Stephen Bates fell off a ladder while painting his house. Hey - anyone could do it. This accident caused him a serious fracture to his leg. He paints an honest picture of a health service under strain, but delivering decent care and - this is the important bit - removing the fear from illness and injury.
I have so far spent three weeks in hospital, had four operations under general anaesthetic, daily home visits from district nurses and face weeks, if not months, of more care. Yet I have never been asked for my credit card or insurance documents before treatment, as I was the only time I fell ill while visiting the in-laws in the US. No one has murmured that this treatment or that service might be a little on the expensive side, or will incur a delay. And no one – despite what conservative Republicans allege – has yet questioned whether my life is still worth living, or whether amputation would be cheaper. I can't tell what my treatment has cost the NHS, but I have some idea what it might have been in the US thanks to the in-laws' doctor, who gave an estimate based on prices in Houston. The figures are eye-watering. She reckons: $12,000 per operation; up to $3,500 for anaesthetics each time; hospital at $500 a day and ambulance $300 a trip. That's not counting the cost of medicine. It adds up to more than $76,000, or at least £47,000. We'd have had to sell the house I was so rashly attempting to paint.
There's also an interesting comment added onto the original article, from a MarcoScorce
I live in the US, and in June my employer terminated the health insurance benefits, with three days of warning. After 19 years of health insurance I saw the monthly cost going from $350 to $1200 for a family of 6., and now with 3 days of warning, I was with no insurance and 4 kids at home. While shopping around for a private health insurance, on June 15th I was in a car accident, I was not at fault, the other guy lost control and hit my car. In the ER, as soon as they found out I was uninsured, they "stabilized" me, pumped me up with heavy-duty pain killer, and released me the same afternoon. I had three broken vertebrae in my neck. After a few days, of agonizing pain, I went to see a doctor. To make it short, urgent surgery was needed to avoid being paralyzed for life. $60,000 dollars later, I am at home, partially healed, in debt for $50K (friends and family pitched in and loaned me the $$, surgery could not be postponed, now I would love to pay the money back, but I do not have that amount of cash on hand. Auto insurance will come into play, but it could be up to two years before they pay, and even then it will not be for the full amount. The other guy had minimal insurance, and my insurance added up does not cover the total amount I spent, so far in excess of $60K. And I will probably have to hire an attorney for the legal fight, and that alone will cost me about 40% of anything that will be recovered from the insurance. In the meantime I have been making calls to finally acquire health insurance, but all the company I called so far, either refused to insure me or priced me out of the policy, because of
the injuries in the car accident. So, now I am still uninsured, not of my own will, still somewhat hurt, $50k in debt, spent $10k of my cash reserve, and mad as hell.
That first line is one of the major drivers behind the healthcare plan - while there are currently 40 million or so uninsured Americans, that number is likely to rocket as companies withdraw their healthcare benefits or restrict them to existing scheme members only - rather like the current company action over final salary pension schemes in this country. Many millions more could find themselves without protection for themselves and their families and something has to be done and quickly.
This poor guy ended up $60k in debt through no fault of his own.