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My Wonderful “Socialist” Life

I’ve paid slightly higher taxes for and benefitted from life- and sight-saving treatment in my 12-years abroad. They each tackle the issue very differently AND… everyone is covered.

The US healthcare debate is about cost. It should be about ensuring coverage for all. Commit, as the 22 other richest nations in the world have, to ensuring everyone is covered and you can then make tough “how-to” choices.


This is the real healthcare debate.

Not the big money ‘ginned’ death panels, pull the plug on Grandma, rationing silliness we hear about. The real question is why, as one of the world’s richest nations, the USA does not provide healthcare for all as ‘moral imperative?’

Team Obama has taken a lesson learned by anyone facing a raging, screeching, and incoherent opponent. Rather than try to fight, let them rage and rage and rage and rage even more. They will eventually run out of steam. Then it’s your turn to talk.

Healthcare is a moral imperative across the developed world. As an American living abroad voluntarily in the United Kingdom (and before that The Netherlands), I speak of “socialist” healthcare from personal experience.

I’ve paid slightly higher taxes for and benefitted from life- and sight-saving treatment in my 12-years abroad. They each tackle the issue very differently AND… everyone is covered.

The Netherlands uses a public/private solution with a safety net no resident can fall through. The UK has the “socialist” National Health Service. Even with its flaws… I Love the NHS. They are the two best-value health systems I have lived under and have a standard of care excellence equal to and, in some cases much better than, the USA! USA! USA! The US system bills itself as: “the best in the world.” In my personal experience, it ranks behind emergency care received in Japan, Singapore and Mexico!

Lawmakers and lobbyists for Big Insurance, Big Hospital Groups, and Big Pharma have pocketed billions because this is health system as piece-work manufacturing company writ large. Everything is an event. Each event has a price, an approval process and a bevy of “no”-saying cost-control administrators.

The rest of the world pays about 4% for administration, the US 20%. Ironically, control and accountability is placed on events rather than outcomes or… the health and well-being of the patient. The UK pays 8% of GDP on healthcare, the US… close to 17%. There are zero without coverage in the UK and 50-90 million in the US cannot afford care, are deeply underinsured and thus pay huge deductibles and co-pays out of their own pockets, or have no coverage.

That is the healthcare debate by the numbers.

It simply cannot sustain itself.

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My “socialist” life was entered into with eyes wide open. I was not seconded (this time) by a corporation, my belongings carefully packed into a sea-going freight container, living in a cozy American ghetto (different meaning: enclave of ex-pats), kids tucked safely in International schools or benefitting from a ridiculous tax equalisation compensation package. Nope, I pay double taxes for the privilege (the US being the only industrialised nation requiring tax fealty regardless of where one lives, others say your money earned and taxes paid abroad is enough).

We also see real benefit for those tax Euros or Sterling. We have schools that work, roads and bridges that remain under repair, healthcare for all and travel on rail and public transit systems where people complain about 2-minute timetable delays because everything else runs like clockwork.

The move from Malibu (via Nashville) was for love and I fell in love with my wife and a lifestyle that has a different moral imperative. As she shrugged one evening: “I don’t know why, but we’ve always just looked out for and taken care of each other in The Netherlands.” The US healthcare situation and debate causes her eyes to glaze over. “What do you mean, 50 million people have no healthcare? That would not be allowed to happen here.” Full stop.

It would not be allowed to happen.

But what about rationing of care? That is a question I hear endlessly. Yes, sometimes I have to wait for services, especially non-acute or life-threatening treatments. And this system is set-up to handle emergencies. When my retina detached in 2006 and I could see my eyesight disappearing, I was grateful two people were bumped and re-scheduled so my eyesight could be saved and… would have gladly done the same for them. Can you imagine a New Yorker giving up a place in any queue?

But rationing exists everywhere, even in the USA. Those 50-90 million people without insurance or under-insured face the most brutal kind of economic based rationing. The haves, they can get what they want with no ceiling whatsoever, when they want to if… willing and able to pay.

Here in the EU there is a baseline everyone gets. And it probably makes sense for someone at age 90 to be denied expensive kidney dialysis, it costs too much and on the roulette wheel of life they’ve already come up with a pretty high number. That’s a far cry from “pulling the plug on granny.”

I know that if I or my children are ever sick, I call the Doctor’s Surgery (Office) and they come to the house, give a jab of penicillin and leave behind enough to get one through the sickness. I used to pay £3 ($5) for every prescription, now the Welsh Assembly Govt picks up even that cost.

Every doctor office visit, emergency room (accident and casualty) visit and hospital stay does not require a chequebook, credit card or second mortgage on the house. I never complete a form or fight with an insurance company. I show up, confirm my date-of-birth and address and in I go. I walk out with a paper sack filled with medications if needed and my life expectancy rate is higher here in the EU than in the US once I reach 60.


Yup, that’s damned socialism. It works!

Denis Campbell

Denis Campbell publishes the e-magazine, where this article first appeared.