US healthcare, from a UK perspective

In the ER, I overhear a conversion in the next cubicle between a son, who has an infected spider bite, and his mom, just after the doctor leaves them. We are separated by a pale blue curtain, so I cannot glean any demographic markers about them – I just hear them speak:

Mom: Let’s go get this prescription

Son: But mom it’s going to be really expensive, and doctor said it might just go away on its own.

Mom: Well I’m not going to take that chance. I’ll go to Wal-Mart. It’s probably going to be 4 bucks or something.

Son: Mom, it’s going to be like 30 bucks. My inhaler is 30 bucks already. You haven’t got the money. You don’t get paid until next week.

Mom: I’ll get some money from Laurie. It’ll be okay. Now come on, let’s get you better.

This is the reality of healthcare in MA, one of the better states in terms of provisions for people on no/ low incomes. It’s also the reality of living pay check to pay check. More grotesquely unnecessary conversations are held, and more tragic decisions made in hospitals daily across the US – and outside them, too, as even speaking to a doctor often has a cost implication. This just happens to be the one I overheard. Most jarring was the calm, resigned tone of the mother’s voice, in contrast with the urgent pitch of the son’s.

A huge number of social constraints worth fighting spring to mind upon hearing them talk, but one stood out (perhaps because I’ve got a sense I can fight for something back home which people can barely imagine here): This is the type of conversion we’ll be hearing in the UK sooner, rather than later if we believe for one second that tightening “our” belts means privatization.

Save the NHS.

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