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Why America needed health reform…

Why America needed health reform…

So finally, at long last, America has joined the rest of the world in offering near-universal healthcare to its’ citizens, instead of relying on a hodgepodge of private health insurance coverage. And about bloody time too, if my brief peek into the world of American healthcare was anything to go by.

HyperHam and I were having breakfast with her mother, when she started having a mild cough. By the time we’d left the restaurant, it had become a coughing fit and by the time we were in the car, it had pretty much developed into a full-on coughing attack, and HyperHam starting to panic. So we rushed to the hospital’s “emergency ward”, only to be confronted with a counter that had nurses deep into administrative paperwork, and one elderly volunteer sweetly asking how she could help. So I blurted out “She’s choking!”, only to be told “Oh dear… I’ll see what I can do” before the elderly volunteer shuffled off trying to attract the attention of one of the admin nurses.

Somehow, a wheelchair arrived and I vaguely remember being told to go this way please – at which point, I wheeled that wheelchair to wherever the nurse was amiably ambling. (With HyperHam inside – I’m not that stupid). We arrived at some kind of place where there were machines that go ping, where they stuck a probe on her. Frowning at the number, we were then directed to an emergency cubicle where HyperHam was wired up to a bunch of more machines that go ping, and a couple of nurses fussed over her while we all anxiously looked on.

At one point there was a bit of an almighty flap when the machines that go ping started to go ping-ping-ping-ping, there was a bit more frenetic activity and HyperHam looked close to panic. Fortunately, the machines managed to settle themselves down – but while we were recovering from all this, the hospital administrator decided to wheel herself (and her laptop trolley) in and ask us a bunch of questions. Not useful stuff like her medical history, but things like her name, and WHO HER INSURANCE COMPANY WAS – ie who was going to pay for all this. I’m surprised she didn’t just point-blankly ask for my credit card.

Then we spent the next few hours waiting in A&E while the nurses subjected her to a battery of slightly pointless tests – an X-Ray machine was wheeled in, an oxygen pump was brought in – “just in case”, or more likely as HyperHam remarked later, to bump up the amount they could charge back to the insurance company. While all this was happening, HyperHam’s mother tried to point out how nice American healthcare was, and how most people were covered anyway. Those who weren’t covered, she explained, were mostly illegal immigrants anyway. So that’s alright then.

To be fair, it could have been a lot worse – I suppose they could have refused to give us any help if we didn’t look like people who could afford to buy the healthcare or if we didn’t have the right insurance card – but in all the times I’ve spent in British hospitals, I don’t remember being asked to quote my NHS number verbatim, or to have to carry a card with my NHS number around. But it seems you have to do that in America, just in case.

The doctors and nurses were very nice, very efficient – as they would be. But to this day, we don’t know what happened or sparked off the attack.

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