Hey America, socialized medicine is not that bad. Really.

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World war 2 nurse

OMG, I can’t believe all the hoopla about health care reform in the US. After nearly three weeks here, and talking with family and friends, I have come to the conclusion that no one really understands the issues (who would, the documents run in the thousands of pages). Opposition comes down to partisan politics and the fear of socialised medicine.

When I first moved to the UK nearly 20 years ago I was leary of the National Health Service (NHS) from years of right wing warning: It’s government-run. It’s inefficient. It’s socialism, ferchristsake. You won’t have access to good care.

You know what I’ve discovered after years of living abroad and extensive use of the NHS: The UK “socialised” system is not that bad. Really. In fact, I’m a huge fan.

Last year I found a lump in my breast. Sick with worry, I called my local doctor and got an appointment the same day. I was seen by a specialist within FIVE DAYS and was sent to have a scan and a mammogram. It all took about two hours. Luckily it turned out to be nothing.This was with the NHS socialised system. And then there was the time my GP that made a HOME VISIT to check on me after the birth of my first two children? And did I mention the same GP made another home visit to check on my 80-year-old mother-in-law with blood poisining?

I’m what you would call a health care “power” user, and have extensive experience of socialised and private health care on both sides of the pond. Pregnancy with severe pre-enclampsia, NICU babies, bowel surgery, you name it. With three children I’ve had to deal with stuffy noses, immunisations, sore throats, tubes and hearing problems and small fingers that have been banged in the door.

As usual it comes down to money: those with it can get whatever they want in either system. For example, if you want to jump the queue to see a specialist in the UK, you can buy insurance (which I don’t have, BTW).

But with the NHS, EVERYONE has access: Poor people, old people, students, people who have lost their jobs. Not just the gainfully employed and those that can afford it.

Yes, it has a price tag (but you’ll pay for it one way or another). And yes, things can go horribly wrong in BOTH systems. But it’s nice to know that health care is there when you need it. It’s also nice not to get a long, confusing bill.

So please, you nay-sayers, stop it about socialised medicine. You have no friggin idea what you are talking about. If you don’t believe me, I can put you in touch with loads of British mothers that feel they get good care too. Really.

If you are a happy NHS customer, please leave a comment below and let everyone know what a good system it really is.

Photo credit: reds on tour

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  1. 29/10/2013 / 18:41

    Just wrote a piece about the Tea Party who basically don’t want poor people to have access to health care. I liked the NHS when we lived in the UK – even though when I gave birth you had to bring your own nappies and there were shower curtains to separate you from the next person and you had to change your own baby unless you’d had a C-section and they wanted me to leave as soon as I had the babies. (had three kids there, one in the US) In the US many people expect an incredibly high standard for themselves and then don’t care about health care for others less fortunate. We belong to kaiser which models itself on the NHS and many of the people I know think Kaiser is the lowest of the low.

  2. 11/01/2013 / 18:11

    Pretzels are the one and only ‘dish’ we all love I just can’t warm to the idea of Hipp Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner.

  3. Tiffany & CO Outlet
    30/06/2011 / 08:08

    Document won’t look for whatever impact approximately Islam and additionally Islamic fundamentalists. My personal opinion religion certainly is the underlying issues, and additionally from underlying issues fundamentalism thrives in the form of dangerous stem. Any time everyone take off fundamentalism and additionally keep on religion, the other moment or possibly an alternative fundamentalism should cultivate once. I have to tell you which usually as a lot of liberals frequently keep Islam and additionally guilt fundamentalists just for setting up trouble. Still Islam its own matters oppresses wives. Islam its own matters shouldn’t provide democracy that’s why violates real human legal rights.

  4. 12/11/2010 / 04:33

    If America had a universal, single payer insurance system (which is not “socialized medicine” by the way…health care providers, doctors, nurses, hospitals…all still private actors here in Canada) you would have been paying premiums through your taxes all along, your coverage wouldn’t have stopped when you went back to school and you would never even have seen a bill, never mind having to negotiate with the hospital to find a way to pay it.
    Single payer insuarnce in Canada and Europe keeps health care costs there to halfor less what they are in the US, administrative costs are a fraction of the American model and outcomes are as good, or better. Don’t believe those horror stories about universal health care. It’s empty fearmongering from the corporatists who value their profits more than your health.

  5. 21/09/2010 / 09:30

    What about this would the insurance companies dislike? Health insurance is not the most profitable business you can be in; the profit margin is 3-4 cents on the dollar. So a guaranteed clientele is an attractive prospect. The people who will be forced to buy policies are the healthy, who will pay premiums and make few claims. The only thing the companies don’t like is that that penalty for not complying with the mandate is too small.

  6. 21/09/2010 / 09:29

    The medical system does need reforming — radical reforming. It’s more expensive than it ought to be, and powerful interests prosper at the expense of the rest of us. The status quo has little about it to be admired, and we shouldn’t tolerate it.

  7. Buy Diovan
    02/09/2010 / 17:02

    Mental health clinics (businesses!) need customers. Customers often pay with insurance, some of which is medical “assistance” from government agencies. To a business person, the dollars are green without regard to their underlying source. Business adjusts to the climate created for it (including nightmarish governmental regulatory climates, etc.), so if patients are using government dollars to pay their bills, business does not care (except for the additional burden of the applications and forms).

  8. uk5us0
    25/06/2010 / 12:50

    That’s because the other 1/4 are dead.
    And the cost for a family of, say, four? Two parents, two kids? What if one of them has a hereditary disease or some other medical condition? Do you have a price quote on that?
    From this American expat in the UK (to stay!):
    Another “hear hear” to the NHS! Excellent care in all respects.

  9. constipation causes
    22/06/2010 / 01:28

    I am agree with this blog because for me the socialized medicine is not bad tood and I recommend it , I think it work and I’m sure that is a good option for everyone.

  10. 27/03/2010 / 19:22

    Health is always a great wealth for all. Why we will not achieve this? In this consideration everyone wants to have good health. Let us build our healthier life with controlled food habit, discipline,keep pace with work, rest and or exercise. While Health is the root of happiness let us build a happier life.

  11. Guy
    22/11/2009 / 04:12

    What is being proposed in the United States is not the same as the NHS in the UK. There have been numerious commentaires by U.S. media stating the two cannot be compared. Also, the U.S. government has a “winless” record when it comes to administering any federal program. Perhaps UK officials are more competent and dedicated to running such a healthcare system. And let us not forget the poliitical landscape here. Public opinion polls repeatedly show near three-quarters of Americans are happy with their private insurance system and against the proposed government-run system. Most Americans will admit the current system is not perfect, but far better than trusting a government to run a system that has failed in every federal program it has administered.

  12. anonymous
    08/09/2009 / 22:50


  13. 08/09/2009 / 16:35

    As someone who has done a lot of travelling around the world and experienced many health care systems, I have to say the NHS is up there with the best!

  14. Chris
    08/09/2009 / 16:31

    So basically your argument AGAINST non-NHS is no long and confusing bill?? and we’ll “pay for it somehow”??? That’s an absurd statement. Obviously the problem is the MONEY and what a solution you have offered!: Pay for it somehow!! Woohoo!!!
    We’d all love to live in a place where there is universal healthcare but someone has to pay for it…… …….. and honestly to most of the country, that price tag is not worth it. How many people who “can’t afford” health care do you think smoke cigarettes? Buy lottery tickets? Have a cell phone? Live above their means in some other way like most americans. My “guess” is A LOT. GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT PEOPLE. A 26 y/o male can get good health care for around 100$ a month. Give up your damn vices and prioritize.
    By the way, it’s very hard to believe that I am the first person to comment against your views… there are like 50 comments on this page and they are all verbatim of each other…. …. ….. “hear hear!”

