Saturday, October 5, 2013

How Do You Feel?

How Do You Feel?
Like many others around the world, I was fascinated by the opening ceremonies of last year’s London Olympics.  The sheep, the supermodels, the Queen’s doppelganger parachuting in alongside the illustrious James Bond - all were memorable sights to be sure.  The only portion of the program which seemed perhaps a bit odd to an American’s eye was the proud tribute to the National Health Service, complete with hundreds of real nurses and doctors dancing amongst giant beds in a replica of a ward in London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.  As it is customary for a host nation to celebrate what they are most proud of in their opening ceremonies - to showcase their values, and honour what they hold dear - the message was clear, and as director Danny Boyle himself stated following the production, free universal healthcare is “an amazing thing to celebrate”.
When I left for my September trip to the UK, I certainly never dreamed I would return home with an empirical opinion about the National Health Service of Britain.  However, when your husband breaks his ankle in three places on the hills of the Isle of Mull, there is no time to consider the politics of universal health care.  You simply put your trust in the system and pray for the best.  And here’s the truth.  The care he received was superlative.  From the tiny hospital on Mull, through three ambulance rides and three emergency rooms, with nurses and doctors from hospital wards to operating theatres - at every turn in the road he was treated with the utmost competence, professionalism, and kindness.  No prima donna he, our surgeon was highly skilled, forthcoming, clear, and amazingly accessible.
  The first sign that we had entered a different system from the one we are accustomed to here in the States was the question I was asked at the first reception desk I encountered.  Instead of our usual, “how do you plan to pay for this?”, I heard, “how is your husband feeling?”.  This attitude was pervasive throughout his surgery and hospital stay.  I have been in emergency rooms in the US when my father was having a stroke and, even in that dire situation, before anything was done for him we were queried incessantly about his ability to pay for any treatment he might require.  Clearly, Great Britain ran on a different system.  
Our family has been fortunate in that we have been consistently able to pay for our health insurance, (which I assure you, is no small feat for the self-employed American) and we have enjoyed excellent medical care.  However, we have many friends who earn their living in the arts and who quite simply could never afford the astronomical cost of health insurance in this country.  They live in constant concern that an illness or injury may visit their door.  Their six year old may take a bad fall on the playground, a cold may turn out to be something worse.  Entire savings can easily be wiped out, bankruptcies can occur, houses can be lost, with even one serious illness.  One artist friend, recently hospitalised for two days with high blood pressure, was visited bedside by a lady on staff inquiring how she was planning to pay for her stay.  The entire bill for those two days was over ten thousand dollars and included a bill from that questioning lady herself. Clearly, our system doesn’t work for everybody. 
One would think, one could hope, that our elected officials might find it prudent to manage to work together in an effort to address this problem, but when our plane landed back here in the States we were met with a Congress willing to shut down the entire government in a petulantly political attempt to block revisions to the health care status quo.  The Affordable Health Care act is a law that has already been passed and still they hold the country at ransom in an effort to repeal or block it.  I am grateful for a President who had the guts to try and change what is clearly not working and while the new law may not be perfect, it is a recourse our friends without health insurance thankfully now possess. It is humiliatingly painful to see those who refuse to even try to help make it work, or make it better.  In my own state, our governor is simply ignoring it completely.  The health care of a nation is an issue that should transcend politics.  To hold it hostage is a slap in the face to those in need.
Perhaps I shall be assailed for these opinions.  It is true that my experience with the NHS in Britain, though serious, was brief, and there are no doubt plenty of British citizens with critical views on aspects of their system of which I am unaware.  It is also true that the so-called American Dream marches hand-in-hand with a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”, “make your own way” philosophy and anything that hints of a variation in that creedo is, by some, suspect.  But I believe the prevailing question of, “how can you pay”, instead of “how do you feel” creates an atmosphere that moves insidiously throughout the soul of a nation, too easily turning the sick and the needy into “deadbeats” and “shirkers” and eventually stripping away our compassion, our humanity, our greatness.  I am embarrassed that my country, the richest nation in the world, is ranked thirty-eighth in health care.  Now, after my experience in Great Britain, I have seen another way and know that changes are possible.  If only we can find the courage to make them.


