS is a moot point. I am home!

I am personally acquainted with the NHS system. Several years ago, my mother, then 85, slipped and broke a hip while visiting my brother who lives in Spain. Her vacation/travel insurance arranged for her to fly back to England in an ambulance plane. She was met in London by an NHS funded ambulance - she was transferred to a hospital within seven miles of her home in the midlands. She was treated with the utmost respect and care. She was suffering from a minimal old age dementia that had her mix up dates and grand kids, the usual forgetting where she was - in short, pretty much a batty old lady. Despite the fact that her 'usefulness' to society could have been questioned nothing of the sort occurred!

My youngest brother who lives in England was diagnosed with kidney cancer a month ago. In less than three weeks from diagnosis he was admitted to hospital for removal of the cancerous kidney. Contrast that with the seven weeks it took my very pricey US based health insurance to agree to a treatment for my late husband's rapidly metastasizing bone cancer. And then, following the treatment, we received an "oopsie, shouldn't have allowed that" letter and were billed $9,000.00. The last thing you want to have to do when a loved one is dying is battle the insurance company.

My youngest son, born and raised in the USA injured his back when he was 24. Major surgery was necessary. Following surgery he contracted a staph infection whilst still in hospital. A second round of surgery was required to clear out the infection. His health insurance carrier initially refused to pay for the second surgery. To add insult to injury now he is in a position, at 29, of not being able to get insurance that offers any coverage for future back problems.

I owned a small business in the US and provided health care insurance for my employees - I considered it a moral obligation to do so. Our premiums went up every year; one year the increase was 33 percent. I went head to toe with the insurance company on three occasions. The most egregious 'sin' on their part was denying payment for emergency treatment to a machinist who injured himself on a lathe - the reason - he failed to get prior permission for treatment. The man was bleeding from a 5 " gash on his arm! He was meant to get permission! Following my husband's diagnosis of cancer and a female employee being diagnosed with breast cancer , the original insurance carrier dropped us after five years of holding our policy. I guess we were no longer a "profitable risk" - that is the term used.

My closest friends , retired now, spend their summer's in France. He suffered a major heart attack four years ago whilst in France. His care, follow-up and therapy was superb and France too has a nationalized health insurance system. Another friend, 68 now, has lived in Canada for 45 years. He does nothing but rave about the quality and delivery of nationalized health care in Canada. These are NOT hearsay examples - all of this I know first hand.

England, France, Canada - nobody lives in fear of a major illness wiping them out financially. This is the fear that many middle class (NOT just poor) Americans live with today. President Obama is NOT advocating "death panels" ( thank you Sarah Palin- and the jump on the bandwagon know it all talk show hosts/guests and opportunity seeking members of the senate and congress - for that superlative and I have to think deliberate sowing of fear). Personally, when my husband was diagnosed with cancer, we were grateful for the opportunity to sit with a physician and discuss end of life options. It's prudent planning. President Obama is not advocating taking away our right to choose private health care insurance. I'm old enough to be on Medicare - I'm thrilled with it. Perhaps not thrilled with the high premium I pay but I have far less hassles with insurance these days than when I had private insurance - and I get to choose my physicians and see specialists without waiting for referral.

It's time that we all read the facts ( and those goes for the politicians too) , ditch the sexy sound bites and shut out the hate mongers. We owe it to ourselves - this kind of garbage is making America sick!

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  1. Right on! and for men and women who care, go to the link below and make a statement against the insurance companies latest efforts to essentially make a mastectomy a "drive-through/outpatient" procedure. As someone who took care of a friend following this procedure I can testify to it being anything but "outpatient surgery". The bottom line should NOT be god where life is concerned.
    Pat, Tucson

  2. I am from Scotland - We have a British Health Service which covers Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales - the whole of the British Isles. We have the best health care in the world and it is free from birth to death! Well - we pay our national insurance from our wages, but this covers everyone, whether we are working or not. We all get the same treatment. I have paid my insurance contribution all my life and have never complained or suggested that someone cannot use a GP or hospital because they are poor or undeserving. Please don't attack our wonderful service, all systems have their faults but at least we don't a large proportion of our population who have no right to health care.


  3. Well put Renee-Margaret. The attacks on this side of the Atlantic are based on ignorance and fear. My dad always said that "knowledge is power" - the more you know, the more you understand. My three adult children cannot afford health care insurance yet don't qualify for medicaid. We do need reform and we do need to learn what we can from the systems that work.
    ML, Utah

  4. I would like to add to my post! Please remember that the NHS is not a comunist ideology, it comes from christian concept of of helping every one who needs help. It was not a ranting christianity from people who wish to burn abortion clinics, shoot doctors or refuse treatment to people who are gay! It is the christianity of the Samaritan, of Simon of Cirenia - who carried Christ's cross. The Good Samaritan never asked how much money you had in your purse before he helped! I m not a christian but I have friends who are. But I have a moral conscience - I do have a love of my fellow woman and man. My principles cound and would not allow me to walk on the other side of the road if I see anyone in need of help! Our National Health Service allows us to be Samaritans as a nation.


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