National Healthcare – A British Experience Part 1


I am in the U.K. right now and have had two very positive experiences with the British Health Care system from a patient’s point of view. I cannot speak about how it is as a provider but I thought it would be interesting to blog about it from the patient side.

Britain has had the National Health Service (NHS) program for sixty plus years and basically provides health care for everybody funded through the government i.e.taxes. Individuals can have access to both the National Health system and private health care. Private medical insurance is readily available and often provided as a perk by some employers to executive level staff. BUPA being the most well known insurance provider.

I have elderly parents  in the U.K. and a 93 year old mother-in-law in California. My Californian mother-in-law has numerous doctor appointments that usually require planning for at least 2-3 hours per appointment.  Most of that time is spent just waiting for the doctor who is always running late. She has to see a different doctor for each condition which often means 2-3 different doctor appointments a week!

My father here in the U.K. had an appointment with a specialist at the local hospital for a suspected aneurysm. I went with him. His appointment was at 3:10 so I expected to be there with him until at least 5 PM. We saw the nurse practitioner at 3:15. We were able to discuss all of his issues and current medications which took about 15 minutes. The specialist came in the exam room soon after the nurse signaled we were ready.  He did an exam including sonogram which happily showed that the suspected aneurysm was just scar tissue. We were out of the hospital by 4 PM and a letter recommending pain management amongst some other comments was already in the system so that his other health conditions would be addressed immediately. He will be able to see his G.P. next week for the follow-up on these.

The paperwork was minimal and my father’s health and comfort were the prime concern – not who was his insurance carrier, what was the co-pay, what was covered, what was not covered etc. etc. It was a lot more efficient and pleasant experience than any of my mother in law’s appointments I have been to in the U.S.

For more information on the subject of Health Care Reform in the U.S. and how the optical industry will be affected by the new health care reform law our best resource is  The Vision Council. Here are some highlights  from The Vision Council Update on Health Care Reform:

On Tuesday, March 30, 2010, the President signed into law the heavily debated health care reform legislation –  What happened to vision care?

  • Eyeglasses have been exempt from the medical device tax included in the most recent version of the bill.
  • There will be more Americans receiving vision care because of health care reform.
  • Pediatric vision care will include individuals up to the age of 22 as a result of the extension of the WellBaby Program which includes vision care.
  • Care and product will be covered for those with diagnosed vision problems
  • Optometrists and ophthalmologists will have increased and equal reimbursement rates for their services
  • The amount of pretax dollars available for an individual to place into a Health Flexible Spending Accounts (HSA) will be reduced from $5,000 to $2,500 and could cause people to pay out of pocket or rely on government assistance when receiving optical services or purchasing medical devices. This will be effective December 31, 2012.
VEW Mid-Page 19


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