  15. Lindy
    25/08/2009 / 14:10

    As an American living in the UK I have had experience from both sides. I love love love the NHS. Not having the constant worry if something is covered by insurance or wondering if I should go to see the doc when I’m feeling ill because the co-pay is soo high is fantastic. US docs are very hands on and run lots of tests, something I think they do so they can bill the insurance companies. I will admit to being a bit nervous when I has pregnant as I had heard horror stories. In the end I had a good experience and would do it again.

  16. Zoë
    20/08/2009 / 23:28

    I am a cancer patient, dx with breast cancer a year ago. I was seen quickly, had my surgery within 2 weeks of diagnosis, started other therapy within in 6 weeks once I had healed, I am reviewed 3 monthly, had mammograms, MRI, CT scans etc, all free, all with in 2 weeks of being requested. I get treatment for Lympoedema free. I am also Diabetic, I get free all my retinopathy, podiatry, and dietary consultations of a regular basis. ALL my drugs are free too, because certain serious illnesses are exempted from payments for prescriptions irrespective of your age.
    I have paid my National Insurance (this is how we fund the NHS) all my life, I still pay , because I have an income. If I chose to, I can access private medicine too, I have done so and actually pay for a couple of treatments at a private hospital, and to be honest, could tell you the difference between that and the NHS one, both are as good as each other, even the same Dr’s names are on the door.
    I know in the USA unless I had amazing health cover, I wouldnt be getting many of the treatments I am now, and there would be limitations on what I could claim for in the future. None of that happens here, if I need treatment, I get it. If I need to see a Dr, I see one. I have both chronic and life threatening illnesses and in my book the NHS Rocks!

  17. 20/08/2009 / 21:28

    Hi Susanna, great post btw.
    I have to say if it wasn’t for the NHS, my youngest wouldn’t be here. If I had been forced to pay for his four month stay, medicine and everything else, as they do in other countries, I don’t know how I’d have managed it. However, overworked and underpaid nurses looked after my son and despite set backs he is now a happy healthy boy. Even when one of the children sadly succumbed to their illness, they dealt with it with such grace, but when the parents had left the ward all of them were in tears in the coffee room as well. God bless them, they don’t get the respect and admiration they deserve, or the wages, so for one of our own representatives to go to America and stick the boot in further is a disgrace, and David Cameron should chuck them from a great height from Westminster. Maybe next time the person in question needs hospital treatment he will live to regret being so off hand!

  18. lookingforlynda
    20/08/2009 / 19:39

    I, too, am a huge fan of the NHS.
    In fact, had it not been for the NHS, I wouldn’t be here and neither would my daughters.
    I have nothing but praise for NHS staff, who do a wonderful job and, quite frankly, am sick and tired of people complaining.
    Others should think themselves lucky that we have FREE access to such a service which, I might add, is developing all the time.
    I’m just one of the mums that knows, first hand, what a blessing it is to get urgent medical attention when the lives of your little ones are at stake.

  19. 20/08/2009 / 19:34

    Here, here! As an American, I am super happy to hear all these real life stories. Personally, I am for a single payer public option. So many people are suffering and in a world so full of riches, there really is no excuse. Food, shelter, water, wellness and literacy for all!

  20. 20/08/2009 / 18:41

    Oh hear hear!
    I’ve lived in the US for the past 13 years and mostly I just love living here but in the past few weeks, I’ve been getting angrier and angrier. The health-care system here is fabulous if you have coverage. If you don’t you’re on your own and the costs are astronomical.
    I’m mad about the current healthcare debate because I think the republican caucus (and the blue-dog democrats) are being selfish, irresponsible and short-sighted in a very dangerous way. They’re selfish because they’re thinking about their own re-election rather than what is best for society in general; irresponsible because they’re spreading bad information and inciting disagreements which flood the airwaves and short-sighted because they’re frankly ignoring the long-term cost of NOT fixing the health-care system. If we don’t do something to start bringing costs down now, our children will be crippled by higher taxes to pay for medicare/medicaid.
    I grew up in Ireland. My parents (with limited means) always paid for additional private insurance – but it was affordable. I can’t believe that NO-ONE in the current US healthcare debate (govt or media) is talking about the disparity in insurance costs between large corporate coverage (low cost), small business (high cost) and individual (stupidly high cost). Maybe if the people who have good, affordable coverage today could see the amounts they’re likely to have to pay when they’re older and retired it would re-focus the debate to the real issues.
    Rant over. Thanks for giving me a space to vent.

