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DECEMBER 17, 2009 9:28AM

What's Socialized Medicine Really Like?

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I've been thinking about the healthcare debate and how disappointing that "reform" is turning out to be.  The debate about a public option, now dead and buried, inspired me to think about how nationalized medicine has affected my life.  Twenty years ago I moved to the UK where I married a Brit and became a permanent resident, though still a proud US citizen.  This is my experience of the National Health Service (NHS) during those years.

To begin, we register with the local general practitioners, with the emphasis on "local" because, believe it or not, the doctors here still make house calls.  That's right, if you are eighty years old or just find it difficult to get out, you can call the doctor and he/she will come to your house, black bag in tow, to examine you.  Our practice is in a new purpose-built medical building with a pharmacy, housing perhaps a dozen GP's, nurses, and staff.

Let's say you think you have the flu so you go to your GP.  You see the doctor, get a diagnosis, and walk out of his/her office.  You pay nothing.  You may have a prescription in hand, which you duly take to the drug store.  If you are over the age of 65, under the age of 18 or in full time education, pregnant, disabled, or otherwise exempt, the prescription will be filled at the pharmacy and you will pay nothing.  If you are not in any of these categories, you will pay a prescription charge, which is £7.50 per item, approximately $12.00 at today's exchange rate.

If you have something more serious or require more advanced treatment, your GP will refer you to a specialist who you will see at the local hospital.  Again, if you are old and infirm, the NHS will send out a special bus which will transport you to and from your outpatient appointment.  From there on, you will be under the care of the specialist, who will keep your GP informed of your condition, until you are discharged from specialist care.

My personal experience encompasses the births of three babies at one of Europe's largest teaching hospitals, and the pre-natal and post-natal care for each pregnancy.  Midwives play a major role in the NHS, conducting pre-natal classes about pregnancy and labour, exercise and nutrition classes, and question and answer sessions for pregnant women.  All of my children were delivered by midwives in the hospital, the first with an epidural, the other two rapidly without.  Because I had no complications, an obstetrician was not in the room at the time of the births, which was fine with me.  My midwives, all specialized, highly experienced nurses, had everything under control.  If an emergency had arisen, the obstetrician would have been there.  After each birth, I requested a private side room, although there are also wards in NHS hospitals which contain maybe six or eight beds.

At home afterwards, I was visited every day by a community midwife, one of the same ones who had conducted the pre-natal classes.  She weighed the baby, checked my stitches, and generally provided reassurance on a whole range of things from showing me how to bathe the baby, to telling me what to do about some of the unpleasant after-effects from childbirth, which I won't go into.  After about a week, she signed me off and handed my name over to a health visitor who I could call on if I needed help. 

After that I took the baby to be weighed each week at a post-natal class, where we new mothers could air our anxieties and talk about the colour of our babies' poop and other topics no sane person would be remotely interested in, bar this particular group.

All of this was provided by the NHS, therefore free at the point of delivery.

I have experienced the NHS primarily through my children, in their vaccinations, routine illnesses, and occasional accidents.  One child had recurrent ear infections requiring numerous courses of antibiotics which I was relieved not to be paying out for every time.  Others required specialist treatment from the dermatologist.  I was happy with all the treatment they received.

One child required an overnight stay in the hospital and surgery on his hand due to an accident.  He was on a children's ward with perhaps five other children.  The experience was as pleasant as it could have been in those circumstances and the care I saw going on around us in the ward was superb.  I repeat myself in saying that there was no charge for this treatment or for the follow-up appointments afterwards.

I can only relay my own personal experiences here, but there are many aspects of care which I haven't touched upon, like the nurses who visit people at home to dress wounds, etc., for however long the healing process takes, all included in the NHS, free at the point of delivery.

Though originally controversial, the NHS is now a much revered institution, supported by probably 100% of the population even though it is far from perfect.  Like any big bureaucracy, it is full of inefficiencies.  The bottom line is the care is excellent and nobody falls through the cracks.

I have repeated the phrase "free at the point of delivery" several times because that is how the NHS works.  Of course it is not strictly speaking "free."  Like our US health care system, it is incredibly expensive.  The difference is that the NHS is funded by tax money.  All taxpayers pay into it.  Not everyone will use it to the same degree but if you or your family need it, it is there and it is the same system for everyone, from your poorest neighbour to your Member of Parliament. 

The basic income tax ranges from 10 to 25% with a marginal tax rate on income over £50,000 (about $84,000) of approximately40%.  However, there are no health insurance premiums to pay and if you lose your job and don't pay income tax, you still have your healthcare.

Those who receive the top level of American healthcare are probably getting the best treatment medicine has to offer but what about those Americans who cannot afford it?  They get nothing.  I am as big a sceptic as anyone but twenty years of experience has shown me that nationalized healthcare is nothing to be afraid of.

I admire the British for their civilized attitude that says in their country, no person deserves to suffer or to see their children suffer because they can not afford a doctor.  In their country no child dies from an infection caused by an abscessed tooth because their parents can not afford medical care.  (That particular US story made the news here in Britain where people were shocked by it.)

I am ashamed of those in my own country who think only the fortunate deserve healthcare and those who feel threatened by an irrational fear that in a country as wealthy as the United States, there are not enough resources to alleviate the most basic human suffering for everyone.  We should be better than that.


© Julia Barr 2010

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Yes, we should be better than that. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
This is a mistitled headline, IMHO. This should have read

"My experiences with the British NHS", because, invoking "socialized medicine" is a misnomer. There is no such thing as universal, pan-european health system. The care you receive in GB is different than the care you would receive in Germany, France, Belguim, Switzerland, etc, And I wouldn't be so sure about the treatment of the disabled and mentally infirm. the NHS record of treatment of mentally disabled has not been widely reported outside of the UK, but there is quite a bit of controversy. Not to mention, recent cuts by the NHS to their programs for the disabled, where a representative actually said, and I quote, and I am not kidding here, "Well, they're going to die anyway".

So while YOUR experience with NHS may have been stellar, there is absolutely no guarantee that everyone's care will be as good, and to make the assertion that it will be is disingenous at best
Jeanette--Thanks for your comment.

Placebostudman--No, I'm not saying my experiences have been stellar and can't speak to what provisions there are in the UK or the US for the disabled because I haven't been involved in that area. I'm not necessarily an advocate of the full nationalized system either because of the huge waste and bureaucracy. Too much money goes to managers when it should go to front line services.

The UK NHS is totally independent from other countries in Europe.

My piece is only a reflection of my experience which is all I'm putting out there.
I'm ashamed of our elected officials also. Money will continue to direct healthcare in the USA. So, so sad.
dont you have to pay 50- 60% of your income in taxes though? that's a awful lot of money that you have to earn but don't get to keep...
Great post. It should be on the cover of --- I don't know, does anyone read newspapers anymore?

The US is sinking and we will soon be at the bottom of the barrel.

As an aside, Yorkshire is very beautiful, I would love to return for a visit.
Wow! Do you write propaganda professionally for a living? You have shown that you seriously DON'T understand this issue at all.

"Those who receive the top level of American healthcare are probably getting the best treatment medicine has to offer but what about those Americans who cannot afford it? They get nothing. "

That is false. A poor person or someone who has NO insurance can walk into an Emergency Room here in the United States and they WILL get treated. The taxpayers, like myself, will pay for it.

I love how you repeatedly state that "You pay nothing." Do you think that means that your heatlhcare is FREE? All it means is that someone else is paying for it OR you are most likely paying for it yourself with higher taxes and income expenses. I assure ARE paying for it.
It also means that you are getting a certain standard of care. That is why in a recent study it was shown that the chances of you surviving colon cancer in the UK is 41% five years after treatment. In the US that same study shows a 93% chance. The UK is even behind Australia and Japan!!!
If you are ok with that. You can have it. I'll keep what I have now and I will gladly pay for better care if necesary.
Lisa--I know. Money does more than talk these days. It is very disheartening and I don't know what the answer is.

Ryan-- the maximum tax rate is 40% on earnings over £50000 only. Yes, taxes are more here but not as much as they used to be.

Ablonde--Thanks for your comment. Yorkshire is still lovely. Is snowing as I write this.

John--Am not quite clear on the immigration link and health care?
DJohn--In the US if you have no insurance you will be treated when you go to the emergency room, I agree. But what happens if your "emergency" is actually the first sign of a serious long-term illness? What then? Do you go bankrupt or do you not get the treatment and/or prescription drugs you require?

I do say that you don't pay at the point of treatment but I do go on to say that treatment is not free.

I'm not the national advocate for the NHS. Am merely relaying my own personal experiences of it and contrasting it with someone who has no health cover in our own system.
Thanks for the firsthand account. I enjoyed it. We just got back from an overseas trip ourselves, and a doctor made a hotel call at 4 a.m. because my daughter came down with sudden high fever. I expressed my astonishment that the doctor would come to see us at this hour. The doctor was perplexed at my surprise and asked, "What do you do in your country if you get sick in the night?'

