Expat Life: How I miss the NHS

So, I went for an eye test yesterday after realising that my prescription had run out (well, for a start I didn’t realise it actually had a date on it!) and I couldn’t get anymore contact lenses without a test.

I checked with our health insurance and found an eye doctor to sort it all out – of course, I had to choose one that was covered by my insurance and after checking a few reviews found one that looked decent enough. Appointment made I turned up and checked in.

Here’s the first problem whenever I go for something medical over here, the fact my insurance card is issued by a British company – it confuses the hell out of the people on reception because it’s not one of the usual plans they see. Cue Rachel waiting 30 minutes for them to sort it out, usually by calling the insurers to see what the deal is before saying ‘yes, Ms Richter (just about always pronounced wrong!) everything is fine.’ Phew because I really have no clue what I am doing and anything about US healthcare, or my insurance plan for that matter to try to help them out! I often look at them with a blank look on my face – especially when they mention things like co-pays and the like! I have no idea what they’re talking about – they could tell me I needed to pay $1 million and I’d probably believe them!

Drama one over, off I went to take my contact lenses out and get these blind eyes of mine checked. The optician came in, nice fella, did the test with all the which looks better, read the bottom line, blah, blah, blah and came to the conclusion that my eyes have stayed the same. That’s good, at least they haven’t got any worse – they’re bad enough!

Then came the checking out…turns out I have a $300 allowance with my insurance – sounds good right? Yeah, until they tell you the actual eye test costs $245!!!!! I nearly passed out with shock! 245 dollars!!! I still can’t believe it now! Especially when I saw an advert in Costco for a contact lens check and that cost just $99! I thought that was bad enough but 245 bucks is just unbelievable! I have no idea how they can charge that much for about 20 minutes with the actual optician! And he didn’t put any of the yellow drops I usually have in my eyes at an eye test or blow air into them, I’m sure what he did was perfectly fine, in fact it was, he’s a professional, he knows what he’s doing, I just don’t think it warranted a $245 price tag!

Back in the UK I used to trot into the doctors, opticians, anywhere medical and get something done without having to pay a penny (well apart from the National Insurance tax from my pay check but still, that is nothing compared to the $245 for an eye test!) and now we get bills for months if we take a trip to the doctors and I’m not just talking about a bill for the appointment…nope. You get that one, followed by a bill for the urine test you had, another for the blood tests, another for the tests that took place in a lab, not forgetting the bill to get rid of the rubbish (yes, they actually charge you for that!) – they seem to be never-ending and they all come with a good price tag! There is one bonus though – you know exactly how much things cost!

Oh and we can’t forget the pre-existing conditions, yep, if you’ve already had problems when signing up for an insurance plan, the insurers don’t cover you for that problem because it’s a pre-existing condition. Well that’s helpful isn’t it? Cue the millions of bills through the letterbox! Also, when we signed up for our insurance plan we decided to put maternity cover on there, not because we are planning a baby anytime soon (don’t get excited Ma Cook, you won’t be a grandma just yet!) but for ‘just in case’ knowing that if something did happen it would of course come with a nice big price tag in the thousands of dollars range. But, when the insurance policy arrived, it turned out the maternity cover didn’t kick in for a year anyway! Useful.

The system here in America is fine if you’re rich and can afford a top of the range healthcare package that covers your every need, but if you’re poor you’re basically screwed. Millions of American’s don’t even have insurance because they can’t afford the monthly premiums. In some cases, even those that do have health insurance are hit with huge bills because their plan doesn’t cover the treatments, you often see stories in the news about fundraisers to help pay for healthcare for a child who had a bad accident, or hear of people who are in danger of losing their house because their healthcare bills are so high. You shouldn’t have to live in fear like that – healthcare should be a human right, everybody should be entitled to it, no matter what it’s cost. Can you tell I’m all for Obama Care?!

Basically, what I’m saying here is I miss the NHS. People moan about it back home in the UK, about the fact you have to wait for weeks for an appointment, some reckon the level of care isn’t good enough but I for one think it is amazing. We should be proud of the fact that everybody, no matter how much money they earn or don’t earn, what social standing they have or the state of health they’re already in, gets access to high quality medical care without having to shell out thousands of pounds. It’s a service that is the envy of countries around the world and we’re the ones lucky enough to be able to use it, we shouldn’t moan, we should embrace it and not take it for granted, because if it was suddenly ripped from under our feet, believe me, we’d know about it.


