Sunday, April 20, 2008

It's just broken

Well, I’m officially sick as a dog.

Spent all day today half-sleeping and regularly throwing up. I don’t think there’s anything worse than when your brain’s telling your body to throw up over and over…and there’s absolutely nothing left in your stomach.

Nothing like spending two hours throwing up, and then another three or four dry-heaving which has the bonus side-effect of tearing your vocal chords up.

Luckily, I’m definitely improving. I’ve not thrown up for a few hours and I drank some water and actually managed to keep it down.

The one thing this has shown me though, it just how much the American health-care system sucks.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m an immigrant and I know if I think the British health care system is so much better I can just go back where I came from. Cliché’s aside, it doesn’t change the fact that the health care system in Britain is about a billion times better than the American one.

If I felt like this in England, I could go see the doctor, get checked out and it wouldn’t cost me a single penny. If I needed prescription medication I’d expect to pay around ten dollars for it, rather than some of the meds over here which cost 90 dollars per pill.

As simply as I can put it, a few months before I moved to America I ended up with a really bad chest infection. I went to see the doctor, was prescribed some crazy-strong antibiotics and it only cost me seven dollars (and that’s just the cost of the meds). If I’d been unemployed at the time, I could have got the meds for free.

If I went to the doctor over here, even if all the doctor said was “You’ve got a bug, drink lots of liquids and call me in a week”, that would cost me around $400. If I needed medication, that could be anywhere from $50 - $150 on top of that.

To be totally fair, the health care system in America is nicer in that you get your own private room, cable TV etc, etc…but considering the cost, it’s just not worth it.

Yep, in England you can choose to get a private health plan and get all those bells and whistles, but my point is that in England, if you get sick, you’ll get medical attention for free. You might get that medical attention in a hospital ward rather than a private room…but I’d rather know I can go to hospital without going into debt for the next 10 years.

What I don’t understand is why America doesn’t have a free health care system. Enough taxes come out of your paycheck already, and when the government can afford to spend literally billions of dollars per week for the war in Iraq, the same government can’t afford to look after its own citizens’ health?

This might be overly simplistic, but I think it makes a point:

There are 60 million people in America. Let’s say with unemployment, people being retired or below working age that 30 million of those are working. Take a ‘healthcare’ tax out of all those paychecks for, say, $20 a month. That’s 7.2 billion dollars a year to pay for a free healthcare program.

I know, more taxes wouldn’t be popular, but that’s 20 bucks a month versus $700 for ‘comprehensive’ health care.

Right now you’re probably thinking that even 7.2 billion wouldn’t go very far…but that’s part of the problem as well.

The US healthcare system is that it’s run like a business and costs are ridiculous. Take Sunny’s CPAP machine. Those things cost about $400 direct from the manufacturer, but that didn’t stop her doctor’s office charging her $700 per month rent for it. If someone can give me a good reason why it costs $8400 a year to have access to a machine that only costs $400 to buy, please explain it to me.

The thing that highlights this the most is the prescription drugs are marketed to us on TV. Considering the way healthcare is supposed to work is that you’re supposed to go to a doctor, get diagnosed and then the doctor prescribes what he or she thinks is the best medication for you…why are these prescription drug ads even on TV?

The idea is that we’re going to see them, decide we have that illness and run to our doctors and demand a prescription.

Put simply, medical costs are so high because it’s a seller’s market. We have a choice. Pay whatever price they quote, or spend the rest of your life in pain…or just die.

What it boils down to is that the only way any healthcare system can work properly is if it’s run on a humanitarian basis. Each nation should look after its own citizens’ health regardless of how much money they have.

Yes, you can point out that it’s illegal for a hospital to refuse treatment on the basis of payment, but all that means is that for a large percentage of the population, get sick, go into debt, get a ruined credit rating and spend the rest of your life living paycheck to paycheck.

Just to double underline how bad things are, think of this:

I’d like to say that the American healthcare system is broken, but the truth is that America doesn’t actually have a healthcare system. Instead it has a healthcare business and when it comes to your health, how big your bank account is shouldn’t come into it.

The only other thing I’ll mention is that we are partly responsible for this, and the reason we’re responsible is the sheer number of lawsuits that are filed every year. We’re putting doctors in the position where they have to be absolutely, completely and totally perfect.

Thanks to ridiculous lawsuits that require doctors to be nothing short of Gods, or the leeches of our society who see suing people as a valid business model (such as the guy who successfully sued a hospital for ten thousand dollars for ‘allowing’ him to discharge himself…even though he had to sign a form stating he was leaving the hospital against medical advice)…medical costs are soaring.

What this means is that if you’re a doctor and you start your own practice, you’re looking at insurance premiums of around 2 million dollars a year. That means you have to make two million before you even start paying your bills and your staff. You’re essentially starting each year two million in the red.

The solution to this is simple, and again it comes from England. In England, if you sue someone and lose your case, you’re responsible for all the legal fees, including your opponents costs and court costs. In other words, there aren’t as many outlandish and ridiculous lawsuits because if you take someone to court, you have a lot to lose.


Saffyre said...

Just another thing for me to look forward to eh?

The joys of falling in love with someone in the USA ..... but you know, i'll take all the downsides (and whinge about them of course) just to be there with T. How sappy is that??


PS. Hope you feel better soon.

delmer said...

I currently pay over $100.00 a month in insurance premiums. My employer pays more than than on my behalf.

Your $20 sounds pretty reasonable. If you multiply it by 5, both my employer and I come out ahead ... and really, multiplying it by 10 puts money back in our pockets.

Woman atop her Soapbox said...

Very simple - English medicine is government regulated and ran. American medicine is private business. Private business means charge for profit, not for the greater good.

Until medicine is regulated and ran by the government, then it will continue to cost $100 for a few antibiotics.

My son's medication ran $200 every 3 months(with insurance and mail in pharmacy). Here in England, it is absolutely 100% FREE. I pay close to $350 monthly into my NHS contribution and it's worth it.