by Clancy Sigal, October 1, 2013
Obamacare, ACA, health exchanges, bronze silver gold and platinum levels. Oy! It’s complicated! Does it have to be?
“Do you really want the state to be your doctor?” the British Medical Association of medical professionals trumpeted in nationwide ads when England’s current National Health System was first being debated in 1948. Doctors and conservatives furiously raged against this new “revolutionary” free-health-care-for-all scheme bullied through by a raving red socialist former coal miner, Health Minister Aneuran Bevan.
Almost overnight once the system got working the BMA and its doctors changed their tune. Today, despite plenty of things wrong with the present NHS (underfunding, over-bureaucratizing), the deeply Tory BMA leads the fight for socialized medicine.
For 30 years I was an NHS patient. The tone was set my first week in England by the first GP I approached. I confessed that, in truth, I was an illegal immigrant. He stared at me, “So? What difference does it make? We treat you because we don’t want anyone contagious running around the country and infecting us all.”
The free universal care system was and is simplicity itself. You sign up with a GP who gives you a card and that’s it. No paperwork, no insurance forms, no nada. You are free to change doctors, which I did, from a long list of choices. If you need a specialist or surgeon, as I did, you get sent along, no problem. A community nurse system gets you a home visit if you’re immobile. And – sacred miracle! I’ve had my doctor come out at night to see me.
It’s single payer — the government — via taxes. Over time I probably took more out of Britain’s health care system than I put in. Money was never an issue. You can also sign up for private health which I’m told is a bit like the “concierge” system the USA is playing about with recently. You pay a fortune to jump the queue but you best not need truly serious surgery or emergency care because most private hospitals are not geared for it.
The latest figures I saw is that the UK, for all its problems, ranks better than we do in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality. Britain spends $2500 per patient vs $6,000 in the US.
Utopia? No. London emergency rooms are the pits and the UK lags in cancer treatment.
Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives.