A question to you Americans.....

I live in the UK and we pretty much hear nothing but bad stuff about the US health system, the costs, the insurance fees, the bills, the way people who aren't insured can't get treatment etc etc.

But all these tv shows, HawthoRNe, Nurse Jackie, ER, Chicago Hope, to name but a few, all seem to show that if you turn up ill at a hospital, you'll get treated. If you're homeless (HawthoRNe), you'll get first rate treatment, kept in hospital until you're well PLUS your potentially handicapped (spina bifida was mentioned, a serious, ongoing condition that is currently incurable and normally means a wheelchair) baby will be kept in hospital for weeks, no questions asked etc. In ER, any number of vagrants and 'poor' people were given all kinds of life-saving and bang up to date treatment; in Nurse Jackie, again, there seems to be no mention of how people can afford the multiple treatments they are given.

Now this is either because of one of two things. Either we (the viewing public) are being lied to about how good US healthcare is, and it really is readily available for all-comers at the ER bay doors OR the TV companies are in cahoots with the HC companies to give a sanitized image of the care available. Can any of you guys tell me which it is?



Jun 25, 2009 12:27PM EDT

This really is a valid point, but in actuality, yes the health care system in America sucks. In ER, it's a county hospital so everyone is treated no matter if they have insurance, but they still have to pay out of pocket, usually they don't show this on TV because it has no relevance to the case or main plot points in the episode. But on occasion, there are episodes in shows like Grey's Anatomy and ER where the financial situation of the patient is the main focus the episode. In that case, they would show the hospital or surrounding community coming together to help the patient or patients with their hospital bills. Like in the episode of Grey's Anatomy where Joe, the bartender and owner of the main casts usual after work hang-out, can't afford an extremely expensive operation. They end up finding a way to help him in the end, but that's TV. Normally it doesn't work like that around here. We have one of the worst health care systems in the world. Movies like John Q showcase this fact for everyone to see. So the homeless guys, single mothers who can't afford insurance, and other people in dire straits in this country unfortunately don't get the help they desperately need. But that's just the way it works around here I guess. People who actually need help not getting it, and people like Paris Hilton and other nameless celebrities getting it in excess. But what can we do about it? We're just citizens of this country. What say do we have.

Large 1323446677 14042011110
Jun 25, 2009 1:46PM EDT

Thanks. I just found the homeless lady/baby storyline on HawthoRNe to be so incredibly unlikely if even HALF of what we hear about it over here is true. I like how you say people are charged anyway. How can you charge a homeless person anything - let alone hospital stays and treatment plus the costs of looking after a baby with sb (and yes, I know it's not always a wheelchair result, but it often means a fairly severe mobility handicap).I just felt it went beyond the realms of possibility, let alone probability.

Default avatar cat
Jun 25, 2009 3:53PM EDT

If you don't have insurance, you pay. Not just for the ER, you pay to walk through the door at the doctor's (GP) office. And good luck if you need to be referred to a specialist. When I had my wisdom teeth out, my mother was talking to another person in the waiting room, he said he had to pay $800 to walk through their doors.
The NHS isn't perfect, but you are so lucky you don't have to worry about the cost of insurance.

Large 1323446677 14042011110
Jun 25, 2009 5:05PM EDT

We do pay but collectively, through our taxes, and yes, choices do have to be made about what treatments can be offered, which is not great, but at least we know we won't lose our home if we develop cancer! It's true that not everyone can have everything. I could have sued recently for a minor break in a finger that was missed by the ER and now I have a crooked finger. I could have probably got a couple of K for it - but I'd only be taking money from someone else's treatment; maybe an incubator or someone needing fertility treatment or something, so I didn't. Big of me? No. I still have a badly crooked finger, but thanks to the treatment I got, it works fine, it's just lacking a bit aesthetically. My kids could be hurt and need treatment. That's why I didn't take the money. 'Socialist' medicine isn't the bee all and end all, but it's a relief to know it's there when we need it.By the way, though our dentistry is subsidised, we still have to pay something for it. I have to get a crown soon and it's costing me about £200, tht's about $350. I guess that's cheaper than private, by some distance, but it's still a bit of an ouch!

