“Hellish” Health Care?


A couple of weeks ago, L.A. Times cartoonist David Horsey told a story about his parents’ one-and-only trip to Europe. When they came to England to visit him in graduate school, his mother got to experience socialized medicine after she sprained her ankle in France and had to visit the hospital for X-rays and an ankle wrap:

As we were leaving, my mother asked where she should pay the bill. This was hard to translate — and not just because of the gap between French and English. The hospital staff tried to explain that there was no charge. My mom did not think that was right. She felt responsible. She wanted to pay. After a bit of back and forth, it began to dawn on her that not only was there no bill, but the very idea that there should be one was foreign to these citizens of a country where healthcare was a right, not a commodity.

“The mere mention of it in the U.S. makes the right-wing recoil in horror and hiss all at once,” writes Diane Sweet for Crooks and Liars. Yet at the opening ceremony for the London Olympics, England celebrated its National Health Service with music and dance featuring NHS doctors and nurses.

Academy Award-winning director of “Slumdog Millionaire” and opening ceremony director Danny Boyle:

“It’s something that is very dear to people’s hearts. If you live here, you will end up there, it does not matter how rich or powerful you are. … We got hundreds of volunteers from the National Health Service. All the volunteers made a special sacrifice to be with us and to be rehearsed, but these guys are extraordinary.”

Horsey’s story continues:

When we got back to England, Mom had a cast put on her leg. In the little village clinic, there was a bit of a wait and the doctor was perfunctory, but the deal was the same as in France: free of charge.

The experience left her feeling like a bit of a freeloader, but what Horsey’s mother learned — and that many Americans and members of Congress refuse to understand — is that these are not the “hellish” systems of conservative campfire tales. “[H]orror stories about rationed care, long waits for operations and shoddy service are either outdated or not typical,” Horsey observes. “Brits uniformly believe universal access to healthcare is a proper principle and they are willing to pay for it.”

And they provide universal care for far less than the U.S. spends every year on health care for some. Obamacare makes a big dent in making the American “system” more universal, but doesn’t come close to being the more comprehensive European system Horsey describes as “the monster hiding under Republican beds.” The English celebrated their achievement in universal health care for the world Friday in music and dance. It’s hard to imagine the United States doing the same for an American system that leaves insurance and pharmaceutical companies in between us and our doctors at double the price.


  1. Tom Sullivan says:

    Notice the video link was posted by Michael Moore.

  2. Doug Gibson says:

    Yeah, when we describe Utopia here, it sometimes sounds like a Mad Max movie. And sometimes it sounds like Europe.

  3. Tom Sullivan says:

    Naturally, the U.S. press was confused, reports the Guardian:

    Perhaps not surprisingly in a country where healthcare reform is so controversial, it was the high-profile presence of the NHS that stunned many American writers.

    After all, the idea of state-control of healthcare is demonised as “socialised medicine” with scare stories of “death panels” touted by top – usually Republican – political leaders.

    Certainly the US equivalent, which would be dancing health insurance corporate executives, was hard to imagine.

    “For the life of me, though, am still baffled by NHS tribute at opening ceremonies. Like a tribute to United Health Care or something in US,” tweeted clearly confused Los Angeles Times sports writer Diane Pucin.

    Confused indeed.

  4. TJ says:

    What;s even stranger about their “confusion” is that, once in a while through the year, in ‘honor’ of something or another, we have a day of some free service for everyone in the community….

    A dental day, where volunteers go in and clean, pull, fill.

    A screening day, where school kids get checked for basic stuff.

    Free surgery for some to fix cleft palate surgeries to give a child a smile.

    Donating eyeglasses, hearing aids, etc.

    Flu vaccines.

    Abuse awareness.

    Safety awareness.

    Awareness awareness.

    I mean, come on, will ya?! If we can do it piecemeal, how can it be so insane to just do it all the time? And, if our gov’t could get past the crisis management mentality (medical model), and, be more preventative focused (for real), then those $$ would more than make up any difference.

    But, we don’t want Americans really well, do we? After all, then we couldn’t support the drug companies, pay off those medical school tuitions, etc. And, we might actually have a better educated public.

    God forbid!