  1. wow... excellent. I couldn't agree more with what you have written. Thank you. Peace.

  2. Glad to hear you were properly looked after here in Scotland. Although no one claims the NHS is perfect, there is a great deal to be thankful for. Some years ago I ended up in hospital in New York while there on holiday. The care from the staff was absolutely exemplary, once I was successfully admitted. The lady at admission was interested in only one thing and repeatedly asked my friend "Does she have insurance?" After we convinced her I did, we were allowed through and from then on, I was very well cared for. Thank goodness I did have insurance, because the eventual bill was somewhere North of $50,000. Best wishes for a speedy and safe return to Scotland.

  3. Great to hear that you had a good experience of our NHS. As I'm sure you have heard from others, some parts of the service are better than others, but like many in the UK I believe that the 'free at the point of need' is a principle worth defending. I shall never forget a conversation between two women I once overheard when working in the USA. They were discussing a child who they thought should be seen by the doctor but "the mother won't spend the money". To British ears, this was shocking in the world's richest country.
    Cheers, Gail.

  4. I am so glad to hear of the good service Pamela. I must say that my experience here in the UK is the same - consultants are always approachable and willing to answer questions and the system works well. We are so lucky over here.

    I hope the Songwriter continues to improve and that you are able to return to Scotland.

  5. Kudos for speaking up in the face of such a contentious argument! Having been taught and shown compassion while growing up, it's so perplexing that we elect officials who seem to be so clueless. (Hope the Songwriter is healing well!)

  6. You are absolutely correct and I nominate you for our next President!!!!

  7. Greed is at the root of the problem. The insurance companies and lawyers run our health care in the US. When my teenage daughter was comatose after a wreck, the neurosurgeon group put a lien on our house, and, we had insurance. My husband semi retired last year, and 2/3 of his retirement check goes to health insurance and taxes. If you haven't gotten to the age for Medicare coverage, good luck. We've ended up saving about $15.00 per month and, they charge a yearly deductible and a monthly fee. Makes one want to retire in another country. Healthcare bills are now the leading cause of bankruptcy in the US.

  8. Here, Here! I shared this post with my over 2,300 Facebook "friends". You put my thoughts into words that I felt driven to share! Thank you and may change occur in a positive way.

  9. Well said. I hope our new Affordable Care Act will evolve into something like the NHS. It is the humane thing a civilized society does for its people. Glad your husband is on the mend.

  10. My goodness I wish you could have spoken at the Conservative party conference this week in the UK. I always fear that they want to go down the American health care route.

    Even thought it doesn't always run smoothly, we do value out NHS.

  11. I shared with others, too. I hope you sent a letter to your congressmen. So apropos. I am so glad it turned out so well for you both.

  12. Pamela,
    I am so happy to read your thoughts on this topic. My husband and I are eager to qualify for Medicare since Mr. B was self employed most of his career, and my employer doesn't provide an allowance that will cover anything close to my premium. I'm a hard working person and do not think it's due to any lack of ambition that finds me in a hard place where health care insurance is concerned. I have often thought that as a nation we need to make sure that health care should be a right as opposed to something that only the wealthy can expect to afford.
    I will go back and read the other comments. I am happy to hear that the UK took good care of the Songwriter.

  13. I can only echo the other Brits: the NHS does have flaws, and sometimes significant ones, but my personal experiences have really been exemplary, from GPs to Primary Care. I cannot imagine the difficulties, worry and concern of those that do not have enough money to pay for medical care, or medical insurance.

    Wonderful post, by the way. Could not agree more.

  14. Our national/provincial health care system in Canada is not perfect either, but I am so thankful for it. We have always received compassionate, excellent care here. Thank you for standing up and saying what you've observed and what you think. A national health care plan is nothing to fear.

  15. Wonderful. Thank you for your post. I wish everyone would read it and think what they have done to our country.

  16. This is far more than healthcare, president, congress.

    It's the Constitution of the United States at work.

    Interesting times.

