CT News Junkie

A Connecticut news site that understands the usual media offerings just…aren’t…enough.

OP-ED | ‘Socialized’ or Not, Britain’s Health Care System is Superior

by | Feb 26, 2015 6:06pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Health Care, Insurance, Opinion, Health Care Opinion, Reprinted with permission from the Center for Public Integrity

SHUTTERSTOCK
America is the home of the brave, they say, but a lot of us brave folks are terrified of the way the British do health care.

We’re even afraid of other Americans who aren’t afraid of it, like Dr. Donald Berwick. President Obama nominated Berwick to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services a few years back, but Senate Republicans were so united in their opposition to Berwick that Obama had to wait until Congress was in recess to appoint him. Berwick struck fear in the hearts of the senators when a few years earlier he said a few positive things about Britain’s National Health Service.

The truth is that those most frightened by the National Health Service – then and now – are insurance industry executives. My former colleagues have been unceasing in their depiction of the NHS as “socialized medicine.” How could anything in the world possibly be worse than a single-payer system in which insurance companies would be unnecessary?

When I was an industry PR guy, I was part of a never-ending effort to defame the NHS, usually by citing a few anecdotes about Brits who claimed to endure long waits for needed care. 

The industry’s propaganda got little resistance from the media or the American public. Few folks on this side of the Atlantic bothered to ask the Brits why they would put up with such an obviously inferior system and why they weren’t clamoring for American-style health care.

To make amends for the years I worked to mislead folks about the NHS, I’d like to recommend a couple of recent articles about Brits who have received care in both the U.S. and the U.K.
The headline of the Jan. 12 story in The Guardian is about all you need to read, quite frankly. “Too many choices, high costs and bureaucracy: British expats grade American healthcare system ‘a pain in the arse.’ ”

The subhead was even more of an indictment of the way we do things here: “Moving to the U.S. for work has advantages for British citizens. The healthcare system is not one of them. It’s so bad that some expats fly home for treatment.”

The article begins by relating the experience of Scottish-born David Gray, now living in Brooklyn, who was recently given the unfortunate news that his doctor was no longer in his insurance company’s network of providers. He was turned away.

“Gray is far from alone,” the article noted. “The American ‘health insurance’ system comes as a nasty shock to many British expatriates working and living in the United States.”

What also comes as a shock is the fact that “many Americans stay in a job they hate for 20 or 30 years mainly because it provides health insurance for them and their families.

“That strikes Brits as a kind of serfdom in The Land of The Free.”

The article quotes Helen Colquhoun, who moved from the U.K. to Boston 12 years ago, as being baffled “why so many Americans are opposed to the idea of what they call ‘socialized medicine’ and why health insurance has anything to do with employment.”

“Why it is tied to employment is beyond me,” she says. “It is a massive burden on business like another tax.”

The other piece I recommend was written for Business Insider by Jim Edwards, a businessman with dual citizenship.

In the Jan. 29 article, Edwards recounts his experiences getting care in both countries for a recent inner ear problem. He wrote about how long it took him to get an appointment with a doctor in the U.S. and then the long wait to be treated after he arrived at the doctor’s office. “I have read many a back issue of Newsweek in my primary care doctor’s office” he wrote.

In the UK, by contrast, “I showed up at 9 a.m. and was seen instantly.”

“For an American, this was bizarre: My butt barely touched the seat in the waiting room before my name was called. Turns out my doc and her staff are serious about patient scheduling.”

Both The Guardian and Business Insider articles noted how Americans are often buried in paperwork after getting medical care.

“If you ever had any health issue that required more than a simple doctor visit, you will know that it precipitates a seemingly never-ending series of forms, bills and letters,” Edwards wrote. “You will be paying bills months, years, later. And it’s almost impossible to correct a billing error. It’s stressful. I developed an intense hatred for health insurance companies in the U.S. because of this.”

In the NHS, he wrote, “there was close to zero paperwork.”

Neither article paints the NHS as nirvana. But none of the Brits would trade the NHS for American-style health care.

“Americans think they have the best health care in the world,” Edward wrote. “Take it from me, a fellow American: They don’t.”

Former CIGNA executive-turned-whistleblower Wendell Potter is writing about the health care industry and the ongoing battle for health reform for the Center for Public Integrity.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Share this story with others.

