A Tale of Two Healthcare Systems

This is from a few months  back, but it needs attention given what Obama wants to do to American healthcare:

I’d been sick with the same thing almost 10 years ago when I was in my 20s and still living in the United States, where I’m from. In both cases, my side and back hurt and fever shot up. And each time, I recovered after serious doses of antibiotics and lots of bed rest. But apart from that, my experiences were a world apart.

The biggest difference: Money. Getting sick in New York City decimated my bank account. In London, I didn’t pay a penny. I should note, however, that a full 9 percent of my gross pay goes towards the equivalent of a health tax. (For comparison’s sake, according to the Commonwealth Fund, in 2007 about half of working-age Americans spent 5 percent or more of their income on out-of-pocket medical costs and premiums.)

And while I recovered fully in both cases, the care I received felt quite different. In New York, I never feared that I would be overlooked. At my doctor’s office in upscale Gramercy Park, he and his nurses took their time seeing me, and were always at pains to reassure me. On my first visit, the receptionist let me sit in an empty consulting room so that I wouldn’t have to weep in the waiting room. She checked in on me and brought me water.

But unlike the personal care I received in the U.S., in London, I felt like I was on a vast and often creaking conveyor belt, and there was a big risk of falling through the cracks. British care is socialized — and feels that way.

As with all such stories, it’s a real mixed bag, and is entirely anecdotal. But, it’s important to note.

It’s also provides the opportunity for a lesson on how to parse anything produced by the mainstream media. Consider the part about finances:

The biggest difference: Money. Getting sick in New York City decimated my bank account. In London, I didn’t pay a penny. I should note, however, that a full 9 percent of my gross pay goes towards the equivalent of a health tax. (For comparison’s sake, according to the Commonwealth Fund, in 2007 about half of working-age Americans spent 5 percent or more of their income on out-of-pocket medical costs and premiums.)

The implication is that medical care in the US is more expensive than in the UK. However, by this account, that’s simply not true. I’m a product of the American public education system, sure, but even by my limited reckoning I’m fairly certain that a 9% tax on gross income is more than 5% (or more, up to a point, of course) of one’s income (presumably, gross). So what’s the deal with this paragraph?

And, really, I can’t decide on the point of the entire article. It’s worth reading, though because it gives a dose of what socialized medicine is like. In that respect, it’s both Food and Poison.

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