Until this year, my experience of healthcare was one of accessibility and service that founds all of my needs met. As a person who was living in the UK, paying for healthcare had never been a concern. Imagine going to visit a doctor at the slightest cough, cold, or aching joint, or visiting the emergency room without the impending doom of a hospital bill. Well, that was my life. Until I decided to relocate to the US anyways. My experience has been eye-opening to say the least.
In December, I visited the dentist in the UK as a preventative measure, knowing that I would soon be relocating. Having friends and family in the States, I knew that healthcare was expensive and prohibitive for some. I informed my dentist of my move and asked him to undertake any work that might need doing in the next couple of years. I had four fillings, three check-ups and a clean.
While the NHS does cover dental care, but it is one of the few services which require a small contribution. It can also be difficult to find an NHS dentist. I was one of the lucky ones. The fees are on a tiered basis, depending upon the type of care. For my visit, I paid a total of $67.95.
As for medical care, if I needed to visit a doctor, I simply called my general practice and booked an appointment. I be seen and obtain a prescription (if required) and off I went; the visit cost nothing. The prescription charges are $10.59 per item, or you can pay a monthly subscription for $10.91 over 12 months. If I needed to visit a hospital emergency room, I just went. I didn't receive a bill, I didn't have to wait in line to complete paperwork and validate my identity.
The NHS does have it's disadvantages: It is bursting at the seams. Budgets are overstretched, staff are overworked and underpaid. Morale is slow. Waiting times can be long. If you need a referral to a specialist and need an operation, you may wait longer than in the US, but that is because of the strain on the system.
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Conversely, my experience in the US has been the polar opposite.
When I arrived here, I knew it was a priority to obtain insurance. I was aware to to do this through marketplace. Unfortunately, that presents a set of loopholes: You cannot obtain insurance until you have an address here, you can't even get a quote. As I was relocating alone, I had to wait to find a place, and you cannot find a place until you are physically in the area.
Therefore, I had to get insurance coverage as part of my trip. But even that had its limitations.
As a writer, and creative, I qualify for Medicare -- I applied several weeks ago, and am still awaiting a decision. I am fearful of needing medical treatment. My fears have become a reality; I've had had dental pain for a month, but Medicare does not cover most dental care. My medical insurance has limited dental coverage.
Yet, the average cost for just an exam and cleaning in Portland is $290, compared to the national average of $275. I imagine I need some kind of structural undertaking, given the type of pain I am experiencing in two areas. Fillings in Oregon cost on average anywhere from $86-$146. I am looking at a cost of $462 to $582!
I find that prospect frightening. But it is a reality I must face.
To quote the eloquent George Bernard Shaw, "England and America are two countries separated by the same language."
We do speak a common language, but we are so very different. I'd go as far as to say that our healthcare systems are worlds apart too. I hope I make it through.