  5. Ascend of Asheville says:

    We could be well on the way to implementing health care reform, but the wise ones in Washington chose to pursue a reformation of the insurance industry instead and thanks to the Supreme Court, have now institutionalized the notion that insurance is the only nationally accepted form of financing health care.
    Funny thing is neither side chose that point to argue over. The finance model is now insurance. Therefore you can be forced to buy it.
    Don’t even got me started. I lived in Canada.

  6. TJ says:

    Well, you know there are many who poo poo Canada’s system, right?

    How can it be anything other than money, when that is what “they” are worried about. Never mind that wellness is possible. Never mind the insanity of fining or jailing someone for not buying insurance when they can’t afford it. And, YES, there are those who fall between MC eligible and self-responsible, but too poor to pay.

    Didn’t Scrooge answer once and for all? We need those debtor’s prisons back, don’t you know? That’s the only way we’ll get that money from them.

  7. RHS says:

    We can all lament the failure to get a single payer system or, at least, a public option but the fact of the matter is that neither of those were politically feasible. The Affordable Heath Care Act was simply the best plan that could pass. Had it not passed it would be at least another 20 years before another president would attempt it.

    The AHCA is certainly far from perfect and the fact that it is virtually identical to the plan Romney passed in Massachusetts, and the plan Richard Nixon proposed (and the alternative Republicans proposed to the Clinton plan) and has earned the vitriol says a lot about the lurch to the right the country has seen over the past 30 years. But it still represents the most significant piece of social legislation in nearly fifty years. For all its faults Joe Biden was spot in when he said it was “a big f*****g deal.”

  8. RHS says:

    “I’m glad you like Romney’s Massachusetts plan which was based on a proposal by the conservative Heritage Foundation to counter “Hillarycare” in the 1990s. I’m glad you’re equally pleased that that’s what we got nationally as well. I’m sure the ghost of Richard Nixon is happy that folks like you now can now see how cool he really was”

    Thank you for putting words in my mouth. I guess my post had a little too much nuance for you and your black and white worldview you post about here.

    I never said that the AHCA is a perfect piece of legislation. In fact, if you bothered to read my full post I specifically said it wasn’t. It is simply the best reform that could pass. Had it not passed we would be in the same situation we were after the Clinton planned failed. That is we’d have another 20 years stuck in a system that leaves millions uncovered and millions fearful over losing their coverage. My point about Romney, Nixon, etc. was about how the underpinning of the debate has shifted to the right

    Due to a pre-exisiting condition my niece has had difficulty getting coverage. She can now get that thanks to the AHCA. I guess you’d rather her go the next 20 years without coverage just because what passed to allow her to get it doesn’t fit your rigid, ideological, all or nothing mindset.

    My brother-in-law’s niece had her recent emergency surgery covered because the AHCA allowed her to stay on her parent’s insurance. How selfish of her to embrace that rather than make some Quixoitic stand that doesn’t pass your test.

    Yes, for them it is very much a big f*****g deal, but continue on with your unrelenting negativity.

  9. nick s says:

    The NHS was founded in 1948; around the same time, Tommy Douglas introduced a single-payer system in Saskatchewan which went on to become the basis for Canada’s provincial Medicare, and the French set up the Sécu.

    Absent a time machine, I don’t think the US can replicate those models: there are too many large, powerful vested interests established over the past 60 years. The best I expected was a weaker version of the Swiss system — Switzerland being another late reformer — and that’s what PPA-AHCA is. I don’t buy the Green Lantern theory that “trying harder” would have created a better bill; I do think it can be reformed further once its mechanisms take hold and people get a sense of how much they’ve been cheated.

    As for the NHS, it belongs to everyone in Britain, and palpably so: it is there if and when you need it; it is there for someone else when you don’t.

  10. Michelle A. Mead-Armor says:

    I lived in Australia from 1975 to 1980, and in France from 1980-1994. I received wonderful health care in both countries, but France was still the best, by far. Of course, there are a lot of folks in this country who don’t want to hear that. Oh, no, they want to hear of old ladies dying for lack of life-giving procedures and long lines and waiting lists. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint people, but the health care I received was excellent, professional, and I didn’t have long waits to get treated. I’m sorry that the agenda of some people makes it impossible to have reasonable discussions about health care in this country. And heaven forbid that we tell people that things run better than they do here!