What I’ve Learned about Single Payer Heath Care

We’re probably going to be hearing a lot about Single Payer Health Care, since ours is one of the world’s most expensive system — providing results that rank up there with Slovenia.

I’ll never forget describing our so-called system with a Canadian. “But America likes to think of itself as a caring country. How can it treat its citizens so cruelly?” I’m still stumped for an answer to her question.

But instead of revisiting that terrain, let me share some of my experiences the year I lived in Australia.

One morning while I was staying at my brother’s house, he woke up in pain. When his aching back didn’t respond to his usual routine of stretches, he needed to choose: Did he want to go to the doctor? The hospital? Or see a chiropractor?

He decided on the chiropractor, called his office and made an appointment for later that day and I went along for the ride. He felt better after his treatment, wrote the doctor a check, and got a receipt. On the way back home, he stopped at a small office in a little strip mall, presented his receipt and was instantly reimbursed.

I was in shock.

How simple! He decided on the treatment that felt right to him, chose his provider, made the appointment and kept it, all in a morning’s time. No getting an okay from anyone else – no primary care provider. No insurance company. No paperwork hassle. No rigmarole..

“Do you always get reimbursed that fast?” I asked.

“Sure, if I stop by the office. Or I could wait until the end of the month and send in my receipts.”

All his medical care is covered by the income tax he pays.

“Does national health care pay for everything?” I asked my English friend Ronnie. Like my brother, she had also immigrated to Australia, lived in Denmark, both countries with national healthcare.

“Yes, Most everything is covered, but there are limits. They’ll pay for my glasses, if I’m happy choosing one of the dozen or so frames they offer, but if I wanted fancier frames, I’d have to pay for those.” She smiled and tilted her head for me to admire her glasses.

“Wow, eye care and glasses are covered?”

“But not dentists. Don’t know exactly why, since it seems to me that both your eyes and your teeth  tend to wear out as you age.”

When Ronnie and I went on a trip to the outback together, I had a chance to experience their healthcare system firsthand when I was suddenly hit with a nausea-inducing migraine and couldn’t stop vomiting—a real impediment to a motor trip. I was quickly taken to the emergency room in a small local hospital and instantly swept into a treatment room. After an injection ond an ice pack for my pounding head, I was good to go. I asked about paying.

“Oh, you’re not covered by national health?” said the startled nurse.  “Well, that happens so seldom that I’m not sure what to charge.” I asked if they could send me a bill to where I was staying once they figured it out – and I was on my way.

More than a month later, I received the hospital’s bill along with an apology. They were so sorry, but since I wasn’t covered by national health, they had to charge me the full rate. My Emergency Room visit, treatment and all, cost $50.

No need for national teeth-gnashing or partisan stand-offs about health care. A single payer system works beautifully. Maybe we could adopt one like all the members of Congress enjoyed?


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A freelance writer who lives near Olympic National Park in a house overlooking the Salish Sea, I'm nourished by Mother Nature and enjoy exploring the places where science, spirit, and story come together. Part science geek, part spiritual feminist, part Earth-loving tree-hugger, I continue learning the many ways that how we think and what we believe helps shape our world. Quantum physics shows us that our personal energy is too often overlooked as force for positive change; indigenous wisdom leads us to connect with all beings in a good way. I've told the research stories of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado, Boulder, and contributed regular columns for newspapers in Boulder, Colo., Sequim and Port Angeles Washington.

2 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned about Single Payer Heath Care”

  1. So true, so simple,and like Woody Guthrie’s ( or was it Pete Seeger?) depression-era soup, so clear that even the fat cats in Washington should be able to see the bottom of it!

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