Thursday, June 07, 2007

Healthcare Rationing: An Example

Relevant to my post below about how socialized medicine will create shortages, here is a current thread from PeanutAllergy.com.

A child died a few days ago in the UK after putting a piece of candy in his mouth. He realized immediately that it contained nut or peanut (I think he was allergic to both), took the candy out of his mouth, went into anaphylactic shock and died. His family was never prescribed an Epipen for him. He was 9 years old. So sad.

Some of the parents on PA.com are from the UK or living in the UK. In discussing the differences in how potentially fatal allergies are handled here and in the UK, the first point that is touched on is the difference in knowledge base and protocols. Followed quickly by the shortage of allergy specialists in the UK. Then one mom says this:

In the UK I think this [getting a second opinion/seeing a specialist] would be much harder. If your GP told you you did not need to see a specialist, you can't just go and see one like you can here (under many insurance plans) - you need a referral from your GP. And you can't easily get a second opinion from another GP either. Prescriptions are free, but harder to get - I can't imagine many doctors giving you prescriptions for multiple Epipens to keep in different places, due to the cost, borne by the health system.

I am not sure how it all works if you are prepared to pay for appointments privately - I imagine it would then be possible to see an allergist, but it would be expensive and may well involve a long journey and overnight stay.

I am certainly glad I was in the USA and not the UK to get the treatment she has got for her allergies. (although I would rather be there to avoid the overabundance of peanut butter there is round here!)

[emphasis added]


Are those prescriptions really free? No, not really (as implicitly acknowledged by the poster). And it would be more difficult to get extra Epipens. We have 6 for Ryan right now. We take at least 2, sometimes 4, everywhere we go locally. If we head out of town we take all 6. The Epis all expire at different times during the year, so we never have less than 4 that are good. (Overkill? No, that's our comfort zone, especially as we are prone to losing them sometimes.)

Sure, there is peanut butter everywhere in the US (the stuff of my nightmares). But I am glad to be here instead of a country with socialized medicine. I can easily go to see a specialist and there are specialists everywhere (not just the big cities like London). I can easily get a second opinion. I can get as many Epipens as I'm willing to pay for. (And we have sucky health insurance by American standards.)

I wonder what the usual insulin prescription allows for in the UK. Zoiks!

As I said before, I live with two people who need life-saving meds. My insulin-dependent husband will die in a matter of days without his meds. My son could die within minutes without his. In the US, we can get them easily and (relatively) cheaply. That would inevitably change for the worse in a more socialized healthcare system.

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