Djcnor’s Weblog

Let’s Talk US Healthcare

Posted on: December 18, 2008

I am invited by Conversation Cafe to provide Obama with my ideas and input on how he should approach the US’s problems with heathcare. Actually, I am invited to host a discussion at my local coffee shop or some other gathering point, but all the points in my general vicinity are unfortunately not in the US, so hosting a web-based discussion seems to make more sense for me. It may well take more than one posting to cover my own views and their basis, but I welcome comments, even perhaps questions.

I’ll begin. My views are based on my own experiences, those of my parents and their families, and the data existing out there in cyberspace. My dad lost two brothers during the Depression because his family could not afford heathcare at all except in dire emergencies, and twice they waited too long. My mother’s family relied very much on my grandmother’s knowledge of herbal folk medicine. I’ve lived under the US system for some 50 of my 58 years, including some periods when I could not afford insurance at all. I’ve observed how Denmark’s system works, and I’ve experienced how the British NHS works presently. They say it was much better not that long ago.

The British system seems absolutely wonderful compared to the existing American system. Contrary to myths, there is no waiting line for our GP. On any given day, if we wake up unwell, we simply call the surgery (read the doctor’s office or practice for US) around 8 in the morning. Others will be calling as well, but we have always gotten through and gotten an appointment. Our appointments have always happened very close to the scheduled time. It is the rule that whenever you call, you are guaranteed to see a doctor within 48 hours.

Some matters require more than your local surgery offers. These may be further tests, seeing a specialist, preventive screenings.

You receive notices for preventive screenings telling you when you are scheduled for the procedure. My latest is scheduled on the 24th of Dec. at 9:22 AM.  I will reschedule easily.

You receive similar letters as followups to visits on which further tests are decided to be required. The scheduling of these vary according to the urgency of your case. This is also the way it works for visits to specialists. When your doctor adds you to the list, you start at the bottom. The bottom may mean your apointment is scheduled in two days or two months or even longer, longer usually applying to visits to specialists. However, these lists are examined very often, and the urgencies reordered, so that your appointment gets rescheduled earlier, often much earlier, if it is judged to be urgent.

Again, when the time comes, the procedure happens right on time. You turn up barely on time, are called in almost immediately, and are out in a matter of minutes. This description fits exactly my experience of a chest X-ray.

Your results are delivered to your doctor within a week, and he calls you in if it is urgent that you know them.

One of the best parts is prescriptions. No prescription costs more than £6.50. That’s $10. And it often covers a month or more. If you have several, you can sign up for a pre-paid card and get all your prescriptions for 3, or 6 months, or a year for a much reduced price. For three months, it’s about £30 ($45) no matter how many you have. And if you have certain continuing problems (I have one.), all your prescriptions are free.

When I say free, that means that you don’t pay at the time of the visits or per visit or anything like that. You do pay through your basic taxes that are taken out of your paycheck, but we have not found those payments to be any higher than those taken out of US checks for employer-supported insurance.

Frankly, it’s a bargain.

I’ll continue with emergencies, hospitalizations, and dental care in subsequent posts. Comment away.

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Djcnor’s Weblog

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