What is the NHS, or the National Health Service, you ask? It is the official name of the National Health Care system in Britain. This July 5th it will turn 60 years old. I really knew nothing about this system prior to last April, 2007. This was when I went with my main squeeze on a business trip. I love these trips, he has to work and I have to sit alone by a luxury pool for 2 days. Anyway, on this particular trip we were in Phoenix. I went to the pool and happened to grab a spot next to a couple from London. We began to talk about, can you guess, politics. The conversation quickly turned to their health care system. I learned that day from them many things: government health care is not free it is simply pre-paid by higher taxes, government health care is great unless you get a major illness, there is always a line, there are always long lines for dental care as well,there is always a LONG wait for tests or scans.
There was one other thing I learned that I don't believe is covered in this country when this topic is discussed. This couple told me that they actually buy supplemental insurance, privately, to cover things that are not under the National 'free' coverage and it usually pushed them up in line when a wait is involved. There are also doctors that opt out of the National Coverage and will take only those patients with this supplemental insurance. There is also the same scenario when dealing with dentists. I found this fascinating. Doesn't the ability to buy better or more coverage go against one of the main reasons for nationalized medicine? That reason being all people should have the same type or amount of health care despite class or financial means. I read an article today by Doug Bandow that talks about this very thing. This article also suggests that a British subject could loose their nationalized health care if they opt for the supplemental insurance. (so where is the tax refund if they loose the national coverage?)
I had another experience while on yet another business trip. This time I was on my way to NYC, and because of circumstances my main squeeze and I were not traveling together. I got on the plane and sat next to a nice young man (early 30's) that happened to be Canadian. We had a great conversation which turned to, can you guess, politics. We eventually got around to what I refer to as socialized medicine, better known as national health care. He was under the impression that there were Americans that were denied health care. I then explained to him the fallacy of that statement. There are people that are not insured, but they are not denied health care. I told him that our emergency rooms are used as Dr. visits for the uninsured. I personally witnessed this on an ER trip with my mom. There was a lady in front of us in the check in line. We were able to hear her partial interview with the admitting nurse. When asked why she was at the ER today, her answer was 'stuffy nose'. Anyway, getting back to the conversation with the Canadian, he was shocked to hear about a typical ER and I also told him of the many charity hospitals found in most cities and towns. He had no idea. It looks as though mis-information abounds all over the globe. Our talk turned to the health care in his country. He said he has been OK with the service given, but he had never been real sick. He would rather not pay the HIGH taxes associated with it, but like he said "You get used to it". We also talked about the 'Brokers' in his country. They actually help very ill patients find hospitals in the US to do needed tests or to perform needed procedures for Canadians that know if they wait in a line for a test in Canada, they could be dead before they can even get a diagnosis. These people use the brokers and the charity of American physicians and hospitals to save their lives. They still have to pay, but they negotiate lower fees. I read another article by David Gratzer that discussed the current issues the Canadian national health care is dealing with presently. Apparently, the gentleman considered the father of this enterprise is changing his tune.
We must keep all this in mind during the upcoming election. National health care has major issues in both Canada and Britain. I encourage you to do your own research. I think it was Reagan who said "Trust, but verify." We must verify what we are being told. We must check the facts.
Remember, nothing is free, except Salvation!