Thursday, July 16, 2009

My Experience With Socialized Medicine

They are wrangling in Congress right now about universal healthcare. Everybody knows that the current American system is broken, but there is a lot of disagreement about how to fix it. Personally, I think that what we need is a single payer, government run system or what a lot folks are referring to rather stridently as " socialized medicine".

They say it like they are discussing Armageddon. You would think that Joe Stalin was going to come back from the grave and throw them all into prison or something. " You won't get to choose your doctor" they say. Well, do you get to choose your doctor now? is my response. Not if you have an employer funded health insurance plan. Your employer chooses your doctor not you and if you lose your job( as millions of Americans are in the process of doing) you won't have any insurance at all. Get a grip folks. The only people doing well under the American system are the insurance companies and big pharma.

I had a personal experience with socialized medicine a few years ago in Iceland. I sprained my ankle very badly( I'd like to say I did it hiking a difficult mountain pass, but I actually fell off a curb in Akranes)In any case, it was a bad sprain. My foot was the size of a basketball and I couldn't walk.

A friend took me to the local hospital. We walked in and within ten minutes I was seeing a very nice, white coated, English speaking doctor. There were no forms to fill out, no releases to sign. He examined my foot and sent me down the hall, where a nice technician(also English speaking) took four x-rays of my foot and ankle to make sure no bones were broken. Next, the doctor bound up my foot with some very tight supportive bandage, told me no bones were broken but I should stay off the foot and take ibuprophen. We shook hands and off I went to pay the bill. I was worried because I didn't have travel insurance and was wondering about the cost. I handed over my credit card. The total charge for everything, including the four x-rays was $50.00. The x-rays and emergency room visit in my home town would have been five times that amount, and I had no insurance at the time. It made a believer out of me, I can tell you.

47 million Americand have no health insurance, and the number is growing as jobs are lost. Many more are under-insured. The leading cause of bankruptcy in the USA is medical bills. People lose their homes if they get cancer or have a heart attack. It is crazy. The United States spends more on healthcare per capita than any other developed nation but we are at the bottom of the list when it comes to infant mortality and life expectancy. Medicine is not a business. It is not about profit. It is about people.

Let's hear it for socialized medicine


Anonymous said...

Wow you got you sprained ankle fixed and that experience is your justification for supponrting Obama's tragic health proposal.

You are young, probably near college age and never been very sick. You have not been of age to witness a relative stuggle to find the latest, greatest meds for a terminal illness.

You have not read the health care bill. You do not understand what Medicare is and it's meaning to those of us who need it.

You have not suffered a chronic illness and have not gone from doctor to doctor trying to find an answer. You do not understand the limitations of the British system.

You do not need a drug for which the government will not pay. You are not a Brit.

You dont realize that the US government will tax private insurance policies. You dont know that insurance companies will be forced to take all pre-existing illness and be driven out of the market. You dont know that your Congressional representatives are exempt from the Obama system. You therefore do not know that there will be a medical system for the wealthy and politicians on one side and everyone else on the other.

You have no idea how desperate you will be if you become sick in the new America.

You only know that your sprained ankle was treated.

andrewt522 said...

So, Anonymous, what are you trying to say? You don't think $50 and immediate care is a good thing? You're not impressed? Regardless of the ailment, large or small, she got treatment inside 10 minutes. She didn't have to get a referral. She didn't have to wait in an emergency room for three hours, like I DID WITH MY PREGNANT WIFE, who was told that it would be cheaper if we DIDN'T SEE A DOCTOR. She didn't get a bill in the neighborhood of $300 for the privilege of sitting in an emergency waiting room, like I did.

Meanwhile, our friend got treatment inside 10 minutes and got everything she needed for $50! Why are you not impressed? Iron constitution? Never been sick?

You claim to understand Medicare, claim you need it and claim that we don't understand what it means to you. Oh, no. We understand perfectly. You need it right? It's a public system, run by the Government, right? You don't have a problem with the care yet you have a problem with everybody else getting it.

As for reading the bill, I haven't, but judging from your comments, neither have you. I've read enough to know that it will only cover those under a certain threshold, of which I do not qualify. Therefore, I will not be able to choose and will be bound to the same employer provided plan I have now. When we have true choice, then you will see positive changes on the part of insurers because they don't want to become extinct. They'll want to compete. When that happens we'll all win. Surprise, competition is capitalism!!!

Yet, your biggest misstep is "You therefore do not know that there will be a medical system for the wealthy and politicians on one side and everyone else on the other." If your head wasn't so firmly up your ass, you'd know that is exactly what we have now.

Click my name above and stop by anytime. I live to light up trolls like you...Anonymous, the one who makes no sense and doesn't have the guts to identify themselves. You're a worthless chicken and colossal waste of time.

Unknown said...