Gosh - I don't know... drive to the emergency room, wait five hours, and pay thousands of dollars?

Cost of this 4 a.m. visit - free of charge to us, though certainly supported through taxes. No propaganda, DJohn - just a real-life personal experience with a different system that, in one aspect at least, seems to work better than ours.
People are refused care and operations every day in our country which often results in death. One of the largest problems is that because they can't afford insurance or can't get it, many people have to wait until they are at death's door and then can get admitted. By then, it's too late to save their lives. And there have been several cases of people turned away from hospitals who have died lately. I predict that picks up as time goes by. As well, those bills are not automatically paid off. The person without insurance often faces thousands and thousands of dollars which they cannot pay.

Frankly, I've had it with the selfish jerks among us. At least admit it. Say, "I'm a selfish jerk that cares about no one but myself. I use those terms like 'socialism' which I can almost never define correctly, to hide the fact that I don't care if anyone but me lives or dies. I also believe people with money are better and more deserving than people without. You can talk to me all day long about the poor people who work three jobs and make a pittance, and I will still call them lazy, without checking, because I am a selfish turd who thinks only of myself." At least that would be honest.

I mean it. I'm fucking sick of it. That selfish and completely WILLFULLY misinformed attitude leads to the death of children. Pat yourself on the back for it because if you're against it, you might as well say, "All poor people and their children deserve to die because they are poor." Repulsive repulsive behavior.

I'm just tired of trying to reason with or being nice to someone without a credible conscience.

I take issue with your use of the word disingenous. By using it, you are calling DRIMH a liar, a hypocrite and insincere. I found this post to be none of these things. She quite clearly let us know that this was her experience and that this is what the majority experience, in the UK. She at no point pretends to have a belief/moral in which she doesn't believe. She never mentioned health care in Europe (except as a mention on the size of a hospital) and I, as a reader, never assumed that she was talking in global or all encompassing terms. She was quite specific all the way through and never claimed that everyone's care would be stellar.

As someone who as lived in England, Japan and 5 different US states, I can say that without a doubt, the US is the worst when it comes to health care. The only time I've seen stellar care in the US is when my mother, a veteran, got cancer and was treated by the VA, (which, btw, is modeled just like the NHS.)
You are describing apples...we are sucking on lemons. You say you don't pay health care premiums. We will be paying health care premiums - and there is no public option. The population of our country is at least 5 times larger than yours. If we were looking at a health bill that described what you have in place now, most of us would not be complaining. You need to know the health care plan on the table here in the USA before you extoll:

"I am as big a sceptic as anyone but twenty years of experience has shown me that nationalized healthcare is nothing to be afraid of."

Actually the plan in front of us is sceptic and we should be very afraid and angry.

" and those who feel threatened by an irrational fear that in a country as wealthy as the United States, there are not enough resources to alleviate the most basic human suffering for everyone."

I can't afford health insurance...I haven't been to a doctor for years and only took my daughter to the doctor when she needed to go paying out of my own pocket...I should have that choice not be forced into paying into something I can't afford...but this bill is not going to make it better for me it will be worse...I always find it best to walk in another's shoes before I judge whether that person should be better than 'that'. I also like to be clear on what exactly I am comparing, especially when I am comparing apples to lemons.
Annette-- Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Odetteroulette--I don't understand why some people think if someone else benefits it automatically means they will lose out in some way. I understand what you're saying.

Marcelleqb-- Thanks for your comments

Leonde--I'm not extolling whatever health reform bill that ends up being on the table. What I know of it looks pretty disappointing. I'm just relaying my own experiences in a different system. I'm sure there are things we could take from it, and maybe some things we wouldn't want.
DRIMH - fair enough... just not clear on why the end tone of your blog sounds like we are concerned and afraid about what is on the table right now, but for no reason. Most people who are blogging here with a high level of concern want a GOOD national health care plan in place that really is in our best interests. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the handwriting we are seeing on the wall... maybe I misunderstood your take?
Dunno if I can post a link here? My take is at:

If we must pay more - can't we the money actually go for health care, instead of to insurance companies?
Leonde--My beef is with people who, as I said in my blog, think it's just tough if someone can't afford to pay for, or can't get health insurance. I think affordable health care should be there for everyone and if the reforms don't deliver that I'm disappointed.
Lisa S-- Sorry I missed your comment. The insurance companies won't be missing out I'm sure.
I am British, and have lived in the US for almost 25 years. I also have quite a few relatives working in the NHS. A few comments from that perspective.

