Medical care in England vs. U.S.

Published 7:06 pm Tuesday, August 14, 2012

To the editor:
As a British person living in Tryon, I was heartened by the tribute given to the British National Health Service during the recent opening ceremony at the Olympic Games in London, incidentally, my home town.
Somewhat ironically, I heard that Mitt Romney was at that event and I wonder how he reacted to seeing energetic NHS doctors and nurses dancing in those celebratory scenes in the ceremony.
I have aging relatives both in England and the United States and I regret to say that there is a stark contrast in the medical and social care that they receive in Britain under the National Health Service (NHS) and in the United States under Medicare, even with supplemental insurance.
Here are a few examples.
An English cousin, who was born in 1942, was stricken with polio when she was only 18 months old and while Britain was at war with Germany. The disease left her with a severe weakness in her left leg, but she married, had two children and still lives in her own home, thanks to the free care she was given in the way of therapy as a child and as a young mother, having a nurse available whenever she needed.
As in many polio cases, her mobility deteriorated as she aged, but she is still living independently with the aid of a specially engineered car, social service help and medical assistance in her home when she needs it – all provided by the NHS. She has never had to worry about the cost of her special care.
My uncle, who was widowed and living alone, contracted prostate cancer in his late eighties. He was given treatment that kept the disease under control and continued living in his home and tending his beloved garden, making homemade jam from his own fruit, because he had a nurse who checked up on him at home three days a week and a home aid who came twice a week to help him maintain his home and also check on his welfare. His local doctor would also come to his home whenever asked to do so.
It pains me to say that my relatives here in the United States, who, like my uncle in England, are veterans or widows of veterans of World War II, are beleaguered by mounting costs of aging and in danger of losing their homes, at a time in their lives when they should be cared for by a grateful nation and a supportive medical and social system.
They pay the cost of their longevity, acquired by healthy lifestyles and fortunate genes, in having to fund increasingly expensive help in their home that is quickly diminishing their once considered adequate resources.
Their children are required to put in long hours after a full work day or travel long distances to make sure that their parents have the food and medicine they need and to help with household chores. They also worry that their parents may eventually need to leave their homes and, when their resources are sufficiently low, suffer the indignity and social privation of living in a nursing home under Medicare.
I so hope that the United States, my adopted homeland, will eventually adopt a system of health and social care that will allow the medically needy the help they require without subjecting them to financial ruin, and the humiliation and worry that go along with it. It is surely the civilized thing to do.
As a postscript, I would like to point out that all our legislators, as well as receiving excellent pensions, are recipients of a very good system of health care – paid for by the citizens of the United States.
– Frances Flynn, Tryon

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