  21. 20/08/2009 / 16:46

    I have had plenty of experience of the NHS, most recently in the last two weeks, when my mother was hospitalised for a major operation. I’m happy to say the wards were spotless, the staff friendly and efficient, and the care and attention she received was 1st class. Even at her follow-up appointment this week, we only waited 20 minutes.
    I’ve also been hospitalised in the US, when I was three months pregnant with my son. I was in for 10 days, I had a nice private room and round the clock care. But thank God I had travel insurance, because at the end of my ‘stay’ I saw the bill. $100,000. $100,000! You couldn’t make it up.

  22. 13/08/2009 / 23:03

    Interesting perspective, having tried both health care systems. Yes, for every horror story out there regarding socialized medical, it’s important to know there are success stories. Sometimes people just like to focus on the extremes and horror stories, huh?
    My husband always boasts how WONDERFUL the French health care system is LOL, although I’ve heard it’s not perfect either. What system is though?
    Hearing about women in the US having to pay for mammograms and children not able to get medical breaks my heart. But I hope the US can reform healthcare. It’s scary to think one’s entire savings can be wiped out if you get cancer. That is a travesty. And insurance denying people medical coverage. We definitely have huge huge problems that we need to address.
    BTW, great meeting you and your beautiful kids!

  23. 11/08/2009 / 04:28

    good points! I was baffled by the US system when I arrived, but have been fortunate enough to have good insurance through my work. I think having very good insurance here does beat the NHS, because we have the luxury of choice (for example as mums to be we spend a long time choosing our pediatricians and obstetritians), but the fact that so many have n care is just appalling. Politically it is tough, the reformers will have to convince those who have insurance that things will get better or at least not get worse for them. And to add to Victorias comment, most insurance does not pay for home birth, and in fact in many states it is not even allowed!

  24. 11/08/2009 / 01:57

    Hear hear!!!!
    I wonder how many of the “scare tactics” we area hearing is funded by insurance and pharm companies, who are making the big bucks with privatized health care.
    I agree though I have only ever had experience with privatized insurance. I know that I pay $352 every two weeks to carry insurance for me and the two girls and that is only my portion, the small bank I work for pays the other 60%.
    I think it’s ridiculous to think that the entire system is going to be hauled over and perfect in such a short time, but isn’t the first step of getting everyone covered a step in the right direction.
    When you have people who are not getting their diseases treated or taking the proper medications because they cannot afford to pay $500 to $800 for a medication because that’s their rent or food money, you really need to step back and think about what taking care of each other means.
    Great point mama!!!

  25. 10/08/2009 / 23:14

    Interesting to hear what America’s view of the NHS is. In this country we’re so quick to knock the NHS but in reality if you need emergency treatment in the UK you’re likely to receive the best possible medical care regardless of your status or background. I’m sorry to hear you’ve needed so much medical treatment, but at least it makes you an expert!

  26. 10/08/2009 / 23:11

    In Belgium, we have a kind of socialised medicine, too, with the difference that we’re all allowed to choose our own doctors and services. Which I love.

  27. Iota
    10/08/2009 / 15:58

    Oh, you said that thing about the paperwork – sorry to repeat.

