The Best Healthcare in the World

LaVonne Neff, an editor, writer, and blogger I admire, has written an excellent post on healthcare entitled “Rationing is not a four-letter word”; it was called to my attention by my good friend Ellen Painter Dollar.

Ellen writes:

One of LaVonne’s strengths is her ability to write about current policy debates from a faith angle, and to do so convincingly without being strident.

LaVonne writes:

We Americans are smart. We could find a way to provide necessary medical care for everybody. Perhaps someday, when all our present Members of Congress have finally passed away, a totally new set of lawmakers will figure out how to do it. But first we’re going to have to realize that rationing can be a tool used for the common good, or it can be a buzzword used to scare people who haven’t noticed that haphazard rationing–our present nonsystem–is the cruelest approach of all.

and LaVonne again:

When you add government expense to private expense, American health care is 65% more expensive than France’s and 100% more expensive than the U.K.’s. And for that, what do we get?

Well, you know what I’m going to say…


One Deadly Infection, Two Healthy Babies, and Three Broken Legs (or, how Government Healthcare Totally Saved My Behind)

Brace yourselves. I’m about to step on a soapbox.*

Much as I’d like to go all armchair-Constitutional-scholar and argue that access to affordable health care SHOULD be in the same category as education, fire-fighting, and law enforcement, I’m not going to.

I’m just going to tell you what has happened in MY family.

February, 2005, California

Pregnant with first child. Am on crappy private insurance that costs like $500 a month in premiums but covers almost nothing. Calculate that cost of having child will be approximately half our yearly income.

Freak out.

Find great California state government program that we buy into for 1% of our yearly salary, while they, in turn, cover all out-of-pocket healthcare costs, for me AND for the baby.


Except that the insurance carrier (thanks for nothing, Blue Cross of California!) dragged their feet so long in paying that the hospital called me when Aidan was 2 weeks old or something and said I owed like $10,000.

Freak out again. They eventually pay, but not until I have to wait hours on the phone while the recording assures me that Blue Cross cares about me.

April, 2008, Scotland

Living in Scotland. Have received excellent prenatal care under the NHS. On the 20th, I give birth under seriously ideal–though not fancy–conditions, conditions that are CLEARLY motivated by concern for good care, not over who’s gonna sue? Am given pot of tea and plate of toast once baby comes.

Depart hospital that evening (by my choice, I could’ve stayed) and am visited daily for 10 days by midwives who weigh the baby, check us both over, and ascertain that we’re doing well, physically and emotionally.

October, 2008, Scotland

Graeme, about 6 months old, is really sick. Bronchitis with a fever and endless vomiting. I take him to the doctor a number of times just to make sure he’s okay–he’s not. We get orders for admission to the pediatric ward. Semi-miraculously, he recovers.

June, 2009, Rome

We are in Rome on a business trip/holiday. Graeme, now a little more than 1 year, gets sick, maybe with heatstroke. Fever is high; he keeps vomiting, he’s barely waking up. We go to the hospital and try to make ourselves understood. Graeme is given an IV, and recovers splendidly.

August, 2009, France

We are in France on a scholarship. Aidan slips on a wet supermarket floor and fractures his leg badly. He is taken to the hospital to have his leg set, and has several follow-up visits while we’re there.

broken leg #1

October, 2009, Germany

We are living in Germany now. Aidan has his cast removed, but needs (and receives) physical therapy.

At the same time, Graeme cuts his head badly and needs stitches, which he gets.

At the same time, I get a really nasty case of mastitis (on the weekend OF COURSE) which sends me to the ER. Then I get a secondary infection from the antibiotics and have to go back to the doctor.

November, 2009, Germany

Graeme gets a really serious staph infection (MRSA) and is hospitalized for 8 days and needs several follow up visits with a doctor. THANK GOD, he recovers completely.

July, 2010, Germany

Graeme breaks his leg, and I am totally impressed by the ER/ortho team that x-rays, diagnoses, casts, and discharges Graeme in, like, an hour flat. Reminds me of the story my dad told of a fight breaking out at a beer fest in Germany. The whole thing was over and cleaned up in 10 minutes. Efficiency!

broken leg #2

October, 2010, New York

We are back in NY. Aidan breaks his leg. Thankfully, we are among the 1 in 3 or 4 New Yorkers that qualifies for some form of government-assisted health insurance. Nonetheless, I spent HOURS on the phone trying to find a doctor who will take our insurance. Finally, we have to take him to another emergency room to wait for hours until he can be seen.

broken leg #3

(Because what really gets in the way of the doctor-patient relationship? Not the government. Money, and The Insurance Mess.)

Believe me when I tell you I have also left out a lot of other things. These are just the highlights.

And I think you’ll believe me when I say that if I was in the US for all those things–or in less generous states like Texas–I probably would STILL be paying the bills. Or else filed for bankruptcy.

By dumb luck, that’s not what happened, and I’m grateful.

It should be within every person’s ability to take care of their health, and that of their children, without going bankrupt…and I think the free market has had a fair shot at making that happen, and lost.

I have to chuckle when I hear reference to “the US healthcare system.” Because there isn’t one. There just isn’t.

Oh, wait. There is one. It works great. It’s more socialized than the system in Germany. It’s called the VA. It’s socialized medicine! And it works great! My dad says that military healthcare was a major incentive for enlistment and re-enlistment in his day–especially for people who were married with kids.

As far as partisan politics go, no less a Republican than Richard Nixon tried in 1974 to make a ‘Medicare for all’ move. You know who opposed it vocally? Ted Kennedy. Because he didn’t want Nixon to make a move that would be so popularly,well, popular. Because it would have been. And according to Ben Stein (Nixon’s speechwriter) the Nixon plan was much more “comprehensive” (yea, socialist?) than Obama’s. What is this about? Massive change in what each party stands for, or total partisan b.s. all ’round?

I really don’t care which initial is in parentheses after a politician’s name. I just like to see policies that are good for the people who don’t have enough money to buy a dental cleaning, MUCH LESS A SENATOR. Besides, didn’t Jesus expressly say something about doing good to those who CAN’T do anything in return?

No system is perfect. But the US doesn’t have a system, period.

I’m really hoping that yesterday’s decision means maybe we will.

(and now I will step off my soapbox.)

*Jana Riess advises that blogs are not soapboxes, and she’s right. </rant> =)