Your experience is probably better than average because you live near a large teaching hospital. Living in a more remote area, such as the far North of Scotland where I grew up, services are not necessarily as good. Small scale stuff like the local GP center, fine. Have a stroke, like my mom did eight years ago, and there's no CAT scan or MRI to determine if the stroke is a clot or a bleeder. Get a serious head injury and it's a long helicopter ride to the nearest neurosurgeon.

Taxes - I don't think they're that much worse than in the US (I'm in California). And between me and my current employer, we expend almost $1000 a month for health coverage (including optical and dental) , and I pay more for insurance to cover my salary once my sick days run out (another thing where life is a little less stressful in the UK - that stuff is covered along with unemployment insurance).

I definitely agree the prenatal and post-natal care is great. I have to say that because my sister is one of those district midwives. Seriously though, it is great. My wife gave birth to all three of our kids in the same small hospital in Edinburgh, and both the treatment there (two natural births followed by an elective section because junior wouldn't stay head-down), and the community followup were all superb.

Bureaucracy is definitely an issue with the NHS. Anyone who has worked in it will tell you that (even bureaucrats as long as they haven't become too senior).

Treatment of the mentally disabled mirrors the US - too many of them are dumped into the outside world where they end up homeless.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I used to live in Japan, and it was amazing to be able to go to the doctor when I got sick, which I can't do now without insurance. It's funny, because "the horrors of socialized medicine" that the right likes to talk about, about callous bureaucrats, hours in the waiting room, and lack of patient-centered treatment describes my exact experience with the current healthcare system in the US. In Japan, everything was speedy, incredibly patient-centered, and comfortable. That's not to say a system like Japan's is feasible here, I just find it ironic that they're trying to scare us by describing the effects of our current system.

And odetteroulette, I hear you. I'm fucking sick of it too, and I wish they would just come out and say what they're really thinking.
GeeBee-- You're probably right about the remote location making a big difference. A bit like growing up insouthern Illinois where the nearest trauma center was in St. Louis. Thanks for your take on things.
I'm fortunate to have good health insurance for my family, although our premiums when up and we did not get a raise this year. I think the insurance companies and large pharmacy companies are the ones who will determine the final outcome of what ever changes, if any are made in congress to health care. They like being able to charge four times more for the exact same medicine as other countries and why wouldn't they if they can get away with it.

My parents had to declare bankruptcy and lost their farm after my dad had a heart attach while between jobs with no insurance. To make matters worse, since he had no insurance he was treated and released and put on medicine. He had another heart attack after turning 65 and had surgery. That doctor said he probably should have had the surgery after the first attack and it was too late to completely fix his problem. So for the last several years all he has been able to do is make it from the bed to his chair. Both of my parents have worked all their lives and just because my dad had no insurance while he waited for his new job to start.

To me the current system is broke, unless you can afford it and most of the people who can afford it don't care much what happens to the people who can't afford it.

Good post DRIMH
Cassandra--Yes, I think alternative health care systems can and do work better than ours. We need something tailor-made for us--not the big insurance companies.

Chuck--What happened to your dad should never happen. That is why we need a new system and I can't believe some people can't see that. It's very depressing. Thanks for telling your story.
Thank you for this post.

I work in health care in a charity hospital here in the states. If someone thinks you can get great care and it can just be written off, they're full of it. Sure, it can be written off and paid for by the rest of us due to higher premiums, etc., but believe me, you're not getting the greatest of care. You can walk out with a prescription for necessary medication and have no way to fill it.

I have insurance through my employer that I can't afford to use. Even with a union's protection, I have to pay 60/40. I can't afford it, and not only that, they insist I be treated where I work. Sorry, but I'm not driving for 45 minutes to be treated by doctors that I don't trust, then pay 40%,

We need a change. We need it yesterday.
"A poor person or someone who has NO insurance can walk into an Emergency Room here in the United States and they WILL get treated."

This is only true if it is life threatening, otherwise, the hospital does not have to treat you. I knew someone in college whose boyfriend was mugged and had both his ankles broken. He had no insurance and since his injury was considered not life threatening, he was put out on the street. He was a bartender, so he didn't qualify for Medicare, but his meager income could not pay for having his ankles fixed. The system ended up creating someone who was crippled, who became a larger burden to society.