16 thoughts on “Expat Life: How I miss the NHS

  1. So much I could write in response to this, but as an American living in Norway (and so I’ve experienced both “sides” of health care) I just say I AGREE WITH EVERYTHING YOU WROTE.

  2. Wow, $245 sounds like a rip-off. Now that you have your prescription, it might be time to check out some other eye drs. I had an eye exam last week, dilated my eyes, glaucoma check, everything, and my bill was $42.

    • Sounds like I was ripped off! I knew it would be expensive but not that much! I had to go somewhere that took my insurance – the German will definitely not be going to the same place and I’ll be finding somewhere new for next year! I think I need to visit your $42 eye doctor!

  3. This is actually one of the reasons we moved back to Germany. The healthcare in the US is ridiculous and I think it will only get worse before hopefully becoming better. The real problem is that most Americans are uneducated about plans and have no idea about how things like socialized medicine actually work well in other countries. It’s a shame. You’re so right. You shouldn’t have those fears and that stress. Healthcare should be a right.

    • When we were weighing up the options of Europe and America healthcare in the US was definitely a negative! Thankfully we do have a really good insurance plan but I really feel for the people who don’t! Nobody should be expected to go bankrupt or lose their home because of medical bills! I totally agree that healthcare is a definite reason to skip the country!

  4. Yes, the need for a prescription before you can buy contacts, that was a shock to me too. I was also spoiled from Germany. I hope you didn’t buy the overpriced contacts right at the doctor’s office. That’s usually the follow up rip off.

    I recently had my first surgery in America. Scary, huh? Especially when you hear that your bill was already $245. Well mine came to nearly $32,000. Fortunately we “only” have to pay our deductible for the year of 3,000.

    • You’ll be pleased to hear I passed on the overpriced contacts – an internet order is being made!!
      And WOW to $32,000! That’s just unbelievable! It’s good that you only have to pay the deductable but still $3,000 is just as bad! I’m sure there are many people who can’t afford that! Like I said, it should be a human right, not something that costs you $3,000!

  5. I feel ya! I’m a Canada and lived in Alaska the past three years. I had some preventative procedures done at the dermatologist and couldn’t believe the bill I received in the end! Now that we’re back in Canada I am so so so grateful for our health care system! I now understand why people go bankrupt from medical bills in the US.

  6. It’s crazy isn’t it. I remember before having insurance and having to go to the urgent care when I had strep and it costing $100 per visit. Wah. Luckily i’m on the husband insurance with extra things for my glasses/eye checks, although I haven’t got around to finding out just how much we’re covered with that. The one thing I do have to say in favour of the US system is how quick it is especially when we had to visit ER (luckily that only cost $100 due to our insurance) and other family members experiences, which sadly although I love the NHS would probably have taken weeks/months to have got around to happening rather than days.

    • It’s just madness! I’m just so glad we have insurance – I dread to think about the costs without it! It is confusing though – the German deals with all that stuff! I’m with you on the speed of things though – you are definitely seen a lot quicker than you would be under the NHS! But…at least with the NHS you don’t have to pay/go bankrupt/lose your house just to get medical treatment!

  7. I am also afraid to write this out! I hated my experience with the NHS in the UK, and would choose my doctors and our insurance here any day. But I know people who love the NHS. (and Brits who hate it, for the wait times, etc). I think Singapore has the best system out there.

    • Everybody has their own opinion I guess! I agree on the wait times – they can be long with the NHS, but apart from that, I haven’t had any problems with it! I suppose it’s personal opinion/experience that helps you to decide!

  8. Me to. Mostly because of my daughter. I couldn’t believe my luck when I was told she was entitled to health insurance covered by my father-in-law’s pension scheme (this is in Brazil). I’ve now found the snag though, hardly any pediatricians in this city accept insurance anymore. They’re all wanting straight cash these days. So it’s slim pickings for us. We have to just take what we’re given. I don’t get on with ouf paediatritian at all, and my daughter is terrified of him, but beggers can’t be choosers. And the worst thing is, when I go back to England to visit, I don’t get free consultations there anymore! The NHS to me is like an ex-boyfriend saying “Hey, YOU dumped ME. And now you want me back? No can do!”.

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