    XO T

  17. While I, personally, find fault with the AHCA, I couldn't agree with you more on the substantive issues of health care in the U.S. is your way......beautifully expressed.
    Angela Muller

  18. Totally agree. I can remember when I visited England in 1973 as a college student with my mother. On our second day in London she fell getting off a double decker bus and broke her kneecap. She had wonderful care at no charge. They even brought in a specialist who said her injury was much like a soccer player's and knew exactly how to treat it. We found it hard to believe she didn't have to pay for this service, and had an interesting discussion with a taxi driver about it. No such treatment for the visitor to our shores. Now I live in a state that is refusing anything to do with the Affordable Care Act, including an expansion of Medicaid. With no state exchange there is less competition and more cost because of the lack of Medicaid funding. As a result my insurance costs more than doubled, as well as my deductible. Why this nation cannot have a single payer universal health care like every other advanced democracy is beyond me. Not to mention why a radical conservative minority wants to block a system that depends on private for profit insurance. You said it wonderfully, the attention should be on the patient not on whether or how he can pay. And why are those who can't afford health insurance so stigmatized? I feel like our nation has grown callous and uncaring and it shames me. Hope the songwriter is improving!

  19. Thank you for writing this - I am in total agreement. These people who are willing to shut down the government, and who I'm sure in a couple of weeks will also be willing to default on our debts and cause a financial crisis, are a disgrace. I would have been very happy with a single payer system like they have in Britain, but even the public option was compromised away. Why can't the other side compromise even a little bit? Because they hate our president more than they love our country. Embarrassing.

  20. Sorry to hear the Songwriter hurt his ankle but very happy to hear about your good experience. I too am going to share this on Facebook. Our country is an embarrassment in how it handles healthcare for those without the best of the best in insurance. Are system does not work for most and something must be done. Obama, bless him is taking the heat for actually trying to make change. It would have been very easy for him to just let it slide as all the others before him have.

    People didn't like Social Security when it was first passed and now they consider it a right. Good healthcare to all should be a right also.

    I am without health insurance currently as I can only find part time work and I work for myself for the rest of my living. I have paid for health insurance for 25 years plus and now I have none. I never used the benefits when I paid for it...and now I just pray I won't need it till I figure out something.

    You should not lose your house because you have a health crisis!

    Great post!!!!!! I know I get my head bit off living here in Oklahoma when I state my support of Obama. I never bit other's heads off when they spoke kindly of Bush.

  21. Bless you for speaking out about your experience! I am very fortunate to be covered under Blue Cross Federal through my husband's job, but I have family members who have been uninsured for years because they just can't afford it. We have all celebrated the while not perfect ACA, that my family can now obtain reasonable rates and care. I don't think the standard of caringness will be achieved here in the US, but I hope it will move toward that which you described.

  22. I applaud your courage in writing this. It's hard to see the US, our dear neighbour, in such a state. You are the first blogger I know who has been willing to write in such a measured way. The few others who have addressed this have closed comments. As Lorrie said, no system is perfect, but every system should ensure that everyone has access to care without worrying about being bankrupted. We have required medical attention twice in the US and while the medical care was good, the attention to billing and the noting the cost of each bandaid and tissue was disconcerting. Also disconcerting was an ambulance attendant's advice regarding hospitals - it was dependent on whether or not we had insurance. The better hospital was no different from any hospital in any town up here. I hope this is all settled for you soon - it is sad to watch.

  23. Firstly, I hope the Singwriter is recovering quickly and that you will be able to return to Scotland for that holiday as planned. As an Australian retired and living in France, I have the option of two healthcare systems with first class medical care available to all, no matter their economic situation. I have never been able to understand how a supposedly first world country could take such a third world attitude to the health of it's citizens. This may sound harsh, but as an outside observer I must say that the cause of the current funding crisis in the US is a disgrace and I would be embarrassed if it were my country.