Share | |

(7) Archived Comments

posted by: Commissioner | February 28, 2015  9:43am

I really want to encourage the “Junkie” to eliminate this column moving forward.The writer lacks credibility ,facts and common sense.
A former insurance executive who made a handsome living plying his craft gets terminated from his job. He then proceeds to write “insider, dirty little secrets” columns for a living.
I would have respect for someone who opened his mouth about abuse, fraud, deceptive practices while he occupied his position. He could have tried to create change from the inside.
But, as happens, he “found religion” only after the fall.
To evaluate the quality of Medical care with the length of time spent waiting in a medical office is the dumbest thing I’ve heard since the Governors recent budget address.
There is an old Yogi Berra story where someone suggested that they all go to a restaurant for a meal—the food is supposed to be fabulous—Yogi responds ” Nah, nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded”...
To continue to evaluate health care quality with the frustrations and burdensome practices of insurers is a foolish exercise. Certainly reforms can be put in place, and many have , to ease the burden on consumers.
But make no mistake about it—in this country, and in particular our little corner of it called Connecticut, we have some of the most outstanding providers, hospitals, nursing staff’s and primary care practices in the world.
And that is how we should evaluate the “American -style healthcare”

posted by: art vandelay | March 1, 2015  11:32am

art vandelay

If socialized medicine is so good, why are so many foreigners flocking to American hospitals for life saving operations? The waiting lists are so long governments hope patients will pass on so they can save money.  If socialized medicine is so good, why are new drugs & medical procedures invented in the US?  It’s profit incentives incorporated into the free markets that develop innovation. Socialism discourages advances in medicine.  As Maggie Thatcher once said. “Socialism is great until you run out of other people’s money”.

posted by: Politijoe | March 1, 2015  5:54pm

Politijoe

Commiss: ….let me get this straight…... in spite of the fact you can only assume to know Mr. Potter’s motives and therefore based solely on this conjecture immediately dismiss his knowledge of the industry and the accuracy of his data?
If you have actually compared any of the global healthcare models you would know that no one has “evaluated the quality of medical care with the length of time spent waiting in a medical office.” Unless of course you’re a member of the conservative party who have consistently managed to unfairly compare the Beveridge model with the American healthcare model based entirely on mythological wait times. The reality is Americans wait weeks to months longer to get appointments. 
Your comment “Make no mistake about it—in this country, and in particular our little corner of it called Connecticut, we have some of the most outstanding providers, hospitals, nursing staff’s and primary care practices in the world.
And that is how we should evaluate the “American -style healthcare”…….. This is an example of such incomplete thinking its comical. If you do the homework, read the comparisons you would understand the problem with our model of healthcare isn’t with the research or education or the technology of our healthcare system. The problem is with the delivery and costs of our healthcare system. Our fragmented, convoluted, employer-based, for-profit healthcare system is the most expensive model in the world (apx. 18% of GDP). We spend more, get less and still don’t insure all our citizens. Why should healthcare be tied to employment?
Art: I have two very important questions that I hope you will answer. The first is: What data do you have to support your claim “so many foreigners flocking to American hospitals for life saving operations” or the ridiculous claim that “ waiting lists are so long governments hope patients will pass on so they can save money.”  The SECOND question is do you currently participate in Medicare or the VA medical plan?
The real question is whether healthcare should be a privilege of employment or a right of citizenship.

posted by: Commissioner | March 1, 2015  10:08pm

Politijoe—you spent a great deal of time refuting my post, let me return the favor .It is the author who attempts to evaluate the quality of our medical care by tying it into the payment morass and wait times in a doctors office—not me.
I am very familiar with the various health care models in Europe and North America—I would not compare the quality of care with the payment mechanisms or insurance systems that are in existence, this author does. I would not compare the quality of the auto that I drive by evaluating the highway system, that is analogous to what this author did.
And as to whether I am a member of any certain political party, you have certainly tipped your hand on which way you lean—and finally, you state that I dismiss the authors data—re read the column—there is no data—just as there is conjecture and no science in most of his screeds. That’s why I don’t think very highly of his very opinionated, unsubstantiated opinions.

posted by: art vandelay | March 2, 2015  12:14am

art vandelay

@Politijoe,
I happen to see first hand what’s going on with immigration in this country and to some extent healthcare.  My business takes me to JFK Airport specifically Terminials 1 & 4 were most international flights arrive.

I can set my clock by the number of families entering this country on a daily basis.  First comes the porter with a baggage cart full of a dozen pieces of luggage or more.  The porter is followed by the head of the family with at least a half dozen children all dressed in black.  The girls are in full burkas.  Last but not least is the wife dressed again in black from head to toe complete with full burka.  I’m sorry but these families are not coming to New York for a quick visit to the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building.  To be honest I don’t believe they even know what the Statue of Liberty is or what it represents.

