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One Health Care Experience

By Dian Vujovich

Ten years ago my appendix ruptured during a visit to London. I was staying at The Dorchester and when I knew I wasn’t feeling well, phoned for the hotel doctor. It was early evening.

During his initial visit, the doc decided not to admit me to one of the government run hospitals because a) I was a foreigner and b) he said that nothing would be done to me until the next day anyway. I spent the night getting sicker. When he visited in the morning, he quickly made arrangements for a surgeon and sent me to a private hospital. I was operated on later that day.

My stay at The Wellington Hospital lasted 8 days and the cost for everything, hospital, surgery, all the docs, meds, etc. was right around $13,000. I had a private individual health insurance policy through Golden Rule at that time, but still had to pay the hospital in full before leaving. Thank heavens for Diners Club cards. Then they were the best around—no upside limits, two months to pay. Wonderful.

As insurance companies are known to do, they often put off paying claims as long as possible. It took three months before I was reimbursed for my health emergency. Figure Golden Rule got off cheap. Can’t imagine what an emergency operation and an eight-day stay in a Florida hospital would have run but know it would have been much more than 13G’s.

What I learned during my hospital visit, though, was that even though Brit’s have medical coverage via the U.K.’s National Health Service, if they elect to they could also carry private insurance. So they’ve got a choice—use what’s available via the system or decide to be privately insured as well. The woman in the room next to mine was at The Wellington because we had the same doctor and she had private health insurance.

In a country as rich as ours, where competition is keen and our wants and tastes differ greatly, what in the world is wrong with a health care system like that? What’s wrong with providing everyone—for lack of a simpler comparison— with a Walmart-like level of affordable health care and for those who prefer to kick it up a notch and shop at say Target, Costco, Macy’s, Saks, Neiman Marcus or where ever, other health insurance choices?

That sure would solve three burning health care issues: First, it would provide sound health care for all; second, allow every person health insurance choices; and third, allow for competition within the health insurance industry. Makes sense to me.

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