So, his initial injury, being beat up and mugged, picked up by an ambulance and checked out, that was free. But actually making him a whole person, fixing him so that he could be a productive member of society? No, that is not covered.
I spent a fair bit of time in the UK and Canada. Only needed one doctor visit in the UK and I didn't have to pay out of my poccket. Good service too.

I spent more time in Canada where there's only private care for stuff like cosmetic surgery, vision prescriptions and not-stricly medically necessary procedures. All medical stuff has a single government funder. It works well enough that even the most right-wing government in the country's history would have been crushed in the election had they proposed anything akin to Obama's plan.

As for misinformation from a couple of the usual suspects, the UK's tax burden as a percent of GDP is around 38%, not the ludicrous 50-60% that some fool here believes. Note the strong correlation between the higher taxed countries and the better quality of life. Here is the link to the OECD table:,3343,en_2649_34533_41407428_1_1_1_1,00.html

And as for healthcare outcomes, in life expectancy the US is behind practically every European country as well as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Canada, Singapore etc. Not that those boasting about the superiority of the current US system actually read up on the subject, or take the trouble to Google. Sheesh!
Well done; great post.
Healthcare reform MUST address some urgent issues: to make sure people are not denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions; to stop denying insurance to people with mental health disorders; to make sure that people do not lose their insurance if they become ill; to provide affordable health insurance to those between the ages of 55 and 65 who lose their jobs and cannot afford to buy insurance at current rates. Is anyone here who actually thinks these are unnecessary things? It's not that we don't have the technical expertise in this country; it's that we don't give everyone equal access to it.
I think sometimes people tell themselves that everyone can get care and, as you oint out, that reality is very different. Thanks for commenting.

The Barking--
Thank you for your comment, much appreciated.

Great point. What a terrible story about your friend. Such an awful waste. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Well put. Your're right, once a national plan is in place, nobody wants to gi ve it up, whatever the system's problems.

Thoth--Thanks for stopping by.

Meta 4--
I agree wholehertedly. Thanks for that.

Sorry for any delays in answering comments. I value all of them, positive and negative. There's a bit of a time lag here--I'm five hours ahead of the east coast.
I lived in Europe and was in an accident that introduced me to socialized medicine in Spain. After a week in ICU, 3 weeks in a normal bed I was discharged and handed a bill for a phone call I had made that came to $1.50.

Since coming back to the US several decades ago it is clear to me that the social medicine is better for businesses and people, and believe that the preamble that leads us to fund the military, police and judicial systems also calls for the provision of housing, education and yes, medical care under the phrase, "Promote the General Welfare".

It isn't free, but care that is consistently rated better than the US costs counties 7-8% of GDP vs. the 18% we spend, the heath insurance business accounts for a large chunk of that extra 10%.

The rest of the waste in the advertising that we allow but most sane countries don't (canada doesn't allow it and they use a lot less drugs with no indication of worse health), and we have hospitals that look more like 5 Star hotels that places to get well.

Health Care has deteriorated into the same issues, taxes and abortion, taxes has a place and this bill should help lower costs per care for person or it shouldn't pass.

Abortion is the straw man that is thrown up without regard to the fact that the number of abortions is steadily dropping as woman grow up better informed, and 1 in 3 babies are born out of traditional wedlock so the pressure to abort when single has dropped as the publics views have become more progressive.
Those of us who are progressives must understand that the two party system has been seriously compromised. Neoconservative and Republican operatives simply put undertook a strategy that works well. They infiltrated the democratic party years ago, inclusive of elected office, to make sure that even if the Democratic party obtained a majority status, it would fail to accomplish a progressive agenda.

We need a new democratic party - one clearly labeled " the Progressive Democratic Party".
For those misguided folks who refer to ER treatment as "being taken care of" here are a couple of facts: The Kaiser Foundation studied the difference in treatment at the ER between those insured and those uninsured. The insured were more likely to be admitted to the hospital, recieve better care and survive the illness to a much greater degree than the uninsured. This study matched illnesses so the same condition was being compared for purposes of study.
If you are uninsured you will die sooner than those with insurance.

If you have a chronic illness such as diabetes, you can go into diabetic coma , be delivered to the ER, be revived and stablized and then discharged. You will have to find a followup to your chronic illness on your own unless you want to just fall into a coma again and go through the same cycle over and over. This happens to real people who can't afford the meds.

Socialized medicine, like police and fire departments , is part of a civilized society. Everybody in , nobody out.
'That is false. A poor person or someone who has NO insurance can walk into an Emergency Room here in the United States and they WILL get treated. The taxpayers, like myself, will pay for it."

