“Hellish” Health Care?By
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 “[H]orror stories about rationed care, long waits for operations and shoddy service are either outdated or not typical,” Horsey observes.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.