View Full Version : The common decency of socialized medicine

Myra Bronstein
08-23-2009, 02:26 AM
The subject of US health care reform usually makes me too mad to even comment on without having an aneurysm. It's perfectly emblematic of the disgraceful way Americans are treated relative to the rest of the "developed" world. And it's the ultimate litmus test. Ongoing failure to implement single payer care for all makes it blatantly obvious that the DC folks are in no way accountable to the people.

This is my favorite article on the subject.
So rare to see the word "egalitarian" in a column about US Health "Care."


Why I love Britain's socialized healthcare system

As I learned when my newborn daughter was very sick, in U.K. hospitals, people take care of each other

By Stephen Amidon

Aug. 22, 2009 | My eldest daughter had a rough first week. Born after 22 hours of hard labor, her pink skin proceeded to turn an alarming shade of yellow on the second day of her life. It was a bad case of jaundice. She would need to be placed in an incubator, whose ultraviolet light would hopefully clear up the condition. If not, a transfusion would be required. My exhausted wife and I watched in numb horror as our child was encased in the clear plastic box that was to become her crib for the next seven days. What we had hoped would be a straightforward delivery had turned into a nightmare.

Because I am American, and those endless days and nights were spent in a maternity hospital in London, the week that followed has been very much on my mind as I listen to the recent attacks on the British National Health Service. It is a system that I found to be very different from the one currently being described as "evil" and "Orwellian" by politicians and commentators eager to use it as an example of the dark side of public medicine.

I was initially skeptical about the NHS. I’d grown up comfortably in suburban New Jersey; good private healthcare was always immediately available through my father’s insurance. When my English wife became pregnant soon after we settled in London, I was alarmed by the idea of having our first child born in a system I had been told was underfunded, overstressed and inefficient. After all, healthcare in the UK was free. How good could it be? Friends and relatives back in the States were spending thousands to have children. If you get what you pay for, I was about to get a whole lot of nothing.

My first glimpse of our prospective hospital was not promising. It seemed crowded, aging and apparently devoid of the gleaming, beeping equipment I associated with modern medicine. But our neo-natal class actually helped me prepare for the upcoming birth, and the scans we received afforded the same miraculous fetal glimpses we would have gotten back in New Jersey. Come delivery day, an impressive team of midwives, nurses and anesthesiologists attended my wife’s long labor, all of them respecting her request not to opt for a cesarean section. When things got sticky at the end, a senior obstetrician appeared and the monitoring equipment beeped reassuringly.

Directly following the birth, we were taken to a large ward whose 20-odd beds were separated by curtains and changing tables. It was visiting hour; the place was alive with excited relatives, shellshocked fathers and the constant susurrus of hungry new life. That first night, however, the atmosphere grew peaceful. Crying babies were attended immediately by sensibly-shod nurses so that others could sleep. But it was after my daughter began to turn the color of saffron rice that I really began to appreciate the NHS. The moment she showed distress, we were whisked off to a private room, where we were looked after by a no-nonsense pediatrician and the imposing Irish ward sister, or chief nurse, who quickly made it clear to me that my sole useful contribution to the whole process had come nine months earlier. Blood was drawn regularly from our daughter’s tiny heel; test results came back promptly. The meals were surprisingly edible. I even developed a taste for the milky tea brought to me by kind nurses. My only complaints over the following week were that the free cookies in the father’s lounge were always running out. And for some reason the ward sister kept giving me withering looks, no matter how dutifully I attended to my family’s needs.

As my blindfolded daughter slept in the incubator’s eerie violet glow, I would take occasional strolls through the ward. It was the most egalitarian place I had ever seen. The yuppie woman honking into her newfangled cell phone, the young Pakistani mother who always seemed to be surrounded by a half-dozen gift-bearing relations, the self-sufficient older woman desperate to get home to look after her other children -- all of them were cared for in exactly the same manner. Whoever needed help got it. When a terrified Afghani girl arrived, rumored to be only 14 and apparently abandoned by her family, several nurses dropped what they were doing to teach her the rudiments of child care. The rest of the mothers waited patiently until they were finished. Other wards were the same. There was no private wing with champagne service. Everybody was in this together. If you were a woman and you were in labor and you were in our part of London, this is where you came. If things went wrong, skilled doctors appeared with the latest technology. Nobody asked about insurance or co-pays.

