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Healthcare in the United Kingdom

Healthcare in the United Kingdom

If you live in the UK, you probably know that the healthcare here is a great option compared to what other countries have. Even the United States cannot compete with the services that the UK offers and the price at which those services are provided. Much of that comes from the idea that the UK has the National Health Service. This national insurance program is designed to ensure that everyone in the country has access to the healthcare that they need and that they don’t go bankrupt because they can’t pay for it, or struggle because they can’t pay insurance premiums. That’s very important. Areas like the US have good insurance programs, but only for those people who have a lot of money.

The report, produced by a European locum tenens medical recruiting and staffing agency, was in response to a BBC News story that reported that hospitals within Britain’s National Health System were paying doctors steep rates to work overtime. Some of the rates quoted in the article had doctors being paid over $230 per hour and over $150,000 per year in overtime services to help hospitals meet demand.

While locum tenens professionals often times cost more per hour than regular staff, they usually make less money than staff working overtime, especially at the inflated rates mentioned in a BBC News story. Furthermore, the nature of locum tenens professionals – working temporarily, often on short notice, to fulfill a need – means they are accustomed to filling in for an overworked hospital, and can help avoid the creation of an overworked, disgruntled staff of medical professionals that can result from excessive amounts of overtime.

The report also points out another savings that locum tenens physicians provide hospitals: Because their work is temporary in nature, temporary physicians help medical institutions avoid other, hidden costs, such as pension payments. Therefore, not only is it cheaper, hour-to-hour, to hire a locum tenens physician than to pay staff to work overtime, it can also lead to lower costs in the future for the medical facility, all while avoiding excessive overtime and possibly boosting morale.

With an average of more than 3,500 locum doctors working in the national British medical system everyday, there should be close study of the U.K.’s National Health System so the effectiveness of employing locum tenens professionals can be applied to medical staffing efforts in the United States. With medical prices increasing rapidly, and more people expected to have insurance over the next decade, locum tenens professionals might be one way help keep down the rising cost of healthcare while still providing effective care.

n the light of expensive health care costs, wouldn’t Americans be better off if we opted for socialized medicine?

Not so according to a recent study by the Cato Institute of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). There is no perfect scenario when it comes to health care. On one side of the spectrum is the desire to have unlimited medical care to extend one’s life as much as possible and the other end of the spectrum is to ration care to control spending.

The NHS is a centralized government version of the one-payer system in England and it pays directly for health care and finances the system through general tax revenues. Most physicians and nurses are government employees.

What can we learn from Britain’s health care system?

1. Long-waiting times

* Presently as many as three quarters of a million Britons are waiting to be treated in Britain’s hospitals. Cancer patients will wait as long as eight months for treatment. During that waiting period 20% of colon cancer patients who were initially considered “treatable” when first diagnosed will become “incurable.” Even more alarming is the fact that as many as 40% of cancer patients are never even seen by an oncology specialist.

* In 2008 Britain’s goal was for a wait time of no more than eighteen weeks; the study showed that only 30-50% of patients actually received treatment within the eighteen week time frame. What’s worse is that only 20% of orthopedic and trauma patients received care from a specialist within the eighteen week target window.

2. Rationed health-care

* Not surprisingly, a direct result of Britain’s over-taxed system is that certain types of care for more expensive procedures such as open heart surgery and kidney dialysis are now “rationed.” Even more alarming is that patients deemed “too ill” or “too old” for a procedure to be “cost-effective” are being denied treatment altogether. One government “solution” being proposed is that the NHS be allowed to refuse treatment to those with “unhealthy lifestyles” such as smokers and the overweight.

3. Paying for private health care

* Another solution is “competition” in the form of private health insurance. Currently about 10% of Britons have private health insurance and that number is growing as more and more Britons seek to gain access to a wider choice of healthcare providers and avoid waiting lists.

* Studies conducted on the British public indicated that 63% felt the need for healthcare reform is “urgent,” and another 24% believe that it is at least “desirable.” Even more telling however is that 60% of Britons believe that making it easier for patients to spend their own money on health care would “improve quality.”

So, what can we learn?
We may not like the high costs of private health care, but so far it provides quality health care socialized medicine such as the British NHS is not able to achieve.

What is it? How will it affect me?

Very good questions without any concrete answers yet. Yes, there is yelling on both sides but does that help us in our decision-making process? Absolutely not! There is a lot of talk about “nationalized” healthcare, socialism, death panels and waits for procedures. Are they scare tactics? Maybe but we should take a very careful look at what comes out of Washington.

To get an idea of a nationalized healthcare system we could take a look at Canada and Great Britain, there are some issues that we should be aware of. There are 6-month waits for MRIs in those countries. Do you want to wait that long? A close friend recently had an MRI and was mildly upset at having to wait two hours. Do you know there are more MRI machines in Los Angeles County than in all of Canada? The same holds true for many procedures such as kidney, liver and circulation procedures. Does a long wait increase your chances of survival? You will have to make that decision yourself.

