It is my impression that many of our citizens are thoroughly confused and frightened when they listen to the ongoing debate over the proposed overhaul of our national health care system. Many Americans would like to find a way to improve the system, but they do not want to succumb to a government controlled health care system that could bankrupt the country and create more problems than it would solve. Most Republicans have stated that we should resist “socialized medicine” in this country, while most Democrats say that we already have a socialized medicine health care system that serves a large portion of our population. They say that a “universal” health care system is a right that all Americans are entitled to, regardless of the cost to the taxpayers.
As I tried to think through this issue, I concluded that it would be a good idea to have someone who has had first-hand experience with a socialized medical system in another country to describe his experiences with the system and how it compares with American system as we now know it. With these thoughts in mind, I turned to my old friend, John Eames, of Olive Branch, Mississippi, which is just south of Memphis. John is a native of England, where he served his country with distinction in the military in the years following World War II. He moved to the United States over twenty years ago and is a retired businessman and developer. During the last several years, he has been an active member of the Mississippi Republican Party – first on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and, after Katrina, as a member of the Madison County Republican Party Executive Committee in central Mississippi. He and his wife, Karen, recently moved to Olive Branch to be near her family.
I asked John to write to me and compare the differences in the English and American health care systems. His letter is as shown below, and I strongly recommend that you read it and send it to others. I am certain that John’s letter will give you great insight into what we will eventually be facing if we adopt the Democrat health care plan, or any significant part of it.
John M. Eames
8125 Rosemont Drive
Olive Branch, MS 38654
Tel: 662-890-7186 Fax: 662-890-7057
Re: Health Insurance and related topics
With the President and the Administration apparently setting out on a second push for “Obamacare” it seemed like an appropriate time to set out some thoughts from an expatriate “Brit” who experienced nationalized health care in England and is now a proud and happy American.
The National Health Service in UK (NHS) set out soon after World War II as a noble endeavor - universal health care for everyone. Unfortunately and with hindsight foreseeable, it did not take long to change and over the years has become a serious burden on the economy. It is now the largest employer nationally. There are more administrators than health providers. Further it does not provide the care and treatment that people expect and certainly not what we take for granted in the USA.
Under the NHS you can choose your General Practitioner as long as he/she is local. No house calls but office visits are fully covered. However if you need treatment from a specialist, or at a hospital be prepared for a long wait, sometimes a very long wait. At the age of 20 I was diagnosed with appendicitis, and told I could have surgery in 18 months. I still have my appendix at 79 years of age.
About ten years ago my sister needed hip surgery. She was in a lot of pain. To have the surgery under the NHS she would have had to wait an undetermined period of time. We calculated that the wait would be until she reached an age which actuarially would mean that she would not need a second replacement. Her BUPA insurance covered the procedure which was done promptly.
NHS hospital beds are always full. The staffs are overworked. Frequently the nurses are foreign and unable to converse with patients in English. Many of the hospitals are infected with “staph”. My sister recently declined treatment rather than stay overnight in hospital.
Next let me address the cost. Every citizen is covered from birth and starts paying premiums when they earn L5,200 per year. It is mandatory. No exceptions. Every subscriber/employee has approx. 10% deducted from their paychecks each month. In addition there is a 13% payroll tax on all employers. If you are self employed you pay both. Even though the total “take” of 23% covers Social Security as well as health insurance it is a heavy price to pay. Wow!
Add to this my understanding that there is not a fund in existence as there is for Social Security, Medicare etc. The monthly premiums have to pay all costs and expenses on a current basis.
Despite the cost, most citizens who can afford to enroll in private health care plans, such as British United Provident Association (BUPA). This means that they are paying twice - once to the NHS and also to a private insurer. I did so when I was in England, and members of my family who are still there continue to do so.
Dentists who practice under the NHS are scarce, and the treatment they give severely limited. My information is that you are entitled to a check up once every 10 months, and then only basic service such as extractions and fillings. No cosmetic work is covered. I paid for my dental work in UK but even that was light years behind the treatment available in USA.
Irrespective of whether you have private insurance, when an ambulance is called the patient will be taken to a NHS hospital. If the patient has private insurance he/she has to arrange to be transferred to a private hospital if that is their wish.
A few years ago my sister was involved in a serious accident which left her unconscious. A member of our family called and being her next of kin I flew over immediately. I found my sister, still unconscious lying in a NHS open orthopedic ward completely unattended, without even an IV for hydration. I knew she subscribed to BUPA and was able to have her transferred to a private hospital where she received good treatment in her own room. Happily she is still alive. Would she have been if left in the NHS hospital? We will never know.
To give credit where it is due, my granddaughter, who show jumps professionally, fell at a fence and the horse fell on top of her breaking her leg. She was taken by ambulance and admitted as an emergency. She received very good treatment at the NHS hospital. Her leg completely recovered and she was able to resume her show jumping career at which she has achieved an enviable share of success.
Turning to “Obamacare” I am not really sure what the full proposals are. Is anybody? However I do think there are improvements that should be made to our system. One that I consider essential is that health insurance must be portable, i.e. transferable between States and between jobs. Insurance must be obtainable on a national basis. We should be able to shop insurance companies in any state in order to obtain the cover we seek at the best possible price. This in itself will introduce the competition between insurance companies that does not exist under the present system that limits cover by State. It would be the same as auto insurance.
When my wife and I moved from Maryland to Mississippi we had a very difficult time finding health insurance for her due to “pre existing conditions”. Had the insurance been portable between States we would have been able to continue with the insurance she had had in Maryland for some years and the problem would not have arisen.
The same portability must also be available for insurance provided by employers. If an employee leaves for any reason he/she should be able to keep the insurance cover by assuming responsibility for payment of the premiums.
This raises another point. Employers get tax relief for the premiums they pay for their employees. Individuals do not get this relief. This difference should be addressed in any overhaul of health insurance.
I am not in favor of a “public option” whatever form it may take. It will inevitably become the insurer of last resort, and thus expensive for the government (taxpayers). Ultimately it will become mandatory, meanwhile having forced private insurers out of business.
Compulsion is not the American way. Americans prefer to have opportunity and incentives I came to the USA from England in 1981 attracted by the opportunities and work ethic. I appreciated the fact that I could work hard, make money and pay a reasonable fair share in taxes. These conditions did not exist in the UK.
An analogy I am fond of quoting - It is Friday afternoon and the factory is closing for the week. The workers are going home. In the UK the young worker sees the boss leaving in his Rolls Royce and says “I will get you down here.” In the USA as the boss leaves in his stretch Cadillac the young worker thinks “That is where I am going.”
I love America. I have had good times and hard times, but overall America has been good to me. In my late years I should like to give something back. If my life’s experiences can be useful I hope I will be called upon. I am not happy with the direction this country is presently headed but I know that with the right leadership it has the ability and resources to rebound. We must revert to fiscal responsibility. The deficits are unsustainable. No business, large or small, would survive if managed the way our economy is being administered. Overhaul of health care must not be allowed to add to the deficit.
One last thought - if Congress passes a “public option” as part of a health insurance overhaul, all members of Congress should have to enroll in it rather than continue to enjoy their current preferential plan.
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