That’s the question an American doctor, Jen Gunter, recently asked after having to use the NHS:
Victor, one of my 11-year-olds, had something in his eye courtesy of a big gust of wind outside of Westminster Abbey… Despite an extensive search and rinse mission no object or relief was to be found. I fretted about going to the hospital. It wasn’t the prospect of navigating a slightly foreign ER, but simply the prospect of the wait. While I am a staunch supporter of the British NHS in the back of my mind I envisioned a paralysingly full emergency room and an agonizing 18 hour wait only to find he had nothing in his eye (the basic antechamber of Hell scenario). To ensure we really needed to go I gave Victor a choice between the emergency room and a toy store (Gunter’s 3rd rule), but he declined the toys so off we went to St. Thomas hospital, conveniently right over the bridge…
We had great care at St. Thomas and Dr. Williams was fantastic. The slit lamp wasn’t brand new, but it worked just fine. Sure it’s an N of one, but I’ve been to the ER more times than I can count with my other son and this was as smooth as the best care we’ve had in the United States.
In the post she talks about other evidence too beyond her own experience, and as for the cost:
“So where do I pay?” I asked Dr. Williams.
The answer: you don’t. Perhaps they might bill us, she just wasn’t sure.
I was about as dumfounded at her answer as she was at my asking.
I protested that it wasn’t fair. We had used services and I was very prepared to pay. I also have insurance that covers emergencies when out of network, so I was pretty sure I would be reimbursed at least some of the visit. However, we were just sent away. They do have my address so it is possible I will get a bill in the mail…
I am very curious what similar care would have cost in the US. The saddest commentary of all is that it is really impossible to tell as billing practices are so bizarre and opaque. My guess is it would be a minimum of $1000 in America for cash (which is egregious).
No wonder she ends her post:
It makes you wonder exactly what frightens Americans about the NHS?