Kim Arrand spoke at a public meeting in Farnham held in support of Dr Louise Irvine, chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign, who is standing against Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in the General Election.
Her account of the US health system is personal and very illuminating. For that reason we have published it here in full.
I was born in the United States and lived there until 2003, when I married and moved to the U.K. I spent ten years — from 1993 until 2003 — as a billing manager for a group of doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. So I know a little bit about the healthcare system in the US and specifically, how private (for profit) companies operate in conjunction with public healthcare. I also know what privitization does to doctors, nurses, administrators, families and the unfortunate patients who suffer from a profit driven healthcare system.
There’s no single payer healthcare system in the US except for Medicaid and Medicare. These government programs are for the very poor and the elderly. Even these programs are under attack as some politicians in Washington tell us that there isn’t enough money to fund them and so elderly patients will have to make larger co-payments for their doctor visits, some prescriptions and medical procedures. ( I confirmed this with my 83 year old mother last night!)
Insurance is normally provided through employers but as premiums rise, more and more employers are opting out of this benefit, forcing Americans to buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act. On average, Americans can expect to pay upwards of $350 or more per month for mid level insurance that covers a portion of doctor visits, procedures, medicine and prescriptions. This is for ONE person.
Insurance companies are allowed to raise their premiums every year and doctors will opt in and out of insurance networks so American citizens have to make the decision to stay with their current plan and doctor and eat the rising cost of the premium — or shop around for a new plan and a new doctor.
If a laboratory processes your blood work but they’re not in your network then you will pay for the lab tests. If a medical procedure is done by an out-of-network practitioner then you will pay for the procedure.
In the past two years I have personally organized two fundraisers for friends who were diagnosed with cancer. My friend, Julie, was left without medical insurance when she went through a divorce and couldn’t afford to see a doctor so her cancer symptoms went undiagnosed for months. She died last month. She was 44 years old.
My other friend, Carol, is 69 years old and has Medicare but we had to raise funds for her to help with the co-payments for her chemotherapy, prescriptions and doctor visits.
This is the state of healthcare in the US which is almost completely privatized. The most wealthy country in the world doesn’t provide healthcare services to its citizens, claiming that there is no money for it. And this is what we hear from our leadership in the UK… there is no money. I submit to you that there is money. This country is awash in money and wealth. There is no political will to make public services — such as healthcare — a priority for citizens like you and me.
We all have one vote and it is our only chance to speak truth to power. That is why I am throwing support behind Dr. Irvine.