My take on the US healthcare debate

I’m an American living in the UK for the past few years so I have a unique perspective on the US healthcare issue that I wish to share. I’ve experienced both the US private insurance based system and the UK state-run healthcare system and I do feel that people in the US are missing the point and that the arguments for and against miss some very important facts.

I’m an IT contractor, I do network engineering, security work, plus some coding and perl scripting thrown in. I’m the director of a limited company which hires me out to difference companies on short-mid term contracts. In the past I have had a several permanent jobs both in the US and UK. In the US one of the primary concerns anyone has is healthcare for themselves and their family. When chosing a job one of the big questions is the provider and policy the employer offers. Insurance is a huge concern for those who are self-employed and in many cases the costs involved for private coverage are exhorbitant enough to prevent people from starting their own business. And if you lose your job you have the unenviable choice of either paying way over the odds to keep your old policy or taking a huge gamble and going without. I know American Ex-pats who can’t move back to the states because they have pre-existing medical conditions and would be denied health coverage. Can you imagine being barred from your own company because you have diabetes or MS? What does that say about America?

In the UK it’s completely different. If I lose my job I don’t have to worry about being covered until I get a new one. When looking for a job I don’t have to think about insurance, I can chose the best job for me. I can start a business, quit work for 6 months and write a book or iPhone apps all without a second thought. I pay into the system so I’m entitled to the benefits.

Some people are saying that state-provided healthcare makes one less free, but that couldn’t be farther than the truth. For me it’s given me freedom from worry and the freedom to pursue my own career goals.

Some of the arguments against state-run healthcare make me crack up because they actually support the case more than they damage it if you look past the emotionality:
– “There will be a department of doctors who decide what care people get. They’ll decide who lives and who dies!” OK, so how does this differ from private healthcare companies? They have whole departments which have the whole purpose of deciding how they can give you the least care possible. They also have whole departments tasked with denying people care they are entitled to so they can save money. Which would you rather have, a system which is trying to save its stockholders money or a system which is trying to save your money?
– “There will be huge lines to see the doctor!” Why? Are people going to go for the sheer novelty of it? I spend as little time as possible at the docs and I suspect others would be similar. In the UK I don’t wait any longer to see a GP than I would in the states, why would I? What’s the basis of this statement?
– “I’ll have to pay for other people’s coverage!” I hate to tell you but you already do. You want to know what people without coverage do in the US? They go to the emergency room where they can’t be turned away. They get treated because it’s illegal and unethical for the hospital not to. And guess who pays for it? You do either through taxes or in your insurance premiums. So you pay either way.
– “yeah, but it will cost me more because they’ll all use it more!” Better people see the doctor for a minor condition than go to the ER with a major condition, it will cost less. I know a guy with no health insurance and no money who had chest pains and had a quadruple bypass. He didn’t pay a thing because he had nothing to give them. That cost the hospital, and therefore society more than $300,000. He hadn’t seen a doctor in years because he didn’t have insurance and couldn’t pay. If he had he would have been diagnosed with heart problems years before he needed surgery and received preventative care which would have cost a fraction of emergency care. All these people going into the ER with acute conditions cost the system about the same as if they could go to the doctor before things get that desperate.

It seems that some people think that if we adopt socialized medicine in the US that the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse will appear, the sky will fall, and time itself will end. Get a grip! In the US we have a state-funded education system that goes from nursery through grad school, we have state funded roads, parks, water supplies, waste removal, and social security amongst many other state-funded systems. We are better off for all these things, so why not healthcare? What’s the big deal?

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