Drjohn, that's not true.
1) Only certain ERS have to treat emergencies (those that get certain fed funds-- you know, "government sponsored" :). The rest just have to "stabilize" the patient before sending them away. In LA, a TV station showed video of patients on gurneys, unable to walk, being dumped on side streets. Do you think that's appropriate? It wouldn't happen in the UK.
2) Even hospitals that have to treat emergencies send bills. Yep. Where do you get the idea they don't? A young man I know went to a community hospital with a blown appendix- a major emergency that generally would call for surgery and then several days on an IV antibiotic. They did the surgery, but sent him home after 1 day, because he had no insurance. He got peritonitis and almost died, and had a week more in the hospital. His immune system is shattered because he didn't get proper treatment to begin with. Oh, and he arrived home and the collection agency was already calling. He owes $60,000. He's 20, a college student, and a full-time minimum wage worker. He will be paying that off the rest of his life. Are you really sure that the hospitals aren't billing all those patients? They are. Some can't pay, but trust me, they're being harassed by collection agencies right now.
3) You know, of course, that the ER is an absurdly expensive way to treat a child's ear infection?
4) The ER treats emergencies. It doesn't do followup care for the emergencies it handles. No physical therapy for broken bones. No post-natal care for deliveries. No cardiac rehab for heart attacks. That's not what the ER does. So who is going to do that?
5) It also doesn't treat cancer or high blood pressure, or anything non-emergency. No ER is going to deal with an acute or chronic illness. If you have cancer, you can't get chemo--or even a diagnosis-- from the ER. If you have lupus, you can't get treatment from the ER. If you have most of the many ailments people have, the ER can't help you. So what exactly is going to happen?

Oh, right. All those people will just die. Is that really what you want?

My son's insurance went up 25% over last year. A friend's business-- the insurance went up 94%. Suddenly. No warning. Do you think you're immune? You think you'll never be laid off? Your company won't decide to make you pay for the premiums? Your company won't ever lose coverage because some employee had the gall to get sick?

You're living in a fantasy world, and I just hope you're allowed to stay there and stay healthy and insured, and your family too. The rest of us, alas, have to live in reality, and in reality, no, the ER is not a good place to get most medical care. Why you think that's okay, and the UK National Health model isn't, I don't quite understand.

But I hope, for your sake, you never have to learn from experience. I would imagine you might actually ASK the people who have had the experience of being underinsured in the US rather than just assuming you know.
Poetic badger--Thanks for your experiences. Imagine the bill for your hospital treatment if it had been in the States. Without insurance it would have been overwhelming.

For people's self interests, the nationalized system can be cheaper for the country as a whole. Probably less profitable for certain insurance companies though.

Course it will never happen here.

Shellouise--It does seem that our system is totally screwed up. Why does nothing get done? I'm sure you've got a good point about the Democrats.

Roger--It is the measure of a civilized society. Thanks for your comment.

Jellicoe--The situations you outlined happen everyday. The really disheartening thing is that I can't see it changing for God knows how long. For some reason this issue, which you would think should bring out the caring side of people, seems to bring out some of the worst aspects of people.
I (and my family) have been living in the UK for 7 years now and also have first hand experience with the NHS. I would just like to add my 2p to this discussion.

While no one would say the NHS is perfect (the appointments system is a bit creaky, and more importantly, if you have problems involving different parts of the body, care can be fairly uncoordinated), we have received excellent care and are very grateful for the fact that it is universal and free at the point of service. I am happy to pay taxes which will help pay for everyone else's health care, so that in exchange I never have to worry about it myself if I lose my job.

The freedom from the burden of worrying about what is covered and how much it costs is immeasurable (or as one credit card company would put it "priceless").

BTW, Dear Reader, we live in the south of England. My grown daughter lives up north in West Yorkshire and loves it!
Portia--Thanks for your experiences. I was fairly critical of the NHS when I arrived but I have learned that it has some massive advantages. I'm also more aware of the terrible injustices that can befall people in the States who have worked all their lives to find that ill health brings them to ruin.

Maybe it's also a matter of living overseas. You see your own country through different eyes, sometimes good, sometimes not.

On a less serious note, I would definitely recommend Yorkshire and the North of England, especially the Lake District, for a visit. You'll love it. Cheers!
Thanks for posting this. It's unfortunate that it now appears that there will be no public option in your new bill. If enough of you get mad about it to your elected representatives, maybe something will change. I'd like to see a throng of your citizens out in the streets and yelling at the sky like Howard Beale, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"