Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Even The LA Times Sees The Irony

The Los Angeles Times ran a headline story on Monday entitled "British fear 'American-style' healthcare system." I figured it would be another liberal/left article about how we ignorant Americans just don't understand the brilliance of Euro-style socialized medicine with all its great advantages over our horse and buggy system. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a humor piece.

The Brits exhibited anger and wounded pride when the Obamacare debate was taking place over the past two years in the U.S. After all, the failed system to which it was most often compared was the British National Health Service. As the author Henry Chu said, Republican gurus, most particularly Sarah Palin, kept poking at the NHS as "evil, Orwellian, and generally the enemy of everything good and true."

So as Chu said, it was time for payback. The NHS is bankrupt years ahead of Medicare and Social Security, and its service is the envy of all civilized nations such as Botswana and Niger. Waiting time for an appointment with a doctor has been reduced from a year or two down to six months or so. Specialists take a little longer, but that's just a quibble. So in answer to Palin's "death panel" criticism, the Brits are scrambling to damn any NHS reform as leading to "American-style" health care.

Ask Brit John Bull or anyone else on the London streets to describe "American-style" health care, and you'll get the whole litany of grossly expensive and unnecessary medical procedures and a system that refuses health care to the poor and needy. They got their script from Obama and Nancy Pelosi. The average Brit understands that government bureaucrats and politicians are the font of wisdom from which all good medical care flows. They are terrified that if the current revamping of the "results-oriented" first come-first served (eventually) system occurs, the next thing you know, doctors and patients will be making decisions. Who the hell are doctors and patients to be questioning health care delivery and treatment?

Meanwhile, back in the jungle known as the United States, rich doctors and uncaring medical facilities continue to toss the poor and deserving out into the street by the millions because they don't have medical insurance and can't afford treatment even for a simple hangnail. Just ask the Brits--they know. They call the foolish idea of medical care being controlled by doctors and patients "privatization by stealth," and they ain't giving up their "free" health care.

"Conservative" Prime Minister David Cameron had to reassure the British people that any revisions to the current system would not "sell off the NHS, we will not be moving towards an insurance scheme, we will not introduce an American-style private system." God forbid. He even repeated the words "American-style" in his five guarantees of what won't happen during his attempts to improve the already-excellent system that the government-dependent Brits have come to accept as "successful."

As Chu points out: "Governments of all stripes have taken office pledging to reform the system, to streamline it and make it more efficient, but none has fully succeeded [since its inception in 1948], knowing that they tinker with the NHS at their peril. The current Conservative-led coalition, which has embarked on the most radical public spending cuts in a generation, has promised not to take a penny from the health service." The Brits constantly complain to each other about long waits for simple appointments, long waiting lines, nearly-medieval hospitals, and uncaring doctors who make snap diagnoses. But Americans calling their beloved system "the epitome of socialized medicine gone wrong" causes Brits to rush to its defense.

So trying to clean up the clinics and hospitals, which are often third-world quality, requires British politicians to say things like "this has been a genuine chance for people to work together to strengthen the institution we all love and hold dear." The Brits also love putting their dirty dinnerware in a big tub of suds, and picking them back out for the next meal, but that's another story entirely.

I researched the NHS when I first suspected I might have cancer. Here's the difference. I called my family practitioner in the afternoon. The next day, I was in his office getting a preliminary workup. The indications weren't good, so he immediately sent me to an oncological surgeon whom I saw the same day. The next day they had me fully tested and ready for surgery. My cardio-vascular surgeon was with the cancer surgeon in the operating room since the cancer manifested itself close to the aorto-bifemoral bypass that I had been through nine years earlier--just for safety's sake. Then came six months of state-of-the art chemotherapy in an immaculate, friendly hospital outpatient clinic.

My research taught me that with the NHS, I would most likely have had to wait two to three weeks for the initial doctor appointment, and a laundry list of horrible followup told me that by the time they finally got me into surgery, it would likely have been too late. And besides, at my age, it wasn't cost-effective to save my life anyway. After six months of excellent treatment, I was declared cancer-free. In England it's more likely I would have gotten a government paid-for funeral.

Yet that is the system the Brits call "American-style" health care, always accompanied by a sneer. I am hardly rich, and my company-provided health insurance ran out just about the time I received the dread diagnosis. But after paying into the system for 52 years, I had Medicare to pick up most of the costs, and Part D coverage for the doctor visits. Sure, I had some hefty out-of-pocket, but what good is a "free" health care system that simply lets you die from poor treatment?

The Brits are protecting a system for everyone which compares somewhat unfavorably to our "free" healthcare system. It's called Medicaid, it's at least as efficient as the NHS, and it takes care of those who chose not to have health care insurance or couldn't afford it. It even covers non-citizens and those in the country illegally. Our backup poverty health "insurance" is as good as the one-size-fits-all NHS. But of course if you want deluxe accommodations, a private room, and a top-notch hospital, you can always have a good private insurance plan, or if you're rich enough, just pay for it yourself. That option is not available in England.

