June 02, 2008

Universal Health Care: THIS is why not

When Linda O'Boyle wanted just a few more months with her family and chose to pay out of pocket for a drug that would work against her colon cancer and allow her to do that, she was dropped from Britain's National Health Service coverage:

Mrs O'Boyle was operated on in January last year for colon cancer and the doctors found it had spread to her stomach lining.

The former NHS assistant occupational therapist, who has three sons, twins
Gerald and Anthony, 37, and Mark, 33, as well as grandchildren Luke,
four, Finn, three, Jemima, two and Darcey, two, then had six weeks of

She continued with this until September last year when she and her husband were told the devastating news there was little more doctors could do.

However, her consultant recommended Cetuximab, which could extend her life. But it is available on the NHS only in Scotland, not in England and Wales.

It is one of many medicines the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence denies to some patients because of cost.

Mrs. O'Boyle's decision to take it meant she and her husband had to spend 11,000 over two months for care from Southend University Hospital HS Foundation Trust.

Mr O'Boyle, an NHS manager for 30 years, said: 'I think every drug should be available to all of us if there's a need for that drug to be used.

'I offered to pay for it but was told I couldn't continue with the treatmentwe were receiving at the hospital-The consultant was flabbergasted - he was very upset.'

He added: 'I was always very anti private treatment. But everything she had wasn't working and it was a last resort.

'We were lucky we had the money, it's the people who have no recourse to it that struggle. It is wrong that they are denied the chance.'

Mr. O'Boyle, who said he was convinced the drug had extended his wife's life by three months, added: 'If these guidelines were changed it would be a wonderful legacy for my wife.'

Medical experts say the ban on co-payment is one reason why Britain has one of the worst survival rates for cancer in Europe.

You see, having a two-tier system wouldn't do. Linda couldn't use NHS services and ALSO pay for a drug that others couldn't afford. How much did she really want to live? Enough to burden her husband with a mountain of debt for all her care for just a few months more?

Cake Eater Kathy lays it all out.

Nice, huh? A lifetime of taxes to pay for a health care system that actually employed this woman and her husband, only to be betrayed in the end because she was willing to pay out of pocket for a few more months on this Earth. She wasn't looking for a cure. She knew that was beyond her. She was simply looking for a palliative treatment which could extend her life a bit. Just a bit.

She was asked, "How badly do you want to live?" And she replied that she wanted just a few more months with her family. She paid the price for a drug that wasn't available under universal healthcare, and she did it gladly, only to be smacked with a frozen mackerel in the end. Her actions would create a "two tier" health care system, and that, apparently, cannot be allowed, because that would mean she wasn't receiving lowest common denominator health care, like everyone else does with the NHS, and the NHS cannot stand that. She thought she had the right to choose what her healthcare was worth to her, and that she wasn't going to be penalized for her decision. One would suspect, with universal healthcare, that that would be a reasonable assumption. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

And yet this atrocious system is what some people would have us install here in the US. This is what some people want because their health insurance premiums are too high, and they would prefer not to have to pay them, but would rather let the government run things. It's tidier in theory, but absolutely disgusting in practice.

Again, how badly do you want to live?

Governments with nationalized healthcare systems don't want to give their citizens a choice. Patients are blackmailed, ultimately, into going with the lowest common denominator treatment if the the choice is between that or nothing at all because they don't have spare millions on hand to pay for private care.

My friends, this is what Universal healthcare means. Like anything else, when you cater to the lowest common denominator, the quality decreases. That's what the "lowest" part means.

But Kathy says it better than I ever could. She has lived it. Go read about what Universal healthcare means for Ovarian cancer patients in Europe compared to the treatment she recieved here in the US. It's shocking and frightening. Definitely something to consider as we go to the polls.

Posted by caltechgirl at June 2, 2008 11:58 AM | TrackBack

Oh, my God. That poor woman and her family... and they worked for the system!

I know little to nothing about socialized medicine, but I know I don't want it.

Posted by: pam at June 2, 2008 01:52 PM

thankee, darlin'. ;)

Posted by: Kathy at June 2, 2008 06:46 PM

Ban on co-payment? That's sick. No wonder my uncle (second-cousin's husband) in England died - all they did was give him morphine and say, "Go nicey-nice to a Hospice," -they're disgusting.

Posted by: DirtCrashr at June 3, 2008 09:27 AM

THAT is why I have a problem with the idea of universal health care. Because it rapidly morphs from "safety net for people who are badly off" into "Everyone gets the same minimal standard of care because that's the only thing that's FAIR."

In other words: why the hell should anyone work hard or save up money, maybe against some kind of medical emergency, if they're going to be told they get kicked out of any future benefits because they want to use THEIR money for a different/better treatment.

(This will also KILL any innovation in treatments - there's no incentive to try new things if they're not "approved" by Mama Government.)

If they proposed this kind of system, for, say, food - where everyone's issued a pound of kind-of-crappy hamburger, a couple cans of green beans, and a jug of Kool-Aid a week, everyone would be up in arms. Why do people want it with healthcare?

(The other thing that scares me about universal healthcare coming here? I have aging parents. I sure as Hell do not want to be told, "Well, there's a treatment that could ease their pain and extend their lives, but we can't use it." Hell no. You want to see me throttle a doctor, and then go and throttle politicians? That would do it.)

Posted by: ricki at June 3, 2008 09:28 AM

Everytime I hear these healthcare horror stories and how bad ours is, and how much worse it is elsewhere I can't help but wonder - Is there ANYPLACE in the world that has a workable healthcare system? Are there ANY solutions out there to improve ours and put the brakes on rising costs? Is is possible to find a solution that'll use the best of both worlds and make most everybody, if not all the people, happy?

Just something I think of when I hear about the problems with our healthcare system. I hear a lot of griping, a lot of arguing, but few workable solutions to fix it.

Posted by: diamond dave at June 3, 2008 09:55 AM

How about this scenario., hardworking mom, a receptionist at a strip mall dental office m-f and a museum guard on the weekends. No medical insurance. Where does she go when in pain? Got any ideas? Try county, take a ticket, no chairs so you get to stand. Takes the whole day to do so which puts said woman at risk for loosing her job. Often, by the time she's diagnosed, she's in deep sh@#$t. hell, lets lay it on thick, she's diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. Are we crying yet? please..my best friend died of ovarian cancer. She was a teacher for the LA Unified school district and although insured, she discovered that at UCLA, reputed to have the best care, (which she paid for out of pocket), those with money were those that received good care. If thats the case what do you think happened to our dental receptionist?

Posted by: royal pine at June 3, 2008 10:45 AM

"...it is available on the NHS only in Scotland, not in England and Wales."

Tangentially, this is also one of the many reasons why the UK may be headed for a breakup, and soon.

On this subject generally, I always go back to what P.J. O'Rourke said about it: "if you think health care's expensive now, just wait until you see how much it costs when it's free."

Posted by: Dave J at June 3, 2008 07:27 PM

royal, its a shame many of our government run County hospitals are utter disaster areas, but is the solution really just complaining that rich people get better treatment and should instead get equally sh*tty treatment? Wouldn't it be more reasonable to leave the parts of our medical system that work alone and focus on fixing out government run County hospital disaster zones?

Posted by: the Pirate at June 4, 2008 08:28 AM


Posted by: Lauren at June 4, 2008 12:09 PM