Default avatar cat
Jun 27, 2009 12:32AM EDT

My mother is a nurse and healthcare goes by our social security numbers in the US. If you are a homeless person and you go to a hospital the hospital is required to stabilize you but then they don't have to give you life saving surgery. Private doctors arent going to see the homeless people only hospitals obviously. Once the homeless person is stabilized their credit rating is going to be shot to hell since they cant pay the bill (and they will have a hard time getting any loans) and it would take probably years and lots of money to fix if that person ever stopped being homeless. That is what would happen to the homeless person. Now on the hospital's side they would have to file with our current medicare system and open what is called an indigent account to reimburse the hospital for the money spent on the homeless person. So in other words the US government (and the tax payers!) are paying for the homeless person to be treated. The same thing usually happens with illegal immigrants who come to the United States and get sick, which causes much resentment towards them unfortunately as one would expect.
Now if you are someone who actually cares about your credit and are working class, and STILL CANT afford to pay for insurance (roughly 50 million of the 300 million Americans or about 1 out of every 6 Americans). By the way insurance is usually thousands of dollars every year [paid either monthly,every three months or biannually] depending on how large your family is and whether anyone has any pre-existing ailments). Then you have to fit the bill yourself up front. Let me through out some figures here to reattach a chopped off finger it can be between 15,000 and 30,000 US and to get a transplants expect to pay at 200,000 to 300,000 US. Those are rough figures but somewhat close.
Now if you have insurance either that you paid for by yourself (from a company) or how most people get it through there job then you may or may not actually have good coverage. For instance my family is probably middle middle class so my parents have good coverage my mom since she works at the hospital and my dad has decent coverage from the government. When you have good coverage then your deductibles will be low depending on what you need medicines, surgeries etc. You may only have to pay 10 percent of total costs with your company and private insurance provider paying the rest every time. Other policies depending on how good they are you have to pay more than ten percent some you only have to pay a certain amount before you dont have to pay anymore for the whole year; there are several different plans. The real problem comes from when you arent working at a big company which most people arent then you will have crappy coverage (ie HMOs) and what you actually get help paying for is severely limited because that is the only plans that the employers can afford.
Another thing is that since the government doesnt have their own form of healthcare the private companies screw over poor people and sometimes retract what they say they were supposed to cover and all kinds of bs. If they dont want to pay they may make you fill out papers and wait months drowning you in redtape cause they know the poor cant afford lawyers. You really have to watch them they are sneaky shady bastards.The Private insurance companies also set prices with each other and have very little regulation since they have a lot of money, power and they bribe the congressmen who make the laws regulating them, oh yes and all of this is loosely legal it is called lobbying. Lobbying is what all the big corporations; tobacco, insurance, alcohol, and others do by "donating" campaign donations etc. Thank goodness that my family has multiple insurances from both my parents and my sister is a lawyer so they cant get away with all of their crap.
If you want to learn more about the problems with insurance in the US, i suggest you watch Sicko by Michael Moore. If you want to see the people who are for it them you can look up the conservative, Republican stance also. Im more of the liberal, Democratic view myself, some would call me socialist ;).
Personally I cant wait till i finish college and move to Europe :)

Large 1323446677 14042011110
Jun 27, 2009 5:10AM EDT

I saw Sicko - I ranked that in amongst my original comment that just about everything we hear bout the US health care system etc.The more I'm reading of you guys replies, the more I'm thinking it's a huge control issue. If your job gives you half decent health care plans, then you are more liable to take any amount of c*** from your company because the health care is more important than your dignity - ergo lower wages, other benefits & working conditions etc.No wonder Govts protect it so hard. If health care was more affordable ( I broke a rib in Switzerland once - thank goodness we'd taken out insurance because the bills came in for months afterwards and there were a lot of zeros on the end....) people wouldn't have to eat dirt and could force social and economic change on the country. We're talking revolution here I guess! It's always fascinating, when you follow these things through, how everything is linked up and impacts on everything else.Yes, I get the thing about illegal immigrants. There's a certain amount of dissent over here about that too; not just illegals but people coming here on 'holiday' and suddenly needing some operation that they couldn't afford back home and getting the NHS (National Health service) to pick up the bill. Seems a bit rough when people here who've paid tax towards their health all their lives suddenly can't get a particular drug because there's not enough money in the pot or something. 'm finding this a very enlightening debate, and I do think, to a degree, that the viewers are being given a very rosy-tinted view through our tv programmes.

