Saturday, March 22

Sicko and health care: Guest post #2

Post by Laurin Taylor

I've lived in London for nearly 7 years now and I was entitled to NHS health care as soon as I got here (as I was a student planning to stay for more than 6 months). I haven't seen the film so I apologize if I am telling you something you already know.

The way it works is that you register at a doctor's office in your borough (an administration area, kind of like a county), and all your medical records get transferred there. When you need to see a doctor, you call and are given an appointment. There is a lot of whining about waiting lists and substandard care, and to be sure, the NHS IS underfunded - BUT I have never had to wait more than a few days to see a doctor for a non-urgent situation. And the two times that I have had an urgent situation, I went to a hospital and was seen right away. AND when you're done seeing your doctor, you walk out and go home. There is no money involved. I pay money when I need a prescription filled. I think the current rate is £7.80, which is about the same as my parents pay co-pay on my dad's insurance. If I were pregnant or had recently given birth, or if I were over or under a certain age, or disabled or on income support, I would not pay for my prescriptions.

I also pay for my NHS dental treatment - I think a check-up and clean cost me £15 last time. That might have included X-rays. I cannot remember.

The NHS also covers more specialist treatment, surgery, mental healthcare and abortions. I have heard a lot of tales about 18 month waiting lists to see a mental health specialist, but I seem to recall that when I needed this service, I was given a referral by my GP and was seen within a month.

The lack of universal healthcare is on the list of my major reasons I have no plans to ever move back to the States. I no longer understand the mentality that people should have to choose between buying food, or paying the rent, and being able to go to the doctor when they get sick.

And by the way, my take home pay is about 70% of my gross monthly salary. That's AFTER tax, national insurance and my pension contribution.

I was always on my dad's insurance when lived over there [the U.S.], so I never really thought about having to pay for health care. I think I was kicked off the plan when I turned 22. Is that the age that people are expected to have decent jobs by? What happens if you want to go to grad school or travel? And how easy is it to get a job that provides affordable health insurance right after you graduate from college? I'm honestly asking, because I don't know.

Just as a PS - I've had the flu for the past three days. I read this morning that 3.6 million people in this country have rung in sick to work this week. With such an epidemic, you'd think that doctor's offices would be swamped, right? I rang mine at 8:30 AM and was offered an appointment at 11:30 AM.

Laurin grew up in the U.S. and is now a British citizen living in London.

Earlier: Sicko: Is Michael Moore right?
Earlier: Sicko and health care: Guest post #1

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