This, I learned, is what the NHS is about -- common decency. It is about the shared belief that all the people who live in the United Kingdom constitute a society, and a decent society provides certain necessities for its members. Freedom from hunger is one. Police protection is another. Free healthcare from the cradle to the grave is simply one more item on this list.

I saw this decency at work countless times over the following decade, until my return to the United States. I saw it with the twice-daily home visits by community midwives for the fortnight after each of our newborn children’s release from hospital, and in the vouchers for free milk we were given for those babies. I saw it when our GP paid us a house call early one Sunday morning to treat our son’s spiking fever.

I saw it most clearly, however, in the treatment my in-laws received at the end of their lives. My wife’s father, who suffered from acute myloid dysplasia, spent his last year receiving constant care, including several sprints to the hospital for emergency transfusions, where doctors struggled heroically to keep him alive. His final week was spent in a very comfortable single hospice room whose French doors opened onto a terrace overlooking his beloved Yorkshire moors. When he died, he left us his house, and not a penny of healthcare debt. My mother-in-law, stricken by arthritis, got two artificial hips and two knees from the NHS, and received daily home visits from social workers during the last three years of her life so she would not have to go into a nursing home. Neither of these septuagenarians was working at the time. The amount of money spent on their care must have been staggering. And yet, despite shouldering this yoke of decency, the nation prospered around them. People were buying French wine and German cars and second homes. They were attending Cats and supporting Arsenal and going on holidays in the sun. Sure, people complained about the NHS. But the British complain about everything. Living without a public health system, on the other hand, was unthinkable.

On the day we were finally given the all-clear, there were no papers to sign, no bills to settle. All we had to do was remove our daughter’s blindfold and go. But I felt I had to leave something behind. So I rushed down to the local corner shop and bought several tins of cookies to give the staff who’d looked after us so well. As luck would have it, the Irish ward sister was the only one at the nurse’s station when I arrived. Before I could explain myself, she gave me a tight, approving smile.

"Wondered when you’d start chipping in," she said, returning to her paperwork. "Just leave them in the father’s lounge."

Myra Bronstein
08-23-2009, 02:40 AM
At least something amusing has come out of the faux "debate" that is being staged to convince 'Merkins that good ol' Obama is really fighting for health care reform.

It's this gem. Sometimes Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them make me giggle.


The Most Outrageous U.S. Lies About Global Healthcare

Posted by Mehret Tesfaye | August 22nd, 2009 at 3:09 pm |

"As the U.S. Congress this summer holds its first serious health-care reform debate since the Clinton era, the resulting public furor has featured increasingly overheated claims about everything from so-called "death panels" to the supposed prowess of America's homegrown medicine. Many of the most wildly inaccurate statements have been directed abroad — sometimes at the United States' closest allies, such as Britain and Canada, and often at the best health-care systems in the world.
The lie: Stephen Hawking (who has Lou Gehrig's disease)...would not receive treatment in Britain, which has a government-run health-care system.

The liars: An editorial in Investor's Business Daily on July 31 claimed: "People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service [NHS] would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."
this is nonsense.

Hawking, who is British, receives intensive treatment for his degenerative motor neuron disease at a local Cambridge hospital. Upon hearing the rumors of his non-treatment, the prizewinning theoretical physicist told The Guardian, "I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived."

Mark Stapleton
08-23-2009, 06:26 AM
Universal health care is long overdue in the US. Of course, the wealthy hate the idea because they regard any Government assistance for the masses as communism--but that's just an excuse to hide the fact they are selfish and greedy. They don't mind Government assistance when it comes to bank bailouts for their wealthy colleagues, for example.

