Friday, August 21, 2009

The American Healthcare debate: My two pence

These ladies in Lewisham point to the American system in their defense of the NHS...
while right-wing Americans point to the NHS in their defense of the American system! Crazy, isn't it?

It's been interesting watching the healthcare debate from afar. I can't believe some of the ridiculous things the opposition is saying, calling national healthcare a socialist or communist--or even Nazi--policy. Some on the right have more reasonable arguments, like pointing out the flaws of the NHS (waitlists being the main one), but even these are ill-informed.

I love the NHS. Yes, there are waitlists for non-urgent operations, but if you don't want to wait, you can just go to a private hospital. Private hospitals do exist--PM Margaret Thatcher faced a lot of criticism for using them! The American right doesn't seem to understand that the NHS and choice are not mutually exclusive.

I've heard so many nightmare medical insurance stories over the years from friends and family. I've seen my uninsured best friend face huge bills after an emergency surgery. I've seen people who were covered face unaffordable bills, too. I've been uninsured myself and gone years between check-ups (and even when I'm insured, I don't want to pay $20 to get a check-up, just to be told that I'm well...).

The only story I'll tell here is this: At the end of my appointment at Leeds Student Medical Practice, I was handed a green prescription slip. I took it to the pharmacy counter at Boots, waited about 10 minutes, and the pharmacist handed me my packet. Without paying even a co-pay, I was able to walk out the door with my prescription. I wanted to smack the other customers on the back and say "Can you believe this? They just GAVE them to me! For free!!!" But they didn't share my shock and joy--this is just the way it is for them, and has been since 1948.

Obviously, it's not free--we do pay the VAT, and it's around 15%. But the highest sales tax in the US is currently 11.5%, and they don't get free healthcare.

The fundamental thing in the healthcare debate is whether or not you think medicine should be for profit. Should somebody make money off of another person's illness? Apparently right-wingers do...

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