Obamacare incorporates all the flaws of NHS, then complicates it by pretending to preserve private insurance. Giving everyone the same health care doesn't improve health care for the poor, it ruins health care for those who plan, insure, and set aside money for medical emergencies. Our system has flaws that conscientious Republicans are trying to address with little cooperation from the Democrats. Single-payer Canadian type insurance is the left's goal, but even the Canadian system operates more efficiently than the British NHS.

We've discussed options for improving our current system several times on this site. But replacing a slightly-flawed system with a monstrosity like the NHS is simply not an option for free Americans. The final goal of Obamacare is to do exactly that. The Brits have lived too long with a failed system and as a result damn any health care reform as being "American-style." They should be so lucky. Even the Los Angeles Times sees the humor in that.


AndrewPrice said...

I've been following some of the NHS's recent disgraces in the Daily Mail -- an indespensible source of daily news. It's incredible what's going on in their medical system. They've got people giving birth in closets, bodies lying in hallways because there was no one to take them away, people left for dead, and doctors who had to prescribe water for patients because they were dying of dehydration in the hospital because the nurses weren't giving them water!! That's completely shameful.

Unknown said...

Andrew: Details, details. Does this mean you prefer the dread "American-style" health care? Hell, American hospitals would make you pay for the water. LOL

The horror stories coming out of Britain on a regular basis are just too many to be aberrations. I almost have to agree with Michael Moore about the medical care in Cuba. It's barbaric, but at least it isn't the NHS. The Brits largely have nothing to compare their system with, since they've had it for over sixty years. What many of them don't know is that those savvy enough and wealthy enough to afford top-notch care fly to America to get it. Only the powerful political elite can get quality medical care that differs in appreciable form from those the vast majority of Brits are entitled to. We have hospitals just like the Brits here in America. We call them mortuaries.

AndrewPrice said...

Despite the propaganda that we are uncaring etc. etc., that would never fly in the US. You just couldn't get away with what is going on in Britain.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I'm old enough to remember the family doctor who made house calls. That's gone, but every doctor I've dealt with in the past decade has retained a great deal of that attitude, right down to telling me when I'm causing my own problems. The hospital staff have been pleasant, often humorous, and extremely efficient. Because of their professionalism, I've known everything I was facing, good, bad and indifferent. I doubt you could find many patients in Britain who could say the same thing.

Tennessee Jed said...

Hawk - thanks for this post. What goes on in England, and what could go on over here is a clear and present danger. Right now, we are dealing with a medical emergency with my mother-in-law, and seeing the impact of medicare and how it impacts decisions. Truly amazing. I am so glad you seem to have done well with your treatment

Unknown said...

Tennessee: First of all, my sympathies and best wishes for your mother-in-law. I was lucky (if you can call it that) because all of my doctors had been with me for eight or nine years, and my primary care physician for nearly twenty. None of them take Medicare now (in San Francisco they simply can't afford to), but as a longtime patient, they continued with me. The hospital (which is one of the ten top-rated hospitals in the country) didn't much care either way, but most of my out-of-pocket came there rather than with the doctors. Doctors who accept Medicare routinely don't have privileges at that hospital. It has now been two years with Obama futzing with Medicare and Obamacare, and I imagine the problems are much worse. I wish you the best of luck. I'm not so sure I would have done nearly as well here where the doctors don't know me. But their expenses of operation are much less than in San Francisco, so it might not be too bad (I hope).

Tehachapi Tom said...

Of course you missed the main point of us getting a NHS like the Brits have is they are so much wiser . You doubt that? Their systems have been around for so much longer than ours they just have to be better.


Unknown said...

Tehachapi Tom: And besides, their English is so much better than ours. Maybe we should have just stayed on as colonies. LOL

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Excellent post, LawHawk!

I don't know what's more astonishing, the LAT's seeing irony or the sad fact that a majority of Brits refuse to support a reform to their inferior system of rationed care (or lack thereof).

And as you mentioned, not only is socialized care rationed and in a lot of cases nonexistent, but with very long waiting times, a lower standard of healthcare professionals, and the loss of liberty for doctors and patients to choose a private sector alternative, I fail to see what possible reasons anyone could have to prefer that over our system.

Only those living in ignorance and/or delusion would choose the madness that is the NHS, and apparently we got more than a few with the same reality challenged mindset here in the US, unfortunately.

Andrew: I read about the death by dehydration cases going on there (the ones that were reported anyhow. I can only imagine how many die that don't have friends or family looking out for them) and am flabbergasted at the lack of national outrage.

There are exceptions, of course, but it seems that most simply ain't willing to do more than complain about it else there would be a public outcry like none they have seen in recent memory demanding an end to the NHS.

