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August 18, 2009

What's So Scary About Socialized Medicine?

Healthcare  My husband emigrated to the U.S. from Wales about 25 years ago. He loves just about everything about his adopted country -- but one thing he's never been able to get used to is our health "system," and I can't blame him. Health care is something he never had to worry about in the United Kingdom, thanks to that country's National Health Service.

I've visited the U.K. about a dozen times and have seen the NHS in action. On my first ever trip, BOTH of my husband's parents ended up being hospitalized (for different ailments), and as my late father-in-law fought heart disease and stroke for several years before he passed away, I got quite a tour of his city's hospitals on subsequent visits.

On one UK vacation, my young daughter (who was then prone to ear infections) came down with a fever. We walked in to the neighborhood surgery (the term for the offices of the system's primary care doctors). A doctor saw us right away, confirmed her infection and wrote us a prescription for an antibiotic. They did not care that Megan was American. My husband was prepared to show them proof of his British t's citizenship, but they did not ask. I had my wallet out to pay for the visit, but they told me to put it away. That's not how the office is set up.

Were there times when my father-in-law had to wait for surgery because of a shortage of hospital beds? Yes. But he never had to suffer a dangerous delay. Furthermore, once he had his surgery, he stayed in the hospital for as long as the doctors felt it was necessary (and one time remained there for well over a month).

There were no doctor bills, deductibles, co-pays, charges for medication, tests, or other ancillary items so common here. No paperwork to fill out. No employer reimbursement accounts to track so that health care could be paid in pre-tax dollars. No one had to worry about taking a loan or losing the house.

Is the British system perfect? No. And it's true that the Brits pay more in taxes than we do. But right now, I am paying through the nose for health care, and that's WITH employer-provided insurance. I would much rather shift that money to the government if it meant I would get a system where I could feel secure that I would get the health care I needed without bankrupting my family.

Original post for 50-Something Moms blog by Donna Schwartz Mills, who has written about her UK travels on her personal site, SoCal Mom.

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