Column: Roger's Soapbox

Stupidity: A Medical Mystery

By: | August 29, 2017 • 3 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

Civilization began some 8,000 years ago. Yet we have never sorted out health care. Man on the moon? Instant worldwide communications? No problem.

Efficient health care for all? Not a hope.

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Three main systems have been tried. In the U.S., whatever help you can afford is available, but millions can’t afford any.

In the UK, everyone is entitled to free health care, but must wait their turn. In parts of the East, health care premiums are paid only by the healthy, but not everyone can afford to be well.

The U.S. situation is fluid, and I know little of the Orient, but I can speak on socialized medicine. And I shall.

Insurers live by the law of averages (and golf). Having enjoyed pretty good health over my lifetime, the law of averages dictates that I would eventually need more frequent medical attention.

This summer, I met socialized medicine and fought it to a tie.

In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) provides free care to anyone in the country for any reason.

It’s a wonderful concept, but an often harsh reality. Serious underfunding renders people and equipment scarce. That’s a recipe for catastrophe, but in the main it works. It’s probably impossible to effect political change that would improve it meaningfully.

We worship money, but it’s useless if you’re unwell. For all the great medical achievements, the best we can offer around the world is half-assed medical care. What are we, just stupid?

The politicians who so callously underfund the NHS have private health insurance. I have private health insurance, covering only major medical. It would move me nearer the front of the line in case of urgency.

When the first disorder appeared a few weeks ago, I went to a private hospital. The receptionist asked why I had not gone to the NHS. I said I didn’t want to eat up its limited resources, and would rather pay for treatment.

Too bad. One may not, by law, see a private doctor before seeing one’s NHS doctor to seek a referral. “This is not America!” the receptionist barked at me. How I wished it were, Trump and all.

Off, then, to my NHS doctor’s office to make an appointment. A 10-day wait to see him was required. On appeal, I was allowed to see a trainee doctor a few days later. She solved the problem: mission accomplished.

An unrelated serious disorder broke out a week later. On my way to book a doctor, I took a turn for the nurse — my father’s perennial joke when illness threatened. And so to the NHS emergency room.  A doctor diagnosed a severe infection and prescribed antibiotics, which led to manifold allergic reactions. That meant a visit to an NHS walk-in clinic.

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That very afternoon, a new problem arose. I’m a wreck, baby. Back to the emergency room. After four hours waiting, my symptoms disappeared, so I did too. Days later, I was back at the clinic, referred to emergency (jamais deux sans trois) and given steroids.

In all, I’ve seen four different doctors and three nurses, and received four medicines. Total cost: $0.

Steroids supposedly induce rage.

Here’s some rage: We worship money, but it’s useless if you’re unwell. For all the great medical achievements, the best we can offer around the world is half-assed medical care. What are we, just stupid?

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]