We've had it here in Australia since 1973, but the conservative Howard Government tried to undermine it a few years ago via the tax system by penalising those who failed to take out (expensive) private health care. They were too cowardly to abolish it outright because they knew there'd be a massive electoral backlash. No doubt the conservatives in the US would similarly try to white-ant a system of universal health care by any means if it is ever implemented. It's a fight you have to win, Myra.

Magda Hassan
08-23-2009, 06:52 AM
I've been watching this hysteria from afar and I can only really wonder about the state of education in the US. They're talking about 'death panels' happening if Obama introduces the dreaded 'socialised medicine' without an ounce of irony as they don't seem to realise they .already have them there now. The life and death decisions that the Insurance Industry make over people's lives just because they cannot pay or the policy has run out or doesn't cover this or that and the insurance companies wont cover no matter what the human cost. Not their department. Plus the administration cost of private insurance are huge. There is marketing, junkets, billing and debt collection just for starters which don't need to be done in a universal system. Health care workers can just get on with their jobs and don't have to spend very much of their time doing admin either. Less overheads all round. Plus they only have to deal with humans in a health care setting -doctor/patient - and not a commercial setting doctor-accountant-lawyer-shopkeeper-debt collector-salesman/patient-late payer/poor person-forgetful-etc. Simplifies things all round and keeps the respect. Sick people have enough to deal with with out worrying about if they can afford to keep their health or are under threat of losing their home in a bankruptcy. It is obscene. In Australia before universal health the most common reason for personal bankruptcy was unpaid medical bills.

There is more than enough money for a universal heath system. They have thrown trillions at the banks and the military. They must be forced to put as much as you need aside for human beings and human life. I'd like to see that extended to all aspects of human need like education and housing and food but since it is on the table now start with the health care. And then don't let them take it away, and they will but at least half the battle will be won. When Americans see the change it will make in their lives they will not want to go back to the dark ages. If they want they can still pay for health insurance but why would you?

Peter Presland
08-23-2009, 08:45 AM
Like Magda I have watched this saga from afar. I thought I was well passed being shocked, puzzled or bemused at the gross, knuckle-headed blind stupidity of herded masses when subjected to clever orchestration of deep-seated political taboos and phobias. But the current hysteria really is something to behold. Talk about truth being stranger than fiction! Anyone writing this stuff as fiction before current events would be laughed at - well outside the US they would anyway; it simply could not be taken seriously.

Humour may seem inappropriate to the gravity of the issues involved, but this should make you laugh through your tears so-to-speak. It's the latest blogpost from Dimitri Orlov of 'Reinventing Collapse' fame and it's bloody hilarious. (http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2009/08/hunger-insurance.html)

The sales patter of a 'Hunger Insurance' Rep:

I would like to sell you some hunger insurance. Are you insured against hunger? Perhaps you should be! Without this coverage, you may find it impossible to continue to afford feeding yourself and your family. With this coverage, not only will you be assured of continuing to get at least some food, but so will I. In fact, thanks to this plan, I will get to eat very, very well indeed.

Here's how it works. You buy a hunger insurance plan from my hunger insurance company, or from one of my illustrious competitors in the hunger insurance industry. The hunger insurance market is very competitive, offering you plenty of consumer choice. You can even decide to go with a hunger maintenance organization (HMO); that would make a lot of sense if you are on a diet.

Whichever company you choose buys up food in bulk on your behalf. Then, should you come down with a case of hunger, you can file a claim, pay the copayment, and get some of the food. Certain feeding procedures, such as breakfast, are considered elective, and are not covered.

The company is in a position to demand lower prices for food from the food providers, and can even pass some of these savings on to you. (But the fine folks in the hunger insurance company do have to eat too, you know.) Of course, the food providers try to make up the difference by charging those without hunger insurance much higher prices, but how can anyone blame them? That's just market economics. There may also be some food-related benefits, such as lower rental rates on bowls, spoons, napkins and feeding tubes (check the details of your plan).