  24. Dear Pamela,
    I'm appalled at the whole approach towards medical care in USA and the effect it has on those who are vulnerable and suffering.
    We are so lucky here in New Zealand - if you're sick and need immediate attention then your treated with outstanding care and you can keep your dignity intact because money doesn't come into it.The Government pays!!
    Health insurance is something still that a lot of people have, mainly so that you don't have to go on waiting lists for operations that aren't life threatening.
    Eight years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer and having Medical Insurance was able to pick the best surgeon available to perform my operation.Amazing and caring man!
    A year later a work colleague also was diagnosed with the same and not having medical insurance was still looked after swiftly under our health system, all expenses paid. The only difference is that my scarring is almost negligible yet hers is rather nasty.
    I cannot imagine what it's like to have to go through the same experience in USA when you're feeling so numb and can't think straight.
    Hat off to The President for making a stand to want to make a change.
    First time commenting but have followed you for a very long time.
    Give Apple a hug, don't here from him much but know you love them both - Josiexx

  25. Dear Pamela,
    I echo all the commenters above. Yes, yes, please forward this to everyone you can.
    I'm going to facebook it.
    Could you possibly get it to some mean spirited nasty "TeaParty" types.

    You summed it up perfect;y in the "How is your husband feeling?" comment.
    My father used to call the US "The land of the almighty dollar" (though he felt there was much to appreciate and he had many American friends).
    Well done, Pamela.
    And here's to the SongWriters continued improvement.

    This is your most powerful post ever!

  26. Thank you so much for your posting on this awful situation. I live in the DC area and the mood here is very sad. You can feel the stress and tension everywhere you go. I do not understand the mindset of these Republicans who basically want to destroy the U.S. government, take down the President, and along the way destroy millions of Americans' lives. They call themselves good Christians but they are not.

  27. So true Pamela. Glad you received such good care here in the U.K. I remember well in 1960 being on a ship with my husband who was the Chief Engineer. When the 1st mate lost some fingers in the steering gear, off the Florida keys the emergency boat would not take him until he had proved where the payment would come from.

  28. Excellent post, Pamela. I am going to share this with my representatives and hope they can get their heads around your insightful message.
    Best wishes for your husband's speedy recovery.
    I love your blog! always well written and interesting.

  29. We have an excellent public health system in Spain, but the brilliant government we actually have is trying to privatize and dismantle it, only for the profit of their friends.

  30. Pamela, I could not agree more with you about the Affordable Health Care Act, sadly what was proposed is not what is actually going into effect. So far 26 states have decided not to expand MEdicare which will in turn offer less competitive and more expensive health care coverage to many.

    In fact there will be many many people that would love to have insurance and are willing to pay for it that will be unable to afford it under this new program.

    Our country should be ashamed that we have elected these bumbling, self-serving, selfish men and women whom I might add are still collecting six-figure salaries while the nation suffers.

    We should be outraged that the brave men and women protecting this country are only served two meals a day and the "hot" one is an MRE! We should be even more outraged that there are over 500,000 veterans who are in a back-log for benifits and care.

    And we should be afraid that our nations security is at risk because the people protecting us are considered "non-essential" workers!

    People, it is time for a change! We need to overhaul the House and Senate and get some of these dinosaurs out and elect new politicians that are willing to ACT and listen to what the citizens of this country are saying.

    Thank you for saying what many are thinking and for allowing us to say our piece as well.

    P.S: While my opinion may be different from some I care for this country and the people in it just as much as you.

  31. It was so interesting to hear of your experience in the UK. Your cares and concerns about our health care "mess" here in the U.S. are well-stated. It is a very depressing situation for all of us!

  32. Do you think if only women, as all your readers seem to be, were running this show we would have health care for all? Of course. I wish those middle age white guys would put aside there issues and for once do the humane thing - go back to work and leave the health care we so badly need to work it's way into our lives. You wrote an extremely well written comment, I just wish those guys in white shirts have an opportunity to read it. Thanks.

  33. It's not all about health care. It concerns power, control, taking freedom away and personal privacy. The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it. George Orwell

  34. You write with such intelligence. I too agree that certain factions of our government is willing to let the middle class hurt, so as not to help the greater good. It's disguisting.

    Hope the Songwriter is healing nicely.

  35. I am very pleased that your president has taken such an important step to ensure that the American people have the right to health care. We are fortunate in Australia that we have free medical care. If you do not have private medical insurance you need to go on a waiting list for elective surgery only. We pay a medicare amount which is included in the amount of tax we pay, but the cost is very reasonable. For people on low incomes this payment is not required. If you also qualify for a health care card your medicines are generally about $3 for each script as long as they are on the national list which most medicines required for the majority of the populations are.

