Wednesday, March 22, 2017

One More Time: How Do You Feel?

This week the US House of Representatives will vote on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, something the Republicans of this body have been anxious to do since is was put into effect in 2013.  The anticipated changes to our healthcare system here in the states, a system far from perfect, are sobering.  While Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, astonishingly calls this new plan "an act of mercy", 24 million Americans brace to lose their healthcare over the next ten years.  
In light of this, I thought it might be interesting to revisit an essay I wrote in the autumn of 2013  when I was just home from a visit to the UK where The Songwriter took an unfortunate tumble on the Isle of Mull, broke his ankle, and landed us squarely in the middle of the National Health Service of Great Britain.  
If these proposed changes to our health care system here in the US are of concern to you, or if you have some concern over the proposed new budget released last week  - a budget that completely eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts, The National Endowment for the Humanities and  The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, as well as drastically defunding the Environmental Protection Agency - then I urge you to contact your representatives.  You can find their contact information at
xoxo, P
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. I am absolutely devastated by these drastic measures that are happening during this administration! I have never signed so many petitions, nor sent so many emails to my representatives in my 63 years of life. I have lived through many administrations, but this group of politicians are the most evil and idiotic that I have ever seen. Something HAS to happen to change what is going on! Thank you for letting me vent my frustration~

  2. Thank you so much for this post, Pamela. I share your concerns and have just emailed my congressman in Northern California. I have committed myself to be more responsible in doing this. I've always especially loved the picture at the top of today's post.

  3. Oh Pamela, I have nearly given up on anything going the 'right' way during the next four years. Guess I am too old to fight anymore and the daily shenanigans of the powers that be are a new path to idiocy on a scale we've never known. My state and federal politicians are republicans and the worst of the worst, Scott Pruitt and James Inhoff. While some don't respond, others send out a form letter talking about after 8 years of terrible Obama this and that... Hopeless, maybe, but I fear we will have to wait another 4 years to try and fix all they have destroyed. Keep up the fight dear lady.

  4. I have been writing and phoning my senators and congresspersons pretty regularly. I'm just aghast at the changes this administration wants to make — all destructive in my opinion. Thanks for your post.

  5. I know!! Our healthcare under a single payer system would be fantastic. Just look at Medicare--it works perfectly for the patient. That's what we need for everyone. Everyone pays 10% -- the 1% and the lower percent as is done in Germany.
    I'm still glum over what is happening to our country because of TT. But I am hopeful that this nightmare will soon be over. Thanks for all the TT (Times of Trump) blog posts and Instagram posts.

  6. I'm in despair at everything going on in my country. I watch it all from the UK, where we're dealing with the shambles of Brexit, but at least our Prime Minister seems reasonably sane. The NHS is a bit creaky to say the least, but I wouldn't trade it for the system in the US, where healthcare is reserved for the privileged. That fact is abhorrent and unjustifiable to me. I truly hope that the corporatocracy that rules Washington is brought down by some miraculous, spiritual and moral awakening of the American people. Of course this will never happen as long as these deep divisions remain, and it is in the best interest of the powers that be to further this division.

  7. I will not assail your thoughts because they are my very own.
    you have said it all and said it well.
    after I retired due to malignant hypertension (270/160) at the age of 60... and was not yet old enough for medicare... I lost my workplace HMO due to that retirement.
    I fell and broke my wrist and many bones in my left hand during that time before 65.
    lucky for me I had a credit card. for I couldn't afford insurance due to the 'heart problem.' the lowest quote from the ins companies for me was $584 per month. good grief.
    so I charged all my medical expenses and paid interest on those charges for years. but I sold my house and did manage pay it off in full.

    our country is broken. and its health care will stay broken as long as big pharma and the insurance companies are making billions of dollars. they will never give that up unless forced.
    it is sheer greed. and it's sad in the extreme.

  8. I believe that the current British government is running the NHS down to it's dregs with the view to replacing it with an American style system. The mantra is 'we can't afford this, people must pay'. Here in Australia we have Medicare for which we pay a relatively small 'debt levy' of 2% if we earn over $180,000 (AU $). Anybody earning under that benchmark pay nothing. In addition those who pay the levy are expected (but not forced) to take out health insurance which covers hospital admissions (we can also take out 'extra's' which helps with dental and optical and other costs). If you require an operation then your hospital stay is free, but private patients have to cover the specialist fee's however you can opt to 'go public' if this is not affordable. We are struggling to keep our system out of the hands of those who view your system as somehow attractive, but personally I don't think that will ever happen, Australian's are very protective of Medicare, it's not perfect but it works for all.

    I watch with horror as daily something else pops up that makes me cringe or feel hopeless for we are tied to your hip and need a strong US. I feel for you and only hope that there are good people behind the scenes waiting to pounce and I am sure there will be something to pounce on in the next 4 years so keep your spirits up and keep fighting. Believe me Australia is with you.

  9. I am so sad at what I see happening to our closest neighbour.

  10. I'm truly distressed about the entire situation regarding the president. It saddens me that there are people that can still justify their vote. I pray the mess that this administration has created can be reversed?

  11. I really used to love seeing your posts on my feed. A lovely few moments of a delightful read. This is not the place I choose to come for political info or opinions. You are certainly welcome to yours as I am mine, I'm just not seeking it here. Sadly, for me, you've lost me.

    1. I'm sorry you'll no longer be stopping by. However, writing about things important to me is certainly not new here. If you'll notice, this post was written in 2013. I wish you well.

  12. Thank you Pamela for your column.
    I too have been e mailing my representative ,to no avail I'm afraid but I do it anyway.The Ins Co and Big Pharma have a hold of healthcare in our country. It should be between the patient and Doc ,right?
    Why can't the State reps and Senators stand up to this awful person(Pres) He's destroying our country.
    I can't even listen to the news anymore.

  13. I was born in Britain before the NHS came into existence. Now almost daily I hear complaints and fears about its ability to provide proper healthcare. However, from my own experiences I can only sing its praises, saving the life of a daughter, enabling me to have a child in the first place, without the worry of whether or not I could afford the treatment. I would wish this for everyone. After the good intentions of Obama what a disgraceful setback Trump is to your great country.

  14. Thank you,Pamela. This is your blog and you have every right to speak your mind on ANY topic. Medicare for all seems like a no-brainer to me. Other than that perhaps we could all have the health care that congress enjoys. Keep it simple: we all go on their plan! Let us hope that sooner rather than later the truth will out.

  15. Your thoughts, suggestions, insight into many subjects is a breath of fresh air!!! If we all read what another person says with an open mind we will learn how to better live together in the only world we will ever know. Your compassion, empathy, and exuberance for life deserves to be appreciate by all of us. It helps to inspire us in what we do every day.!!


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