As a happy consumer of the services of the National Health Service, as well as a dual US/UK citizen who's experienced health care in both places, I'm happy to weigh in on this one.
I have been a diabetic for more than 25 years, I believe. My US internist in New York completely missed this when I reported my first symptoms to him. His attitude: I can do a test if you like but I think it's in your head. No, Dr., it was in my pancreas.
When I was then formally diagnosed in Chicago in 1991, my internist prescribed a high blood pressure medication that is contraindicated for diabetics. My internist in San Francisco in 1993 took me off it immediately.
When I had diabetic retinopathy in Chicago in 1992, my internist sent me to an ophthalmologist, who looked at my eyes, charged me $80, and said, "I'm not a retinal specialist--you have to see Dr. Y." I went to see Dr. Y. He charged me $1300 to have laser surgery on my eye, of which around $800 was paid by my insurance. He did good work (ophthalmologists still exclaim over it 17 years later) but I did pay for it.
When I got to London I selected a GP's practice, and they started me on the same medications I had been paying around $100 a month for in San Francisco in 1993. I went to the drugstore, handed in my prescription, and said, "How much do I owe you?" "Nothing" said the pharmacist, "All diabetics get all medications free for the rest of their life." And so it was. I've never had to pay for any of my medication here. I offered him money anyway, as I could have afforded to pay, but he wouldn't take it.
When I had my heart attack in 2006, I was given angioplasty and a stent within an hour of being admitted. I was in the cardiac intensive care unit for 2 days and the regular cardiac ward for three. Total cost to me: £0. As of now my heart seems to be in good shape. They got me out in time for our civil partnership ceremony on Valentine's Day.
This morning I went to the diabetic foot clinic at Kings College Hospital and was enrolled in a study to see whether a treatment is efficacious on foot ulcers. I got the treatment, dressing, and a boot to take the pressure off the ulcer. Cost: £0. I am currently unemployed, and in the US I would have been unable to afford health insurance for any of this. In fact, they're paying me to be in the study.
I have had some odd moments in the UK health system, but nothing life-threatening.
The NHS works, sisters and brothers. It is one of the most unselfish things any government has ever done for its people.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
On being treated in the UK vs. the US
Chris Hansen writes on his experience with National Health Service in the UK vs. the US non-system (posted with permission):