I am English (and a dual citizen of England and the United States) and I am increasingly frustrated with the misinformation reported regarding socialized medicine. Several opponents of health care reform--including major conservative radio and TV commentators and several republican politicians--claim that in England major surgery is not given to those over 59. This simply is NOT TRUE!
My Mother had open heart surgery at age 81, is now 88 and doing well. She received excellent care, did not wait three months for a specialist; her surgery was immediate. My cousin recently had heart and lung surgery, he is 70 and his surgery was immediate and successful. Unlike the United States, all people and particularly the elderly are taken care of in England. Further, all English citizens do not pay for any prescriptions after the age of 60.
The biggest difference between their system and ours? Everyone has access to healthcare. E veryone. Comprehensive health care in England, like every civilized country except the United States, is considered to be a right of all people. Apparently, in the United States the people concerned about their rights don't care that millions of Americans currently don't have the same rights.
Opponents to health care reform probably haven't lost a job recently and also lost their health insurance too. As executive director of a major non-profit organization in the U.S., I see people everyday who have been laid off, who need medication, need care, but no longer have insurance and cannot afford to buy it.
Are there problems with the system in England? Of course there are, just like there are problems at any other hospital. Is it acceptable for hospitals to turn away the uninsured? Is that the American Way? What does it say about our system when the first question at the emergency room is not "what is the problem" but "do you have insurance?" And don't we all know someone who has cancer, is struggling with treatments and sickness but must continue to work so that they don't lose their insurance and can continue the treatments? As long as our system ties health insurance to employment, the people of this country will be unable to get sick without being financially devastated.
If our system is so superior, why is the United States so low on the list of the healthiest countries? The USA spends the most on health care of any country in the world yet is ranked only 11th in healthy population. Canada is ranked 8th and has the longest life expectancy in the world; they must be doing something right. Australia is ranked 6th; government involvement seems to work there too.
I am appreciative that my employer provides a health plan that I can buy into and I am very satisfied with the quality of care that I receive and I hope that that quality will not be affected. But I cannot in good conscience support a system that excludes the unemployed, the underemployed and does not support the elderly.
[Rita Inklovich attended college at the University of London and Shippensburg University, grew up and worked in England and is employed in the U.S.]