Amen Andrew:-) oh and Mr. Anonymous just fyi I am not young, near college age and in superb health as you assume. I am not going to tell my exact age to someone who won't even post his name, but suffice it to say I have grown children and am somewhere between 50 and death and I have had my share of health issues and Doctor bills.

Your assumptions about socialized medicine are equally off the mark. You might want to try talking to some people who actually live in countries, like Iceland and Great Britain which have single payer systems rather than making unfounded assumptions out of ignorance and fear.

LondonGirl said...

Dear Anon,

I am (just) north of 30, left university some years ago, and am British. And like 99.999% of British people, I'm a fierce defender of our National Health Service. It works!

And you do get to choose your doctor, by the way. There are several GPs surgeries near where I live that I could register at. WHen I was pregnant with my son, I could have chosen any hospital in London for ante-natal care and for giving birth.

Life Insurance in Canada said...

Dear Anon, you are wrong. I am Canadian and despite the fact that our system's reputation has been absolutely killed by the US it works and I'm happy with it. Your experience in Iceland is a nice example of how it should work everywhere. The problem with the current US health care system is that it is not run for the benefit of the patient or the doctors, it is a for-profit system run for the benefit of the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies and their shareholders. And that's just wrong. The Obama health care plan will finally get rid of the ridiculous costs and huge spendings on unnecessary things.

Take care, Lorne

Rachel in Canada said...

Funny, I just sprained my ankle (in martial arts class, slightly cooler :)) here in Canada where I'm a citizen. I spent about an hour in Emergency, all told. Triage, 4 x-rays and a consultation with the doctor, all free. It was 30 dollars for my crutches and I was out.

I've also had two children. Total medical costs = zero. The kids have regular check-ups (with the doctors of my choice) and childhood illnesses, total doctor costs = zero.

2 of my friends have recently had serious battles with cancer. You can guess what they paid for their medical care. Nothing. With the doctors of their choice and in timely fashion.

I wish that regular Americans could talk to people like me and other average Canadians. It pains me that you have to suffer because your politicians (Republicans and Democrats alike) care more about money than people.

Rachel in Canada said...

I have to add, I've never even seen a cashiers office in a hospital in all my 40 years (maybe they exist?). I can't imagine having to think about that when you're in need of care.

Unknown said...

Thanks so much to you three-- a Brit and two Canadians for weighing in on this subject with some personal home truths. I am very grateful to you. The big pharma and insurance lobbies here in the USA have deep pockets and have done a lot of fear-mongering and lying. Thanks for helping to set the record straight-- at least in this little corner of the internet:-)

Stephanie said...

Bring it ON!!! I have Type 1 diabetes and, even with "health insurance," it runs me $200 plus a month. What a racket! (I have even considered writing to Obama directly about the situation) And I am not afraid to post my name, either. ;-) Great post

LondonGirl said...

Rachel - The only cashiers I've seen in NHS hospitals are in newsagents and flower shops, and similar.

Steve said...

Dear Anon:
Here is another story about the lovely U.S.A.

In June of 2001, the company I worked for ceased to exist due to the popping of the .com bubble here in the U.S. No buyers, nothing. Luckily, I was able to keep my insurance through COBRA laws, to the tune of about $800 per month for a family of four.

Unluckily I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in September of 2001. Which was somewhat covered by insurance. Somewhat is key.

Not to go into too many details, I was not employed until July of 2002, just a couple of months after concluding my cancer treatments.

During that year, we opted to not sell the house, so rang up about $45,000 worth of credit card debt to make sure we could continue to pay the mortgage, didn't lose the house, continued to have health insurance, pay for medical bills, and pay for luxuries such as gas, electricity, water.

Total out of pocket medical bills for that year and the first year after being employed, INCLUDING insurance payments, were in excess of $50,000.

So, in one year, I lost most of my savings (liquidating what I legally could), went hugely into debt, but kept the house and family intact. Also, I am certain (but cannot prove) that the cancer treatments prevented me from getting some job offers I interviewed for during that year. Cancer is pretty hard to conceal from a potential employer. And the cancer has been in remission since. So I guess I should be thankful that I didn't get die or worse, didn't have to sell the house, and have now almost paid off the debt.

Unknown said...

Thanks Stephanie and Steve for sharing your experiences with the broken American system. Let's hope things get better when some sort of bill is passed.

Shirley Anderson said...

As a Canadian, I can't add a lot to what Rachel and Life Insurance in Canada have said. We still individually grumble when something is delisted and we have to pay for it, like a chiropractor visit or eye exams - poor us. I wouldn't exchange it for the American system for anything. I'm gratefully for our government health care system, don't know what I would have done without it since I have a chronically ill child.

I can't comment on Obama's proposed changes as I haven't read anything about them yet.

I've seen Michael Moore's film about the American health care/insurance systems. I had to shake my head at how sad it is. My heart went out to the people he interviewed. It made me especially glad for the privilege of funded care that we have here. I was even less resentful of helping to fund it with my taxes after seeing what things could be like.