  36. Speaking as a proud Scot, I can say our NHS is wonderful as was the old welfare state that was achieved at the same time by the reforming Labour Government after the war. I was brought up in a country that had truly "never had it so good" but have now lived to see our old concern for our fellow man, as manifested by that welfare state, being dismantled so that the rich may profit.

  37. The subject of health care in our country is not about the quality of care we get, who gets it, and what we could do about improving the cost of its deliverance so that everyone can receive the best, but it has become a very divisive and political subject about who is actually going to oversee (and control) the actual care we get--the government or ourselves. It isn't that I do not want good health care for everyone, but when one looks at the mismanagement of Social Security and other programs that the government oversees, it is no wonder that our country is $17 trillion dollars in debt that we cannot possibly repay. Those $25 screws and bolts we paid for are coming back to haunt us. Fraud always rears its ugly head in DC.

  38. I am so glad that you received such excellent care in Scotland and that the Songwriter was so well cared for.I would love to share this blog post over here as we currently have a government determined to sell off the NHS and are running it down. Would you be willing for me to share it?
    The word verification is is that for a coincidence :-)

  39. Thank you for writing this, Pamela, and thanki you for asking. Mind if I tell you our story?

    My husband, of 40 years, was diagnosed with what was then called Juvenile Diabetes, 45 years ago. He has, thankfully, exceeded the life expectancy given at the time, because of good medical care and how well he has taken care of himself. Still, there have been issues.

    The years of working for a big company gave us good coverage. When he lost his job and started his own business, I went back to work to cover our daughters and myself. He was considered uninsurable. Until October 1, 2014, he still was considered this. We paid, exorbitantly, for him to continue on the plan from his former employer.

    We never complained.

    When another president tried to reform health care, he did not succeed, however, he rattled the chains and it opened the door for us to have a small group policy. I needed to quit my job and become an employee for this to happen, however. We made the sacrifice.

    We never complained. Business was good.

    Economy tanked, and so did small businesses. We still didn't complain, just made do the best we could. Until about 10 years ago when our insurance company instituted exorbitant yearly increases. 10% 12% 15%. 18%. We now pay out more in insurance premiums than we bring in, for 2 people.

    We started complaining, especially when our representative, who is also a juvenile diabetic, voted again the ACA. Of course, he is covered.

    I welcome this with open arms. We will never recoup what we lost in dollars, but, it will help us ease into the next few years, before Medicare, and it will help millions of others, especially children.

    Thanks. Now I feel better.

  40. One of the songs from my favourite Australian artist Paul Kelly has the words "from little things, big things grow" and it's about the power of the people. Amen to that. Nice work Pamela.....B:)

  41. I love to comment you... Great post.. I don't have words to say.. Really awesome..
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  42. Bravo ~Well spoken !!!!!!
    I send my thoughts along for a speedy recovery for the Songwriter!!!!

  43. Best wishes for Songwriter's speedy recovery. Now - this is important - the ACA is not what people have hoped it would be. For the states running their own exchanges there are no provisions to cap premiums - NONE - and after year 1 you can bet the insurance companies participating in the exchanges will start jacking up premiums just like before. Second, the "affordable" part refers to the monthly premiums but the newly insured will find that the "affordable" premiums either are NOT "affordable" or that they provide insurance with such high deductibles that they're moot anyway. And finally, no provisions were made under ACA to prevent health insurance "adjusters" from routinely and falsely denying claims, just like Medicaid does now and just like private insurance companies do now. I read the entire, final ACA and was dismayed to feel that, once again, the American people have been sold a bogus bill of goods.

  44. Dear Anonymous,
    Respectfully, I think you may have misunderstood the nature of my essay. I am not arguing that the Affordable Care Act is the be all and end all way out of this problem. I am addressing the prevailing attitudes of stonewalling, denial, and fear that surround any change in the status quo. Those who are currently putting our country at risk by shutting down parts of the government in an attempt to stop this law from taking effect, (which is in itself rather ironic as the money the federal government is using to fund the health exchanges doesn’t rely on appropriations from Congress, so the program is moving ahead unfettered by their stunt) do not seem to consider the problem of health care to be any sort of priority. Historically, they have resorted to the same tactics each time a change is proposed. My point was only that both sides of our severely divided country should realize the need for change and be willing to put the American people’s wellbeing ahead of any partisan differences. One can dream.

