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Posted by on Jul 27, 2009 in Health, Politics | 36 comments

The Curious Case of American Health Care

It’s very strange how two countries with such cultural similarities as the United States and Great Britain can be so different.

This past week’s debate on health care has been one which I have followed with close attention but yet have not been able to understand in its entirety. I do not understand how a country as influential and rich as America can let 30 million people live without any health insurance. I can’t understand how a hospital can refuse to treat someone in need of medical care because they haven’t paid their premiums.

30 million people? When I heard that figure I thought it was a joke, it couldn’t be right, not in America. 30 million? That’s six times the population of Scotland, five times the population of Ireland, almost the population of Spain and it dwarfs the population of my birth place, Malawi. That to me is staggering. Surely all people in America can agree that there is something wrong with a system that leaves 30 million people venerable and living without health care.

I understand and respect Republicans opposition to a nationalized health care system; it goes against the free market values that capitalist America has been built on. Of all people Bobby Jindel has been the voice of logical opposition to Obama’s health care reform plans, “Why do you need massive government bureaucracy to install competition in the market place? Why do you need a bureaucrat between you and your doctor? Why would you need a politician making decisions on what treatments you can or can not have?”

These are all very reasonable questions; does a national health-care service dilute the quality of health care service you get? Well, yes, of course it does.

But does a national health-care service rob you of choice? Does a government bureaucrat choose what doctor or even what treatment you have? Does a politician get in the way of a doctor patient relationship? No, well that has been my experience.

For instance, when my father was experiencing major fatigue and dizziness all we needed to do was to ring our local GP (general practitioner) and we had him seen to the very next day. He was then referred to an NHS doctor within a week where they then diagnosed him with cancer of the brain and offered him treatment within a month and a half. At this point my family were not happy with the timescale they offered SO WE DECIDED TO GO PRIVATE and get him treated immediately. We made the choice there was no politician involved and nobody was forcing any type of care we didn’t want.

The problem with the NHS system is that not everyone can be as lucky as my family, to have the money to go private. Some have to wait in the notorious queues NHS have been renowned for, but I always ask, what is the alternative? Privatized health-care which leave 30 million people uninsured?

I have to agree with Republican opposition to Bush/Obama’s nationalization of American banks (even though it looks like it was the right decision at this point in time) and the nationalization of car companies, but nationalizing health-care – I think that could be a lifeline to so many families that it is worth losing poll ratings and political capital for.

Surely this debate could be the one thing that unites American political division? Surely not all 30 million people uninsured are Democrats?

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