The idea of Universal healthcare sounds like heaven to many Americans. Obviously if the government could provide high quality care for everyone at a reasonable cost then everyone should be on board.
After all, many countries have a version of this: like Canada, Great Britain, and Scandinavian countries.
But beware! Be careful what you wish for. The word “healthcare” has different meanings in different places. In the U.S., most people are able to choose their doctor. If they don’t like their family doctor they go to another physician. If they have joint problems, heart troubles, cancer, or other ailments they can look for the best specialist covered by their individual insurance policies. Obviously, this is not always true for poorer people.
I have experience in what “healthcare” means in Britain. And millions of Americans would hate it. Under their health system, each person in Britain has a designated primary doctor and this doctor usually has a huge case load. Since it is free there are always lonely people who will see their doctor at the slightest ache. So waiting times are often horrendous.
You can change a doctor if you dislike him/her but it’s a bureaucratic hurdle and woe to you if you change more than once.
And you can not go to a specialist whenever you want. Your primary doctor must send you to a specialist and it’s a lottery about who you get. Plus, if a primary doctor sends too many patients to specialists he/she can get into big trouble. In America people get annoyed if their specialist of choice cannot see them quickly. In the UK it can take literally months to get an appointment or an operation.
This is just reality since there is never enough money to provide first class care for everyone so — with the best will in the world — healthcare has to be rationed in other countries. I will give you a couple of examples in a moment.
Now to drugs.
New, amazing drugs come on the market all the time. Some are very expensive and (like some insurance companies here) the government doesn’t have enough money to buy them all. Hard to believe but the British healthcare bosses ration these expensive drugs in this way: the nation is split into regions and the local bosses have to decide how to spend their limited budget. Result: in London you might get drugs X and Y but not drugs A and B. In Birmingham and Glasgow you might be allowed to get A and B but not X and Y.
So, if you have a rare cancer and don’t live in a region that prescribes the perfect drug you are just out of luck and have to do with second best. But if you lived in another region the perfect drug would be provided. It’s true.
Two stories about people I know might illustrate how “healthcare” does not mean the same to Britons and Americans.
Mr. X, aged 77, was in agony with his hip. He went to his primary doctor who tried and failed to bring relief. Mr. X could hardly sleep with the pain and his life was a nightmare. Finally, after several visits, the primary care doctor arranged an appointment with an orthopedist. And the prognosis was that the patient needed a new hip.
But there was a tiny problem. It would take 11 months to get the operation!
After 11 more months of agony, Mr. X called the appointment number only to be told there had been some emergencies and the surgery was now another 6-months away.
After close to two years of seeing doctors, Mr. X did get his new hip. And, seven years later, he is still out of hip pain.
Case #2: Ms. Y, aged about 55, had such shoulder pain she could not sleep at night. She went to her primary doctor and asked to see a specialist. The doctor huffed and puffed: “You have arthritis. What do you expect at your age? Take some aspirin.” He sent her home to suffer. After many more weeks of agony, in tears she told a friend: “I cannot take much more of this.”
The friend had an idea. She told Ms. Y to go back to the doctor, burst into (real) tears and tell him she could hardly go on living in such pain. It worked. The physician, possibly fearing a suicide attempt, did make an appointment with an orthopedist. The specialist quickly made the prognosis — not arthritis but a frozen shoulder. He set up a schedule with a physical rehab clinic. It took three or four months of hard work — but she was finally cured.
Also, if you are under Britain’s National Health Service and you have cancer, heart disease, or other potentially fatal diseases you will probably be sent to a hospital that specializes in treating you. Good — but realize you may see a different doctor each time. You do not have the right to the same doctor who knows your case. You might see four different specialists on four different visits and they have to re-learn your case from notes and your recollections. Probably not the optimum method to save your life.
Now, obviously, there are some logical reasons for universal healthcare. And the present American system has many, many flaws. We hear legitimate complaints all the time.
I cannot give any worthwhile opinion on which way we should go. However, I get frustrated when politicians and media give the impression that we can have government run universal healthcare while keeping the medical services that most Americans have enjoyed for decades. Giving half the story is the equivalent of lying.
People deserve to hear both sides of the story from their newspapers, magazines, and TV anchors — not just the liberal, politically correct ones. This is just another version of fake news.
Scottish-born Iain Calder was Editor in Chief and President of the National Enquirer for more than 20 years. He saw the weekly circulation surge from about 700,00 to nearly 5 million at its peak – with over 20 million readers. Magazines edited by Calder have sold a total of over 4 billion copies. He has no connection with the present day Enquirer, which was bought by new owners not long after he left the company in 2000. Calder has been interviewed by the likes of Mike Wallace, 60 Minutes; Ted Koppel, Nightline; Katie Couric, NBC; and Geraldo Rivera and featured in newspapers and magazines around the world including The New York Times, the Times of London, Time and Newsweek magazines. He has lectured at major universities and once at the Reagan Library, where he had lunch with Nancy Reagan. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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