February 1, 2015

THE OTHER ALTERNATIVE TO UNIVERSAL HSAs:

What it's like when you're an American using Britain's NHS (JIM EDWARDS, JAN. 29, 2015,, Business Insider)

AMERICA IS WORSE AT ON-THE-DAY CARE

In America, I've always had a long wait to see my doctor. I have read many a back issue of Newsweek in my primary care / general practitioner (GP) doctor's office. I've sat there for an hour playing with my phone while the doc sees patients in the order they were booked.

In the UK, I showed up at 9am and was seen instantly, at the Waterloo Health Centre. For an American, this was bizarre: My butt barely touched the seat in the waiting room before my name was called. Turns out my doc and her staff are serious about patient scheduling.

This was one reason I became convinced that the NHS way of scheduling is superior: You might not get the time or date that you want, but once you're in, you get seen super-quick.

THE NHS ACTIVELY DISCOURAGES SOME PATIENTS - FOR GOOD REASON

The NHS actively discourages some types of patients: Interestingly, NHS offices and hospitals have posters up all over the place warning you not to show up at the emergency room if you have a cold or the flu. They're actively discouraging patients with minor ailments from seeking emergency treatment, and trying to get them to see their regular doctors instead. It's sensible -- everyone knows that a vast amount of hospital time and money is wasted treating people who are not an emergency. And hospitals and doctor's surgery waiting rooms are a hotbed of germs. But still, it's a culture shock to see a medical institution put up signs that basically say, "go home, you idiot!" in every waiting room.

The US never discourages patients from doing anything. I've never seen any kind of public campaign to persuade patients to apply some common sense before dropping themselves off at an emergency room. The entire US pharmaceutical industry is also dedicated to running ads encouraging people to "go see your doctor" for even the most trivial of conditions.
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THERE IS BASICALLY NO PAPERWORK WITH THE NHS

There is a load of paperwork for patients in the US. This is easily the worst aspect of US healthcare -- the billing paperwork. If you've ever had any health issue that required more than a simple doctor visit, you will know that it precipitates a seemingly never-ending series of forms, bills, and letters. You can be paying bills months, years later. And it's almost impossible to correct a billing error. It's stressful. I developed an intense hatred for health insurance companies in the US because of this.

There was close to zero paperwork in the NHS. I filled in a form telling my doc who I was and where I lived, and that was pretty much it. The only other paperwork I got was a letter in the mail reminding me of my next appointment. They sent me a text reminder, too, which no American doc has ever done. It was incredibly refreshing. [...]


THE COST TO THE PATIENT IS MUCH CHEAPER IN THE UK, OBVIOUSLY

So how much did all this NHS care cost me? £0. Nothing. Zero. I paid not a penny for some top-notch healthcare. There is no such thing as a "free," of course, but the per-capita cost of healthcare in the UK (paid by the government via tax collections) is generally lower than the US, according to the World Health Organization. Americans spend $8,362  per capita on healthcare annually, the Brits spend $3,480.

Posted by at February 1, 2015 5:01 PM
  

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