  45. This country will live to regret the ACA, which is driving doctors out of business left and right. Private is the way to go.

  46. Dear Genuine Lustre
    Private insurance is wonderful, I agree. But what about those citizens who cannot afford it?

  47. I just found my way back to your blog after a few years. I had lost my contacts a few years ago and you are one that it took this long to find again! So glad i did because this is truly helpful to me. I have been opposed to the universal healthcare even though we have lived without insurance and bad insurance and well just bad health care. We avoid the Doctors! But my daughter at University has discussed the good of Obama care and has helped me to not oppose it as i did. Now your experience enlightens me further. From what you experienced it sounds wonderful. So thank you for sharing. It has changed my opinion.

  48. Dear Pamela

    I am only catching up with your Scottish drama now, because I have been engaging with our NHS as a result of my 86 year old father's ongoing battle with a serious chest infection. He is currently in a high dependency unit up in Speyside, where we are just now. He is very poorly, but at the same time very comfortable in the gentle care of doctors and nurses. I look around the ward and see a whole range of economic statuses evident in the visitors sitting beside their loved ones. The common factors are that all the patients are elderly, all are seriously ill, and all are receiving the same excellent care because they need it. What can possibly be wrong with that? I would gladly pay a bit more in tax each month to safeguard the NHS.

    I am so sorry to think that you were only 40 miles away from me and I couldn't help you. The next time you are in Scotland, I hope you will get in touch. Meantime I hope that the Songwriter continues to make a good recovery.

  49. Hear, hear!!!! Well said.

  50. Hi Pamela!!!

    While I was commenting on a new post, I noticed the picture to the right of the comment area, and it was a female looking out the window while in bed. It had the heading, "How Are You Feeling," and as I looked out my window to see fresh snow on our beautiful mountains, I realized I was doing the exact same thing as the painting.

    I really don't say this very much, but, with healthcare, I'm grateful to live in Canada...Yes I just said, 'Canada.' I have loved the US since I was a young girl and then when I use to go to Van Nuys, California for the summers as a teenager, but, when it comes to my health, Canada is it.

    You see, I'm a diabetic. I nearly died at the age of 9, but, they caught it in time. I've had 18 operations, 3 pregnancies with 2 live births, with the last one I nearly died and had to be induced 6 weeks early and left with troubled kidneys. Back during the holiday season a sore throat led to pneumonia and again, near death. Can you imagine how much this would have cost if I lived in the US?

    I cannot understand how helping the people with healthcare would be bad. Just because these ones are rich who vote down these decisions can pay any medical bill that comes their way, they look down at those who are not in their same circle. We know that when we go down to Seattle that we always get traveling health insurance...Just in case. To look at me you'd never know of my health condition, but, it eases my mind that I'm covered no matter what.

    I thought, and it's just my opinion, that it was because of Florence Nightingale's influence that made hospitals clean, professional and hospitable to those who had to stay in them and that's why the showing at the opening event at the Olympics in London.

    I love the UK so much and I don't know if I'll ever get there. In fact as I am in bed, I'm watching Downtown Abbey and I'm so grateful for the internet. I get to google map the UK and it's like taking a mini holiday there.

    Take care Pamela and have a wonderful weekend!!!

    Oh wait...I want to tell you that I'm getting a pup at the end of April. He is one half long haired Chihuahua and one quarter Maltese and one quarter Yorkie. I have to have a small dog because of my hands. My hands are ok, it's just I had operations on them and that has made them weak. I'm fine with all that's happened to me because I've lived longer than many.


  51. Bravo. Thank you for helping to inform Americans that a real healthcare system is not a thing we need to fear. I am further relieved to read the numerous positive comments here - thank goodness I'm not the only one who longs for continued change to our healthcare.

  52. A copy of your post should be sent to the president, congress, and every major news paper in the country.


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