Obamacare would lead to the same type of system.
If lefties were smart they would've noticed that Pelosi's Congress (the donks) didn't think highly enough of Obamacare to submit themselves or their families to that insanity.

That's just one of the dead canaries in the coal mine they simple refuse to acknowledge.

Wealthy folks sure ain't flocking to England to get medical care.
Gee, I wonder where they're all going?

Unknown said...

USSBen: Well said all around. When the LA Times sees a socialist scheme and its adherents as fodder for humor, you know it's gotta be bad.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I'm glad to see you got timely and quality care in time, LawHawk. :^)

If I had no healthcare at all and needed it beyond the emergency room which treats everyone, I would rather depend on the generosity of friends, relatives and strangers (I see fundraiser going on all the time sponsered by churches and businesses) than an overworked, understaffed, under-educated, underpaid and often uncaring govt. employees.

Unknown said...

USSBen: I've actually experienced that sort of thing. At a very bad time in my life about twenty-five years ago, I developed a serious staph infection that literally knocked me out. Fortunately, I was near the Santa Monica courthouse, and some of the bailiffs who knew me called the EMTs and had me sent to Santa Monica Hospital. The hospitals have to take all emergency cases, but as soon as I was stabilized, I had to be put in an isolation ward for several days. Thank God, it's a Lutheran Hospital, and I am Lutheran with friends at both the Lutheran Brotherhood and Aid Association for Lutherans. One call, and my entire hospital stay was covered. I couldn't have afforded one day in that hospital, and the alternative would have been LA County General/USC Medical Center which is a nightmare of NHS-style care. Oh, and the reason the staph infection had become so virulent and so dangerous is that when I first noticed something was wrong, I went to LA County Olive View Medical Center where a slovenly doctor made a snap diagnosis, got it wrong, gave me the wrong antibiotic, which only masked the symptoms while the infection grew dangerously internally. Also, much like the NHS.

LimeyLibertarian said...

As an actual user of the NHS the reality of using the service can differ from excellent to quite frankly appalling. At a general practitioner level the service is generally very good as local GP surgeries tend to manage their own budgets and are run on a fairly efficient basis. I can normally see my GP within a few days or an 'on call' doctor the same day if it is an emergency.

Hospitals however are a different matter, these are normally run as what is know as a 'primary healthcare trust' they can be large inefficient entities with an overabundance of bureaucracy, poor management and to much direct government interference. Some can be quite good but it is the luck of the draw. As to hospital satndards, they are not "at a 3rd world" level but I would say they are probably not up to US standards, although most private hospitals would be.

As I have a reasonably good job my employer provides me with private healthcare to a certain level, so I only use the NHS for GP services and emergency treatment (Which to be fair it is pretty good at). For minor operations and other services e.g.. physiotherapy that have long waiting lists, I go private. This is quite common in the UK as employer funded healthcare is increasingly prevalent.

The NHS does need some serious reform, it is overstretched, but (ironically) overstuffed with bureaucracy. I am disappointed that 'call me Dave' Cameron has pulled back on the reforms. We need to slim down the service so it still provides a safety net for all, but we need to increase competition in the private sector to provide cheaper quality healthcare.

As to why we are all scared of an 'American style' system here, to many US medical TV shows where they will not perform an operation because the patient has no insurance etc.. True or not it has gotten in to our consciousness. Sorry to ramble on but that is what it is really like this side of the pond.

Unknown said...

Limey Libertarian: Thank you for your input. There is always some information that only an insider can provide. I think you make a very good point about the British public getting too much of its information about "American-style" medical care from TV. Unfortunately, so do too many Americans, or we would never have gotten Obamacare.

Our TV (and movies) are largely controlled by the left, so you get their version of medical care. In fact, by law no hospital with an emergency room can ever turn away a patient regardless of ability to pay. We have "free clinics" galore, and Medicaid for the poor.

From what you say, I think we get more proof that private plans work better. Employer-provided health insurance has been highly successful here, and it seems there as well. What we don't have here, and what Obamacare doesn't even come close to solving, is the free market (for medical insurance) that Americans love to ballyhoo. One of the reforms Republicans and conservatives want is to have more competition, not less. We want to get more standardization across state lines for coverage for the poor and previously uninsurable (a major flaw in the current pre-Obama system), but the last thing we want is government-imposed, one-size-fits-all medical care.

A large number of our uninsured so-called "poor" could afford private insurance if they'd just buy that instead of that extra 57 inch TV or spare SUV. Choice is an American virtue, and bad choices shouldn't be rewarded. But as I mentioned, despite the TV you see in England, and the propaganda of the left here, nobody in America is ever left with no medical care. The poor and uninsured simply get slower, less fancy, care. And from what you describe, that care sounds a lot like the NHS. Most of the rest of us opt for something better.

Writer X said...

I've always said that if British and Canadian healthcare is so wonderful, why do so many British and Canadian citizens come to Arizona for their healthcare?

Excellent post, LawHawk.

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