Boosters of the US health care system often claim that the British system, in which the government’s National Health System actually employs doctors and owns and runs an extensive system of hospitals that provide most of the care though there is a private system overlaid on top of it, is inferior to what we have here. They are aided in the claim by the fact that successive Conservative governments in the UK are underfunding the system causing some problems.
But contrary to those claims, Britons who come to the US to work and are thus able to directly compare what they get here with what they left behind are shocked at what they have to go through here, baffled by the Byzantine rules that they have to learn about and the many hoops they have to jump through.
The linked article starts out with David Dray, a Briton in New York, who got sick one year and got treated well in a fancy doctor’s office. Then next year when he got sick again, he went to the same doctor’s office but the reception he got was quite different.
A year later, the reception he received was quite literally chilly. Gray, suffering from a chest infection, cold, exhausted and weak, headed out in a snowstorm and stumbled along to the same doctor’s office.
When he handed over his insurance card, the receptionist’s dazzling smile faded. His employer had changed healthcare providers without Gray’s knowing it. “Sliding the new card back across the desk, she said ‘this is not insurance we accept.’ She turned away. Sixty seconds later I was back out in the snow, bent over double coughing,” Gray says.
Us veterans of the US system have become so accustomed to this absurd system that we might be surprised that he did not check before going to the doctor. We have become conditioned to accept the idea that before we go for any treatment we have to check if the treatment is covered and the doctor and facility is ‘in or out of network’. We have got used to the fact that at every annual period of ‘open enrollment’ we have to check if the doctors we have been seeing are still on the plan and compare the complicated cost formula of each plan, weighing the relative merits of deductible amounts, co-pays, and the like. It is maddening
And even then we have to brace ourselves to deal with a number of bills and invoices and ‘errors’ (that are never in our favor) that are almost impossible to correct. We have been beaten down and propagandized to think that this is normal when in reality we are the only developed nation whose population has to go through this and, amazingly, puts up with it.
The article goes on describe other reactions to the “byzantine, chaotic and confusing” system we have here with its ‘deductibles’, and ‘co-pays’, and ‘out-of-pocket’ jargon.
In the United Kingdom, people don’t have to spend too much time thinking about how to get healthcare or how to pay for it – or even worse, how to do the paperwork like they were making an insurance claim on their car or their house.
The UK’s under-pressure National Health Service is far from perfect – the standard and speed of service can depend on where you live and people often wait for many months for certain hospital treatments and procedures.
But anyone can visit a doctor or spend time in hospital without having to think about the cost.
As a child, I lived in the UK and had major surgeries and extensive hospital stays. My parents never had to deal with any bills or paperwork. All they had to do was take me to the doctors’ offices and follow their recommendations. That is the way it should be. People should not have to learn how to negotiate a bureaucratic and expensive nightmare just because they are sick. It is madness.
What we have in the US is a system is a system whose primary purpose is to generate profits for health insurance companies, so-called non-profit hospitals, drug companies, and manufacturers of medical devices. Concern about people’s health is way down the list of priorities. What amazes me is that people are putting up with it and I have to suspect that it is because they don’t know any better, coupled with the arrogant attitude that the US must, by definition, have the best system.