The other side of the story is that not everyone is covered in the United States. Canada and Great Britain cover all of their residents and that can be conceived as a plus. Depending on who you listen to, there are between 11 and 50 million uninsured people in the United States. Who are these people? It’s a mix of unemployed, those who voluntarily go without coverage, people in the country illegally, and people who have pre-existing conditions.

The Government’s proposal would be similar to the care our military servicemen and their families receive. According to a colleague who has experience with this system, “When I gave birth to my son in the San Diego naval facility, I lay in wait for a room…in a gurney, in the hall, with twenty other women – all of us in various stages of giving birth,” said Deanne Hollis-DeGrandpre. “Additionally, I was not able to receive an epidural to block the pain because it was unavailable.” Do we want to wait like cattle to receive health care? Additionally, Medicare and Social Security are on the road to bankruptcy, is this what we want for our healthcare system?

No doubt, the current system has flaws. There are a few things that could be done to help solve the issues as alternatives to the current healthcare reform being proposed by Congress. By no means is this a panacea but it is at least a start.

How about considering the following:

o Those who voluntarily refuse to be covered, (mostly the young) should be held responsible for their medical care. No free ride.

o Citizens here illegally, should not receive free care, since they do not pay into the Federal or State tax system. Emergencies should be taken care of but any expensive procedures should be done in their home country.

o Tort reform! Physicians and all providers are scared to death to make a mistake. Many OB/GYNs are no longer practicing due to the high costs of liability insurance. The patient ultimately pays the price for this in higher insurance premiums. We have to have SOME limits!

o A pool of insurers could be set up for those who don’t qualify for insurance due to pre-existing conditions. All insurance companies should share the risk for these citizens and hold down premiums to an acceptable level.

o For the unemployed, one possible solutions is to add a benefit to unemployment compensation with an end date.

o Increased regulations for health insurance companies and access across state lines, so people have more choice.

Again, these are just suggestions. Until we see what Congress will finally propose, we will have to wait.

With Britain’s population ageing and budgets tightening, health cash plans can provide you with an affordable way to take control of your healthcare.

Financial advisory firm Deloitte recently carried out research in the UK which indicated that, while 90% of consumers in the UK rely wholly on the NHS for medical provision, 80% feel they are not adequately covered.

NHS provision can be patchy according to region, is prone to long waiting lists and does not always offer the most convenient appointment dates. There are also supplementary charges, such as dental fees and prescription charges which are increasingly to be paid up-front; and hidden fees, such as NHS car parking charges. Being ill can be expensive.

Full private medical insurance plans provide much more extensive provision, but with medical inflation rising fast, these can be too costly for an ordinary family budget. Company health insurance policies are also at risk. A survey of employers by Mercer in September 2010 said that employers expected healthcare costs to increase between 9 to 12% and so would be using cost-saving measures to reduce the increase to 6%. 57% said one way would be to make employees pay a greater share of the costs.

If all this leaves you uncertain of the future, medical cash plans may be the solution for you. Cash plans reimburse costs for routine medical expenses that the NHS would not cover. This can include everything from dental and optical fees to consultancy bills, tests and scans and GP fees. New schemes are also offering cover for hidden costs, such as NHS car parking charges.

More streamlined than a full medical insurance plan, prices begin at less than £8 per month, with options to tailor a plan that is right for you. This can include customising benefit levels or choosing between 75% or 100% reimbursement levels on some plans. This compromise offers the peace of mind of extending your medical coverage beyond the minimum offered by the NHS, but still being able to keep costs low.

Cancer care is a major area where cash plans have allowed patients to take back control in ways previously only available to those with full medical insurance. Cancer charity Macmillan reported that cancer sufferers who could benefit from treatment were left facing mortgaging or remortgaging their homes to gain access to life-saving drugs, such as avastin. NICE claims Avastin, estimated costs £21,000 a patient, does not justify the benefits it provides for the price it charges. Responding to growing concerns, the government has recently announced a cancer drugs fund which looks likely to be a source of funding, but this will remain subject to strict budget controls.

Medical cash plans give patients another option with some plans including options to include cover for cancer drugs when they can provide treatment but will not be provided on the NHS. This option offers customers the security to use the NHS provision when it is available, but still to enjoy the peace of mind of access to life-saving medication that is just beyond the means of the NHS.

When people don’t have much money and they can’t afford health insurance, it becomes easier for them to simply ignore their health. With that in mind they often end up in the emergency room with a problem that could have been treated much more easily (and cheaply) if they would have gone to the doctor in time. It’s difficult for parents who find that they are not able to do this, but parents in the UK need not fear their children having no medical care if they need to be treated for something.