Great post, pinkpackrat! Ignore Anonymouse. (Yes, I meant to put the 'e' in - s/he is hiding)

Unknown said...

and another Canadian heard from-- thanks Shirley:-)

Susan said...

I have heard this existence referred to as Fear University. Our job is to graduate. Anonymous was such a perfect example of the hysteria that so many people react with to major changes, even if the way things are now simply doesn't work.

Frightened people are everywhere - Andrew T's blog on Pat Buchanon's appearance on Rachel Maddow was another example. He's bothered by the pigment of Sonya Sotomayor's skin, as though it somehow indicates something about her character or ability.

The one thing that worries me, and it applies to myself as well, is that it doesn't seem any of us have fully studied the health care system proposed by the Obama administration. We should.

We may find we love it, or we may find things we legitimately dislike. But thanks for the post, Packrat, because now I'm going to do my homework and find out the facts.

I'll be better able to defend my position against the hysterics once I have.

Unknown said...

and thanks for that cogent comment, Susan, I'll be looking for your thoughts on your blog:-)

Alex said...

Wow, I am shocked by the amount of propaganda some pro-private folks have swallowed. Like another poster, I am a brit and from cradle-to-date I owe my life to the NHS. I can get a free appointment with a doctor on the same day I call and emergency dental treatment even at weekends if I am not registered with a dentist. There are some fees to pay and restrictions - no system is perfect, butI believe the NHS to be one of the best ideas of any society at any point in time.

Unknown said...

It is a little scary, isn't it:-) Thanks for stopping by and for commenting, Alex. Good to see you.

Lexi said...

I just had to leave a comment here after reading the post from Steve. At first I was very saddened by his situation but after thinking about it I'm a bit angry as well. I just kept thinking...that's not fair! It's sad enough for someone to become seriously ill but then to have to bear the financial burden on top of it seems wrong and so stressful for a family. And what boggles me the most is that this is America we're talking about!! It's a great country on so many levels but it's just absolutely ridiculous that a person should have to pay to cure a sickness, it's not like people ask to get sick.

I am a Canadian so I have no experince with the American health care system. But it's things like this that give America a bad rep, businesses essentially capitalizing off people's misfortune like Steve's. I would be so angry if I was in this position. When I visit the hospital here I often complain about the wait time mostly because it's annoying but overall my treatment and medication cost me nothing as well I've had emergency surgery in the past which is also no charge. This is the way it should be, Americans deserve better...ALL americans, not just that ones with deep pockets.

Unknown said...

Thanks Lexi-- and I totally agree. It is shocking that insurance is a business here in the USA not a right. What is really shocking is that so many Americans believe the nonsense the Insurance and Pharmaceutical lobbies are handing out.

Hels said...

I have lived all my adult life in Australia, Britain or Israel, all with universal health care systems.

Of course there are still problem areas to work out eg in Australia, dental care is a financial struggle for most families. But all in all, I would never consider living in a country that did not have universal health care.

Shame on you, USA.

Unknown said...

Shame on us indeed. Thanks for adding your voice here, Hels and I totally agree with you. Health care is definitely not a business and should not be treated as one.

LondonGirl said...

Hels' comment reminded me - apart from the NHS, the only country I've visited a hospital in also had universal health care, Israel.

My then 18 month old son burned his arm on some soup - not a dangerous injury, but very upsetting for him (and me!)

The new hospital we took him to, in Jerusalem, was very impressive. A side of Israel you don't hear of much in our media - Jews and Muslims and Christians all sitting quietly together, minding their own business.

My son saw a doctor within 5 minutes of us arriving, and treatment was quick.

I can't remember what it cost exactly, because our travel insurance covered it. But it was well under £100, including creams and bandages and so forth.

In the UK, when you see travel insurance advertised, which includes health care abroad, it's usually £X for worldwide excluding the USA, and £X + more for worldwide incl. the USA.

Unknown said...

London Girl--How good to see you. Was wondering where you were :-) And thanks too for yet another excellent example of a personal experience with " socialized medicine" Unhappily, here in the USA the Insurance lobbies and right wingers have pretty much squashed any hope of a single payer, government run system this time around, but I am hopeful that we will at least get some kind of reform. God only knows we need it.

Anonymous said...

Dave from Ohio says "Outstanding comments! I lived for almost 3 years in the UK, Sweden and France, and enjoyed their socialism! I was treated in clinics in the UK for free, and for modest cost in Sweden. The citizens love their socialized medicine and are willing to have modestly higher taxes for all social benefits beyond just healthcare. Stop the fear machine and think rationally! Thanks to all the citizens of the UK, Canada and elsewhere who posted encouraging comments."

Unknown said...

Thanks Dave from Ohio for adding your voice. I am really loving this comment thread. Thanks for stopping by.