The other day I was reading an article in the Washington Post about a kid who had a heart attack and was saved due to very expensive medical treatment that doctors tried despite not knowing whether it would work. And it got me thinking about the much maligned U.S. health care system, and my own experiences with it this year, and how it compares to the rest of the world.
Let me put a disclaimer right here: I am not at all educated about health care and the way it works. I know a bit about the U.S. based on my own experience. I also know a bit about health care in France, England, Germany, and Senegal, based on my experience and experiences that Torsten has had. I haven't even seen that Michael Moore movie about this. Seriously, everything I know is based on personal experience and not on any objective, researched literature.
But here's what I think about health care in the U.S.: The system sucks. But the quality of the health care itself does not suck. But I could be wrong.
The system of health care sucks for many reasons, first and foremost being that not everyone is included, and the people who aren't included are the same people who tend to be marginalized and excluded from most societal benefits. Other reasons why it sucks include that it's overburdened, that it's expensive, that insurance is complicated and confusing, that you only really get insurance if you have a traditional full-time job, that the main onus of paying for health care is placed on employers, and that there isn't much of an emphasis on preventive care, which means that more people develop serious medical conditions.
But for people who do have insurance, and do receive treatment for medical issues, the health care itself is good. At least most of the time. Sure, there are bad doctors and people sometimes have bad experiences, and that's true everywhere in the world. But we have a lot of great doctors here. We have a lot of really impressive medical technology. We have state-of-the-art hospitals. We have excellent and varied treatment.
Yes, the systems are overburdened and doctors are often rushed and on call for 36 hours (or more) straight. But compare this to Britain's NHS, which provides a basic--very basic--level of care for free to everyone. Nurses are often rude, hospitals are overflowing, people are sent home or shunted aside when they have serious conditions that need to be dealt with, waiting times are outrageous, and the overall level of care is deplorable. The NHS is infamous for this kind of service, or lack thereof.
But then I hear horror stories from people here in the U.S.--but they never come from primary sources. It's always a friend of a friend whose doctor diagnosed her in two minutes, incorrectly, and almost killed her with a mistaken prescription. I have never personally experienced anything like that. Yes, doctors run late and waiting rooms are full, but when I finally see the doctor, he treats my problem, and he treats it well. And if I don't like a doctor, I can find another doctor and get a second opinion.
I firmly believe that everyone in the U.S. should have access to this level of health care, regardless of ability to pay. I believe that the system is flawed and it needs to be fixed. But I've never witnessed poor quality of health care itself. It seems to me that the 6/7 of U.S. residents who do have insurance have it pretty good. But like I said, I really don't know much about it beyond my own experience.
So my question is, have I just been incredibly lucky with the doctors I've encountered and the insurance plans that I've had? Have you had terrible experiences in medical settings, in the U.S. or otherwise? How do you think the health care itself--not the health care system--in the U.S. measures up to that of other countries?
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