I have a lot to say about this topic, but I will keep this post a-political and simply share my experiences with both the national health care system and our private health care plan.
The first step to accessing national health care is to register with a general practitioner in your area. The doctor I chose serves residents in a roughly one-square mile catchment area near our home. To register with this practice, I needed to bring identification and proof of my residence. I was not officially registered with NHS until I completed a general health check-up/interview with a nurse. That interview, which took place a few days later, was quick and painless. Some general health questions, blood pressure & weight check, etc.
At that point, I could make an appointment with a doctor to get a refill on a prescription that I needed. (Let’s just say that I’m not looking to have a little one for a little while.) I came back a week later to meet with the doctor, and ten minutes later, I walked out with a 3 month prescription. Off to “the chemist” to fill my 3 month prescription, and another 10 minutes later, all done.
The damage? TOTALLY FREE. No co-pays, no prescription cost. Including the NHS registering process, it took about 2.5 weeks and three visits, but going forward will not be that difficult. Contraceptives come free under NHS, all other NHS prescribed meds are seven pounds. If you need “fancy” prescriptions (anti-depressants, cholesterol, pain) I am not sure how easily they are prescribed, but luckily, I’m not in that boat.
We elected to enroll in a global private health insurance policy through David’s company. We want to be covered while we are back in the States or while we are traveling in other countries. And even though health care reform is tackling this issue, we were advised to keep a US policy so that we never have a lapse in coverage that could lead to a company down the line denying us coverage based on a “pre-existing condition.” And did you know that pregnancy is lumped in as a pre-existing condition? So, to be better safe than sorry, we’re forking out some serious cash to stay insured.
Which, came in handy recently. Long story short, I found myself laid up on my sofa unable to walk on my right ankle, but it did not feel like a normal sprain – which I’ve had a few of in my past. Afraid what the NHS urgent care would say (“Ice, rest, and advil”), we decided to go to a private hospital. In the span of 48 hours, I went to an urgent care facility, visited a orthopedic specialist twice, got X-rays and an MRI. The specialist diagnosed me with a “loose body” and a ligament tear that he suggests needs to be surgically repaired. David and I were both shocked how quickly we moved through the process.
The damage (before surgery)?: We paid it all up front (ouch), of which 90% was reimbursed to us directly, approximately two weeks later. If we elect to do the surgery, I should be able to request that the insurance company pays the hospital directly so we can avoid the up front cost.
The Brass Tacks? NHS makes sense for run-of-the-mill illnesses and such, but private health care moves efficiently in emergencies.