At one point during my recent Adventures in Extreme Breast Pain, whilst we were trying — and failing — to find a breast specialist who could see me without months of waiting, I said to to my mother, in fear and frustration, that I wished I was back in Britain where at least I understood the system and would know what to do. She snapped back, “Yeah, and where you’d be left to suffer for weeks and weeks before you saw a doctor!”
She’s made that kind generalised assumption many times before when I’ve said something about Britain’s NHS (National Health Service). To be fair, sometimes her comments are accurate, but just as often they are misguided, and the truth is that she doesn’t actually know either way — she’s just speaking from stereotypes she holds in her mind.
Under the circumstances, her snappiness was the last thing I needed and I was tempted to counter like with like, but I kept my cool and made two points to her instead:
The first was that what she described was exactly the situation we were finding ourselves in here in the US thus far, except that we were having to make all the phone calls ourselves to find a specialist instead of it being done for us. We’d rung five so far with no luck at all. In other words, I was being left to wait weeks and weeks to see a doctor, despite my excruciating and debilitating pain.
And the second point was that although I’ve heard generalisations like hers many times from Americans about the UK healthcare system, they are no more accurate than the very widespread belief in Britain that if you are injured in the US, the ambulance will drive off and leave you dying in the ditch if you can’t produce either an insurance card or cold hard cash on the spot. I’ve heard these wild generalisations over and over again on both sides of the Atlantic, and they are always held up as completely true and accurate portraits of the other country’s healthcare system.
But scandal and scare stories are what sell papers, so it’s easy to see why we get a skewed view of reality when we watch or read the news. It’s hard to find calm and accurate explanations of how — and how well — the world’s various health systems work. So it was heartening when I recently came across this article called Mythbusting Canadian Health Care, which attempts to more accurately describe the health system in Canada.
Healthcare is one of the pivotal issues of the US’s upcoming presidential election, and it has the potential to make a huge change to the nation’s standard of living and to its finances. It’s vitally important that Americans seek out facts in order make their decisions on this issue based on good solid information, and not on inaccurate generalisations and scare-mongering — from either side.
With many thanks to Erin at Prairie Road for bringing the article to my attention.