There is just one more twist: you should try to arrange your hunger insurance plan through your employer. You see, it is much more expensive for companies to do business with consumers directly. It is much cheaper and easier for them to deal with other companies, and this allows them to, again, pass along some of the savings. In fact, many hunger insurers may decide not to sell individual hunger plans because group hunger is much more profitable. This is just Business 101: nothing personal. Plus, how can you afford to pay your hunger premium every month if you are unemployed? It goes without saying that if you want to keep your hunger insurance, you better try to keep your job, whether they pay you or not! And if you are currently unemployed, then, well... why am I still talking to you?

I am sure you will agree that this is a damn good system: it offers you consumer choice, a healthy diet, and, most importantly, peace of mind. But, as you may have heard, some people have been clamoring for a so-called "single-feeder system" run by the government. Now, that sort of thing may be very well for those miserable communists, but let me ask you a couple of questions.

First: Do you want to get fed the same as everyone else, even if you can afford to pay a little extra? What if you, say, win the lottery; wouldn't you want to upgrade to the premium plan, and dine on filet mignon, foie gras and truffles like I do instead of the corporate-government-provided Happi-Meals?

But even more importantly, who do you want your children to be when they grow up: lowly, overworked, underpaid government bureaucrats, or fat-cat capitalists like me? Isn't this compelling vision of hope worth tightening your belt for? To be perfectly honest, those jobs are reserved for my children, but yours might still be able to find work as their personal bathroom assistants, if they are docile and pretty... let's pretend you didn't hear that.

But ultimately it is still all up to you, because it is you who, every few years, walks into a voting booth and pulls a lever. And then I have to work with whoever you elect, and bring them around to seeing things my way. We are in this together, you see: you get to pull the lever, but I get to write the checks, with your money. Politicians have to eat too, you know, I am there to help them, and they know it.

Is that your stomach growling, or are you just happy to see me?

Magda Hassan
08-23-2009, 09:13 AM
....Whichever company you choose buys up food in bulk on your behalf. Then, should you come down with a case of hunger, you can file a claim, pay the copayment, and get some of the food. That's another thing I have NEVER understood about insurance - copayments. If you pay for insurance they should pay for all of it. I know people here with private health insurance (the previous government through taxation policy forced many onto private health insurance) who have had to pay a bloody fortune over and above their unnecessary and high insurance premiums and I just look at it and think WTF? They are hardly better of than if they paid for it themselves at the end of the day.

By the way Peter, I love that. Orlov has such a dark humour.

Peter Presland
08-23-2009, 09:47 AM
That's another thing I have NEVER understood about insurance - copayments.
Excess's - that's what we call them over here.

The theory, justification, sales-pitch - whatever - is that making the insured pay for the first $xxx of a claim discourages frivolous claims and makes for reduced premiums. It's just one of a whole raft of carefully crafted insurance industry scams designed to increase profitability. Things like the provision of life insurance or 'payments protection' insurance with a loan (often compulsory), so-called 'warranty insurance' on durable goods purchases. If you've ever wondered why the Electrical store cashier always offers some kind of 'insurance' with your new purchase (ernestly and with a come-on smile), it's because the commissions paid often generate more profit for the retailer than the goods themselves. Same applies to the provision of credit for large purchases like motor cars. Until the glorious crash, the profit bookable on the the loan provided for the purchase, together with payment protection insurance on it, far exceeded that on the car itself (Think GM and GMAC) - which explains why cash purchasers became persona-non-grata for an extended period from about the mid-nineties (over here anyway). Discounts for cash somehow morphed into paying a premium if you insisted on paying cash.

Oops - I'm rambling / ranting again.

But yes Orlov's humour is a real tonic.

Dawn Meredith
08-23-2009, 05:51 PM
Obama's numbers are in the tank. He's lost much, if not all of his base. He could change this immediately by doing two things: Outlining a PLAN to end the wars without end and putting single payer ON the table. But I won't hold my breath.

Myra Bronstein
09-08-2009, 12:51 AM

:laugh::laugh::hahaha::congrats::D:rofl::rofl::rof l::rofl::rofl:

Magda Hassan
09-08-2009, 02:48 AM
Very funny and it looks exactly like what it seems is really happening from afar also. That's not funny though.