The main Interstate between the Whitestone Bridge & JFK is I-687 commonly referred to as the Van Wyck.  Past the Jackie Robinson and parallel to the Tram are 2 major hospitals were people who have the means from countries with socialized medicine come for their procedures & operations.  The dockets are full 365 days a week.  If the medicine was so good in these countries, why on earth would they flock to Jamacia Queens for medical procedures.

For decades our system of delivering healthcare through the private sector worked fine.  Yes I agree it needed some tweaks here and there.  What Obama & the Socialists did was a complete travesty.  In essence government took over 1/6th of our gross domestic product.  You should be very fearful of a centralized government taking over complete control of a national economy.  History has proved time & time again that large centralized governments fail.  Rome failed, Soviet Russia failed and so are the socialized “democracies” of Europe.  Be careful what you wish for.  Our Founding Fathers gave us an excellent blueprint for governing a nation.  It’s too bad we have politicians like Barack Hussain Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Dick Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, and other socialists trying to destroy it.

posted by: Politijoe | March 2, 2015  5:01pm

Politijoe

Commiss:  When Mr. Potter refers to wait times for medical care he is responding to the conservative mythology regarding the British and Canadian healthcare system. Therefore, according to conservatives this is clearly considered a critical component in assessing the quality of healthcare.
For what its worth, I don’t have any apprehension on my political affiliation. which doesn’t change the reality of our current healthcare system or the facts that support my position.

However, Im not sure what you mean when you stated “I would not compare the quality of care with the payment mechanisms or insurance systems that are in existence” perhaps you could clarify this statement a bit more.

When I mentioned the author’s data I was referring in part to this particular article-where he did provide references to The Guardian and The Business Insider articles, However, I was also referring more broadly to the comprehensive data he regularly contributes on the subject. His data is consistent with all other authors, studies and comparisons available, therefore, Im uncertain what exactly your in disagreement with regarding the data. As I mentioned previously, the problem with our healthcare model is primarily with the delivery and costs of our system. Our fragmented, convoluted, employer-based, for-profit healthcare system is the most expensive model in the world (apx. 18% of GDP). We spend more, get less and still don’t insure all our citizens. Where is the disagreement with this?


posted by: Politijoe | March 2, 2015  5:33pm

Politijoe

Art: you stated that you see first hand what’s going on with immigration in this country and to some extent healthcare. Your business takes you to JFK where you “observe families with cart full of a dozen pieces of luggage or more, half dozen children all dressed in black, full burkas and wife dressed in black with full burka.”  With all due respect ART, this sounds incredibly judgmental and borderline racist. I don’t agree with that lifestyle but I’m wondering why you chose to highlight Muslims and Burkas when referencing healthcare?

You then state “I’m sorry but these families are not coming to New York for a quick visit to the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building.”…… Art, do you have ANY idea why they are visiting? Have you ever asked or had a conversation with them? It appears that you are making further judgments based on assumption and conjecture.

You go on to cite “ the Van Wyck area has 2 major hospitals were people who have the means from countries with socialized medicine come for their procedures & operations.  The dockets are full 365 days a week.”…. Art, what evidence do you have to support this claim short of doing an anecdotal
“drive by” ?

And you state “For decades our system of delivering healthcare through the private sector worked fine.  Yes I agree it needed some tweaks here and there.”…… WORKED FINE?...TWEAKS?  Seriously, we have the most expensive healthcare system in the WORLD, with poorer outcomes and 45 million Americans uninsured and you call that working fine and needing tweaks? You sure you want to stick to that position art? 

You further cite “History has proved time & time again that large centralized governments fail.”…… Art, in spite of what your convoluted logic leads you to believe, Democracy failed in other nations not because of central governments or socialism but simply because the citizenry had grown tired of unemployment and insecurity, of seeing their children hungry while staring into the face of government confusion, dysfunction and weakness.
Healthcare reform begins to address the issues of the cost, the uninsured, the employer-based, out-of-pocket model that is unsustainable. The ACA has begun to flatten costs, insure millions who previously could not afford healthcare or could only afford junk policies and begins to break the connection to employment……remind me again of what the problem is?

Art, by the way, you didn’t answer my question…. Are you currently participating in Medicare or VA healthcare?

Social Networks We Use

Connecticut Network

Categories

Our Partners

Sponsored Messages