  28. Iota
    10/08/2009 / 15:56

    Yes, there is a real fear here of socialised medicine. Fueled by adverts like the one I saw where a Canadian explained how she would have died from her brain tumour if she hadn’t been able to come to the US for treatment.
    And to a certain extent, everyone pays for everyone in the US, since hospitals are obliged to treat people even if they don’t have insurance, and that is funded by the insurance companies and therefore ultimately the policy holders too. (Or have I misunderstood that?)
    And this is one big advantage of the NHS – you don’t end up with a stack-load of paperwork to sort out, phone calls to make, queries to resolve, points to argue, etc etc. It can become a full-time job, I’m sure, if it is contentious.
    There is huge pressure from the insurance companies for cost-cutting from medical care deliverers. I met someone here who’d had a double mastectomy in the morning, and was out of hospital by the evening, because the use of beds is so pressurised, there’d been a delay in the system, and no slack anywhere to pick it up.

  29. 10/08/2009 / 13:20

    I’m a HUGE fan of the NHS. I know it has it’s faults, but free treatment for all at the point of entry is without doubt, one of the UK’s greatest achievements. I’ve had brilliant care from them and am always seen by the GP the same day or within two days for non-urgent things. I’ve even had a home birth, with my own midwife. How much would you pay for that in the US?

  30. 10/08/2009 / 11:45

    I totally agree with you. Years ago I worked in the NHS for 7 years so I know that things could be better and how money in it is wasted. But that is down to poor management and endless government meddling. But that all said I’d far rather our country had it than not.
    I was horrified on a recent holiday to the US to hear the utter rubbish spouted on the US news regarding universal healthcare followed by adverts for medical credit cards. How can any 1st world country tolerate having 40 million people without decent healthcare but can afford a space programme?
    All they need to do is think about how to implement it properly and use best practice from all the countries in the world where it works. They don’t need to rush it in, they can take their time and do it right.

  31. 10/08/2009 / 11:12

    I think if you ask anyone who has had emergency care in the UK they will tell you how fantastic the NHS is. My husband suffered severe burns and had skin grafts and physiotherapy to recover. Without the NHS he would not be here. My emergency caesarean saved my life and my daughter’s.
    On rountine matters there can be huge waiting lists and I found that when I had a back problem the NHS tried to sort out the symptom and not find a cure. I went with BUPA and they sorted out the problem for good. So there is good and bad and yes, those that can afford private health care can get better service in some instances, but as you say, the NHS is there for everyone.

  32. nappyvalleygirl
    09/08/2009 / 21:54

    You’re right, Americans seem terrified of anything approaching an access-for-all healthcare system. From an expat Brit viewpoint: here in the US everything seems incredibly complicated using an insurance-based system, with co-payments etc and some people left out in the cold. In the UK things are much more simple and from what I’ve heard, the quality of care is pretty similar. It’s not as if we pay far higher taxes in the UK either. Healthcare has improved a lot in the UK in the last 10 years (thank you, Labour Government) and while it’s not perfect, neither is the US system by a long shot.

  33. TooManyHats
    09/08/2009 / 20:40

    It is nice to hear a good report of services by the NHS. I have of course heard the horror stories of people waiting so very long to see a specialist or waiting months and months for an MRI. I’m not sure that is any worse than millions of people, mostlu children, having no insurance here.
    Here in the States, I think alot of the wailing and nashing of teeth is that no one ever likes change, the fear that our taxes will go sky high, and you know us Americans anything slightly smelling of gov’t control gets us all riled up.

  34. 09/08/2009 / 20:13

    Right on sister! Why don’t they talk to people like me and you and other ex-pats who have lived under both systems and let us tell them what we think. You’re right. A lot of people don’t know what their talking about. If you listened to the group against it you would think that everyone in the U.K. is dropping dead, the NHS is so bad. Ridiculous!
    I had planned a post on this issue in the next couple of weeks and I may link to your post, okay?

  35. 09/08/2009 / 20:02

    Fond of the NHS. I had private care in Germany and Switzerland, and I can’t say it’s been better from a medical perspective. The surgeries may be prettier, but I am happy to accept that. Especially regarding the comparably low cost.

  36. 09/08/2009 / 19:25

    I had fabulous healthcare during my pregnancies with the NHS. My GPs now are excellent, especially in an emergency, and I’ve known many NHS health professionals who have gone well out of their way to give me and mine better healthcare. So I thoroughly endorse your post!