Foreign Conversations: Universal Health Care


“So-wait wait wait-even I could go to the doctor for free here even though I’m not a citizen and I haven’t been paying into the National Health System?  I thought I couldn’t go because I haven’t been working and haven’t been paying into the system.”

He looked almost offended he was so distraught over the idea, “No, that would be horrible if that’s how it worked!  That would mean people like you and people like me couldn’t go to the doctor if we needed to.”

That’s my Scottish friend, Collin, a college student of 19 who doesn’t work because he’s focusing on his studies.

This perspective is common here:  the thought that it’s shear insanity that anyone couldn’t afford to go to the doctor.  They always look horrified when I explain that in America I was offered to stay on my dad’s insurance at a meager $400 a month, and that even as an independent contractor providing a necessary service to society, one that is required BY LAW, that I still don’t get and can’t afford health insurance.  There is no sufficient system to shield me from the oppressive costs of the health care system even though I provide a service required by law:  sign language interpreting.   Thank goodness I’m still young and in good health.

“If David hadn’t been able to get his surgery on his hands we wouldn’t be able to keep the farm going, and we certainly wouldn’t have been able to pay for it.  He’d have to just sit around all day and not do anything, and I couldn’t get everything done.”

I could go on with examples, but it might bore you.  The point is that I haven’t ever heard a single person, when I explain the system in the States, say, “Oh, that makes a lot of sense.”  For some reason in the States people are offended, confused, or scared by universal health care.  And quite honestly I don’t understand all the ins and outs of what it would take to make the change, but it does seem like some of the fear in the States comes from  not understanding universal health care.  And the reality that we’re the only western country not to have it doesn’t mean much to us-we still think it doesn’t work.  Maybe it’s because they all feel so far away and we don’t understand much about them.

But I can tell you people here are really happy about their health care.  Maybe it’s just in comparison to ours.  They do know they are talking to an American, after all.  They know theirs is not perfect.  I’ve had a conversation with a young health care professional on what the challenges they are facing in the UK.  But I can say that it’s not as scary as you might think.  And it provides everyone with health care, even those (like me) who provide important services and couldn’t afford it otherwise.

It doesn’t mean that privatized health insurance has gone away here, either.  It’s still possible to buy it in the UK.  And they don’t get dental or vision for free.  That you have to pay for.

But they can be sure that no matter what they can go to the doctor without fear of the bill, which seems like it would be a blessing to those going through what might already be a scary and life altering experience that they otherwise couldn’t receive treatment for.

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2 thoughts on “Foreign Conversations: Universal Health Care

  1. I have deeply enjoyed your stories , insight, descriptions of places, people. & you during this wonderful journey you have been on!
    I am not surprised about their health care system and how they feel about. Americans fear change even change that is for the greater good for all.
    Nancy

    • Thanks so much Nancy! That means do much that you have enjoyed reading. Yeah it’s kind of annoying especially because the fear is based out of low understanding of universal health care

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