Default avatar cat
Jun 27, 2009 8:35AM EDT

I know you pay for the NHS through taxes, I live in England. But the difference is a lot. Even to get medicine is very cheap. I'd prefer NHS over the health care in the US anyday,

Default avatar cat
Jun 27, 2009 6:00PM EDT

Things are looking better tho since Obama got in office and is a democrat who usually are more for social programs and government oversight in the marketplace (the Republicans are more for free market and corporations, and either tend to be very wealthy or conservative in religious view the two things Republicans are known for).
As of right now Obama is trying to put in place a National Healthcare system for all Americans. He is having a hard time raising the money and being able to afford such a costly undertaking. One of the first steps was the huge blow he dealt to tobacco who has been lobbying since the beginning of the 20th century successfully. Even all the money they give away couldnt save them in the recession especially when you look at all the figures. Between 2000 and 2004 193 billion dollars was lost due to health related illnesses caused by cigarettes. One of every five preventable deaths in the US is attributed to cigarette smoking that is 438,000 deaths a year. Every day 3600 US children between 12 and 17 smoke their first cigarette.
Now there will be warning labels that cover 50 percent of the front and the rear of cigarette packages. All cigarettes that have the name light, mild, low will no longer be sold. All flavored cigarettes (including fruit and chocolate) will no longer be sold. Cigarette companies will no longer be allowed to advertise within a 1000 feet of schools or playgrounds. MOST IMPORTANLY for the first time in history the amount of nicotine and other products inside of cigarettes is actually going to be regulated by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) which it wasnt before, in other words tobacco companies put whatever the hell they wanted to in there regardless of how poisonous it was.
Obama is hoping to have a national healthcare plan drawn up by october so with any luck we may know if the US is going to have a form of nationalized healthcare by the end of 2009. I got these from Associated Press so I know they are 100% accurate.
Still personally id say any significant changes wont go into effect until at least this time next year :)

Large 1323446677 14042011110
Jun 28, 2009 4:51AM EDT

Wow. These are really huge changes. Kudos Obama. Chocolate flavoured ciggies! I've never heard of them. That's clearly aimed at kids - how can anyone argue anything else? (Can't be women because we're always dieting and try to resist chocolate - lol).It seems bizarre that the contents of ciggies has never been regulated before. I have no idea what the situation is over here (I think menthol is the only 'flavoured cigs we get) as regards ingredients. I think the banning of 'low' and 'mild' is a great idea but I imagine they'll just figure something else. I know we have the pictures on the packs too, but I'm dubious how effective they are. I can imagine 12 year olds trying to collect the whole set etc.Though I'm fairly 'up' on the US political system, having followed the election with great interest, we, over here, have not been told about the changes to the cigarette situation. I wonder why not? The problem with the ciggie makers is that their new markets in the east and India etc are where they'll grow their new market, where the rules are not yet in place to protect the people. I smoked (maybe a couple of packs a week) when I was in my early 20's and because I never got the 'high' or the 'kick' from them, (and I puffed away on soft pack Marlboro and Gaulois, rough French cigs too) giving up was relatively easy for me as I'd never managed to get the nicotine effect. Don't know why it didn't 'work' for me, but in a way I'm quite glad it didn't in retrospect. I still respect peoples right to smoke, fully aware, as they must be by now, about the effects on their system. But I object to the targeting of kids though I'm at a loss to know, as it's illegal, how it can be stopped. So good luck with your health care system. Once the insurance companies can work out how they can sell products to the health service and still make a profit, they'll come on board. Let them make money out of it and they'll stop resisting.

Jun 28, 2009 11:58AM EDT

That sure is a valid point about the hospital shows. I just saw Hawthorne last night and even though I thought that I was going to dislike the show, I enjoyed it a lot. I did however agree with you about the spina bifida. We all know that was make believe. With health care the way it is now, the baby may have stayed, but the homeless mom.....never

Large 1323446677 14042011110
Jun 28, 2009 12:31PM EDT

My point was that we see this sort of thing over and over again - no matter who you are or what your circumstances, the miracle doctors and nurses will find a way to get you the operation or treatment that you need.TV is doing great PR for the health insurers!

Default avatar cat
Aug 9, 2009 7:50PM EDT

Well, that's why they call it fiction I guess. I mean, real life is never as cuddly as we see it on television. Imagine a TV-show where the star doctor/nurse turns away heaps of patients with lines like 'Sorry, baby, but money makes the world go round and round and the hospital doors swing...' Now who would watch that kind of show?

Large 1323446677 14042011110
Aug 10, 2009 4:20AM EDT

Ah reality TV. Gotta love it!

Default avatar cat
Aug 15, 2009 3:36PM EDT

Actually, the health system HAS to treat you if you are indigent. Bby law they cannot turn you away.
For non-emergiences the city government has their own health care system for the poor. Their own hospital and their own doctors AND dentists. The city requires you to prove how muh income you have but if you qualify all healthcare and dental care is free. If you have a family it is free for them as well.
And for those who do have insurance, we can choose who we want to treat us. In a graduating class of medical professionals with grades ranging from A to D...they're all called doctor.

I've been on both sides of the fence. Poor and comfortable. I've gotten sick, needed a teeth cleaning both times. I have no complaints.

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