28 February 2006

national health care is bad why?

here's one complaint from a woman who suffered from breast cancer, overcame it, only to find out she has secondary bone cancer, a treatable but not curable condition. She has to pay for her prescriptions. story here.

I've blogged before about the glory of free contraception in the UK and the changes that makes possible on the political/human/day-to-day landscape. this article, despite the terrible reality of the woman's cancer, made me happy, once again, to be living in the UK, where we don't have the labyrinthine prescription system "fixed" by the current US administration, which I'm told now works well, despite the over 50 plans that seniors confusingly get to choose from in some states...

On one level it may seem that this woman with cancer is whining: if she pays just under £100/year, that covers all of her prescriptions, and that's not at all what most Americans in her situation would be facing (I believe "factor of a hundred" might be a phrase used to in the description of the difference). so yes, she should be grateful on one level. But that's just it: yes, it could be and is worse elsewhere, but that doesn't make it right that a terminally-ill person should have to pay for life-saving/prolonging drugs. I'm with her. it's wrong. moreover, the article's tone, and the politicians asked to comment, all seemed to agree that it was wrong, and they were working on a solution. this is what is great about the culture shock we experience as Americans in the UK: most of the time it's "wow. really? they're acknowledging that injustice? really? and trying to fix it, what?" I'll take 4 quid for a prescription any day. oh, and I won't have to for much longer; soon it will be free in Wales.

what isn't different in the UK? pandering to the ol' emotions with photos of the woman's children....

4 comments:

Kate said...

I've been thinking about healthcare a lot lately. Partially because right now, Jason is in that gap where he is on COBRA until his new job's waiting period for insurance is over. There will be about a two week time where even COBRA isn't an option and we're just going to have to wing it.

Another reason I've been reading about it is because I read blurbomat.com, and the writer and his family are currently facing private insurance rates equal to their mortgage. They have been rejected repeatedly for private insurance (not 'you can pay a whole lot and get it' but 'we're not going to offer this to you at any price'). At last count they were facing having to go with Utah's state provided emergency insurance which will cost them a small fortune. The crimes in their medical history that subjected them to such a fate was one corrective surgery (Jon), post-partem depression treatment (Heather), and a series of MRIs for their toddler which turned out to show that she is perfectly healthy. You can read about that at his blog: this is where I started.

Jon recently linked to what I found to be a fascinating discussion about the approach to healthcare in Canada, the US, and France. Well worth a read - it is here.

Rebecca said...

um, call me dumb-struck: waiting period for insurance?? whaaa?? my god. I knew it was bad, but these little indignities/injustices are just ridiculous. And I assume Jason didn't quit his job before taking this one, right? so they perfectly planned it so that COBRA doesn't cover him. lovely. almost as if it were on purpose...

and of course it's not about the company--although it is, on some level--it's about the insurance industry having a stranglehold on all things involving, well, money. arg.

Kate said...

Yeah, that waiting thing seems pretty common these days. I know my company has one. You're eligible for benefits only after you've worked there 90 days. COBRA's window is something like 60 or 70 days (can't remember which) so yes, there's a really frustrating gap there. We still have a little time (although not much) to see if we can get Jason covered for that two or three weeks. I'm sure that will take a nice dent out of something else we'd like to save for.

There is something so profoundly different about feeling like your insurance is going to actually prove helpful to you. I've been on a number of different plans now. I've been on the fifteen rounds of phone calls trying to get a doctor's appointment and being barred by my insurance plan. I've been on plans so disorganized that it's little wonder that their overhead is so exhorbitant.

Lately things have gotten much better for me; when we were recently acquired, we adopted our parent company's insurance policy. It is measurably better than our old one. For one thing, our parent company (who, by the way, is not a US company, they're based in Norway) pays for 75% of our insurance costs; we used to have 50% covered which was still better than what most people get. Second, we have a vision and dental plan which, this year alone, have reduced my out of pocket expense for those two services from a combined $1200 to about $250. Factor in that I pay about $12/month for the two plans and that's a hell of a deal.

I pay more now for a PPO because I have no choice (since we're out of state from CA I can't go on an HMO). And thank god for that. The PPO is significantly better in terms of red tape and in terms of coverage.

Still, I am in a very small minority in terms of having so much of my insurance covered by my employer and being in a position where I can afford to pay for the PPO. The fact that the average working person or family in this country cannot afford adequate health insurance makes my blood boil. If we insist on living in a culture of fear, let's not be afraid that our neighbors are going to be reading books on terrorism and getting nasty ideas. Let's be afraid that if we cut our arm and it gets infected we might have to decide between medicine and food for a few months.

I just don't understand why America cannot get this right, not even a little. In one thread over at blurbomat there was a suggestion that we start letting Target and Walmart and Costco fight for our insurance business. Let companies who understand the economics of providing a service and profiting from that and building a viable business do this for a while. I realize that is a gross oversimplification of the problem, but I hardly think letting health care go fully and officially consumer based could make the situation any worse.

Transient Gadfly said...

I read that New Yorker thing and came away with this warm fuzzy feeling because it was an actual debate between two intelligent people who recognized that the other person might conceivably have a valid point of view. Of course, that dialog occurred in 2000. Hmm...what other event could have occurred after 2000 that somehow changed the character of the debate over issues that affect us as a people? If only there were some watershed moment you could point to where the political debate suddenly devolved into an endless stream of propaganda designed to drown out any kind of formulated reason. Oh well.