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Health matters

March 23, 2010

This morning was basically Adventures in Doctor-land: visit to my GP first thing, to discuss the progress of my stomach problems (mostly cleared themselves up, FINALLY) and how I’m doing with my second attempt at hormonal contraception (fine so far, cross fingers ). Then to the Endoscopy unit down at the Infirmary, for a test to determine whether said stomach problems are caused by non-specific acid buildup or a colony of helicobacter pylori. (I now have a stomachful of carbon-13, which I was slightly disappointed to find isn’t radioactive.) Then collected my BC scrip on the way back to campus.

Total cost for the morning’s medical shenanigans: 0.

Contraception is the exception to normal prescription rules – it’s free, full stop. Other prescriptions they charge you a flat £7 per scrip (about US$10.50, according to Google) unless you have an official form saying you’re too poor, which at the moment I don’t quite qualify for thanks to the student loan. (Next year, having just heard there will be no funding for the wicked next year, things may well change.) Same applies to my contact lenses – free if you’re very broke, otherwise pay. It’s a manageable level of expense at the moment, but again, may well change.

Needless to say, I’d be in a lot of trouble right about now if I didn’t have reliable contraception, or if I couldn’t have gotten the gastritis treated. If I hadn’t been able to switch BC prescriptions when it became clear that the first one was giving me depressive episodes (or something like them; I have no other experience with clinical depression. But it was one of the worst fortnights of my life) I have no goddamn idea how bad things would be (single and failing, for starters).

Equally needless to say, therefore, is that I love our National Health Service.

This post wasn’t intended as a gloat, honestly; there is a small point at the bottom of all this.

The thing is this.  We’ve had the NHS for years and years now, and successive centre-right-trending – by our standards, anyway – governments haven’t dared touch it. There have been chips away at parts of it, underminings of outlying bits, but the NHS as a whole is basically inviolable. Partly, I think, because even our right-wingers use it and recognise its benefits, and partly because even if the majority of politicians may go private (they certainly do with respect to schools) their voters can’t and don’t. The ubiquity of NHS services creates a feedback loop reinforcing the idea of its indispensability: most people trust and use the NHS, because everyone knows someone who had life-saving or life-changing surgery done in an NHS hospital, because nearly everyone uses the NHS. And round it goes.

The horror stories get more press, and rightly if it helps prevent re-occurrences, but the NHS standards are generally damn good. And so the National Health Service has become part of our national consciousness, something it’s hard to imagine doing without.

Which leads me to the point of this post: the American healthcare reform bill is a bit shit. Really it is. And Bart Stupak’s stupid, reactionary, smug and ill-thought-through amendment is a notable black spot. But for the moment I’m with the people who reckoned it was more important to get something through – because if the NHS is any guide, once wider healthcare provision is in place and saving lives, the very prospect of taking it away will become a massive vote-loser. It can – and needs to, undoubtedly – be improved as it goes along, but once it’s entrenched I suspect it’ll be very hard to get rid of. Political rhetoric can be hard to understand and is easy to wilfully misunderstand, but real people you know not dying is kind of easy to grasp.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul Skinner permalink
    March 23, 2010 3:05 pm

    I think the point here is that healthcare shouldn’t be a profit-making exercise. That’s not healthy (sorry about the pun).

    In order to make something (reasonably) fair for all, you have to withdraw the money aspect because people have varying degrees of money.

    I myself have taken up more than my fair share of expensive treatment for one lifetime which there wouldn’t be a hope in hell of me ever being able to pay for in an entire lifetime if the NHS were a for-profit organisation (and almost certainly I would not get insurance or have extremely high premiums), so perhaps I’m biased.

    I suppose affordable health insurance is a start, but its blaring ambiguity is yet to be solved. What exactly will “affordable” be for those with pre-existing conditions (like myself)?

    As an aside, I believe “script” is the correct abbreviation/slang, but I could be wrong.

  2. wickedday permalink
    March 23, 2010 3:32 pm

    Don’t know about scrip(t) – I’ve seen both online, and never heard it used in conversation, so it could be a UK/US thing or just a bunch of people being wrong.

    I’m hoping that, now this is through, they’ll be able to fix the stupider bits in reconciliation and then build towards a proper nationalised system over the next several years. I’m also hoping that what won’t happen is that the Dems now point to the HCR bill and go “We did stuff already!” whenever anyone asks them to make it better. Also possible, of course.

    What ‘affordable’ means in this bill is anyone’s guess. Again, hoping. The making it illegal to disallow insurance because of pre-existing conditions (and if the insurance companies feel like it anything used to be a pre-existing condition, from acne to domestic abuse. Yeah, they’ve denied coverage to battered women on those grounds before) seems like a big step, though.

    I don’t know how this will pan out, really. I have a feeling that the actual health repercussions of the bill are going to be overshadowed by Republicans screaming about revolution/assassination/secession/all three.

  3. Paul Skinner permalink
    March 23, 2010 5:36 pm

    Or that ever wonderful word “socialism”.

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