...In treating almost every cancer, America apparently does better than Britain, sometimes appreciably so. According to a study in Lancet Oncology last year, 91.9 per cent of American men with prostate cancer were still alive after five years, compared with only 51.1 per cent in Britain.
The same publication suggests that 90.1 per cent of women in the U.S. diagnosed with breast cancer between 2000 and 2002 survived for at least five years, as against 77.8 per cent in Britain.
So it goes on. Overall the outcome for cancer patients is better in America than in this country. So, too, it is for victims of heart attacks, though the difference is less marked.
If you are suspicious of comparative statistics, consult any American who has encountered the NHS. Often they cannot believe what has happened to them - the squalor, and looming threat of MRSA; the long waiting lists, and especially the official target that patients in 'accident and emergency' should be expected to wait for no more than four - four! - hours; the sense exuded by some medical staff that they are doing you a favour by taking down your personal details.
Most Americans, let's face it, are used to much higher standards of healthcare than we enjoy, even after the doubling of the NHS budget under New Labour. Of course, the U.S. is a somewhat richer country, but I doubt its superior health service can be mainly attributed to this advantage.
Americans should beware of any proposals that might threaten their standards, though President Obama is right to want to extend them to the poor.
As for us, it is time we accepted that the NHS is not the envy of the world, if it ever was. Even though it may not deserve many of the brickbats being thrown at it by Right-wing American critics, the practice of rationing expensive cancer drugs and treatments is undoubtedly more widespread in Britain than it is in America.
The principle of equal healthcare for everyone regardless of income is a precious one. The fact is, though, that there are other, better ways to achieve this than through an increasingly inefficient, centrally planned leviathan set up over 60 years ago.
In our hearts many, perhaps most, of us know this. We all have horror stories to tell about the NHS, though we are likely to have good things to say about it, and its sometimes selfless medical staff, as well.
An increasing number of us take out private health insurance, and many others would like to do so if they could only afford to, which hardly indicates unbounded confidence in the NHS.
And yet, despite its shortcomings, we are reluctant to think about changing it, and any politician who suggested doing so might as well slit his own throat.
For all his admiration of the NHS as a result of the treatment it offered his severely disabled son, David Cameron is quite clever enough to recognise its deficiencies, but he will only dare talk about putting ever more money into it as it is. I doubt he will be any braver, or more imaginative, in government.
In view of the failure of President Bill Clinton's healthcare proposals more than 15 years ago, and the opposition he is now facing, the omens may not be good for Mr Obama.
If he really could preserve all that is good about the present U.S. system, while making it available to everyone regardless of income, I would wish him all the luck in the world.
The President is discovering that people are apt to want to defend and preserve what they have. The same is true of we British and our lumbering health service. The difference, though, is that what the Americans have is, for the most part, better than the NHS.
As I pointed out in the aforementioned discussion, even Obama is backing away from an NHS-like single payer system because most Americans value choice (read: freedom) over security. This has nothing to do with our being evil bastards who want the old and poor to die in the streets. Regardless of insurance, if you call 911 an ambulance will come and do whatever they can to save you. If you walk into an ER with a medical problem, you will be admitted and the doctors will do whatever they can to save you.
Afterwards, you may get a bill. I say 'may' because ambulance companies and hospitals have been known to simply 'eat' a bill rather than try to squeeze blood from a stone. Sometimes medical bills go to collection. Sometimes hospitals set up payment plans. Is it going to be cheap? No. As was mentioned in the article, in the US you will probably get more tests than you actually need. This is because of the attitude of 'Cover Your Ass' that has sprung up in our litigous society. Doctors don't want to settle on a diagnosis and treatment without exhausting all other possibilities because they're going to get sued if they're wrong, and that can put them out of business. They already pay an insane amount in malpractice insurance. This is why people who are interested in real insurance reform - not ObamaCare - are so interested in exploring tort reform. That's something the malpractice lawyers aren't so keen on.
When my mom had an attack of appendicitis a few years ago, I knew it was appendicitis just from reading our physician's reference book. Knowing that mom has a high pain threshold and was likely to shrug it off, I insisted that we go to the hospital. The symptoms were there. In fact, when she came to my room asking "is the appendix on the left or the right side?" I started putting on my shoes.
I drove her to the ER and she was admitted, given pain killers, vitals monitored, etc. I told the doctor what her symptoms were and how it looked like appendicitis. He was hesitant. Now, obviously he was the doctor and at the time I was a college student. They weren't going to start slicing mom open because her daughter made a diagnosis. But after several long pre-dawn hours and a bevy of tests, they decided that it was appendicitis after all. They did surgery and, IIRC, she was home the following night.
Last fall I started having some asthma problems. I had asthma when I was little, but everyone figured that I had outgrown it. But out of nowhere, I would start wheezing. Usually I would break out the humidifier and that would help, but one night last winter it just kept getting worse. My dad, who's a paramedic, thought that we should go to the ER.
Naturally, by the time I was signed in, the worst of the wheezing had stopped. But I didn't know if it was going to come back in the middle of the night, or the next day, so I stuck it out. A nurse took my vitals and I was given a bed in the hallway to wait in (it was a busy night and they had people in much worse shape than me). A couple of hours passed and dad and I were talking about going home after all, because they were so busy. Dad asked a passing nurse about discharging. A few minutes later, an intern showed up, listened to my lungs, looked at my chart, gave me a medical inhaler and a rx to get it refilled, and suggested that before I leave I get an chest x-ray to make sure this wasn't TB-related. Since I work with kids, I agreed. In the meantime I got a tetanus shot booster. My condition had nothing to do with tetanus, obviously, but I needed a booster and I was there and they were offering, so I figured, what the hell.
I got the chest x-ray done, it was negative, I had my inhaler and all was well. In the past eight months I have been prescribed a very effective allergy drug which seems to have done away with these asthma attacks. I haven't used the inhaler in ages, but it's there if I need it.
For all this, I paid a $50 ER visit copay and a $5 copay each time I refill my rx. Do I have Cadillac insurance? Nope. I had Blue Cross which I pay about $150/month, through my employer. Before I had a job, I paid for my insurance through a private company, despite the fact that I had and still have a pre-existing condition.
Since this post is pretty long already, I'm going to put the videos of the health-care protest I attended yesterday behind a cut also. I snagged them off Michelle Malkin's site
You can see the lone ObamaBot in this one: