What I Learned About the US Healthcare System While Watching Call the Midwife

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My Netflix addiction is getting worse, but in other news, I’ve been enjoying the BBC series Call the Midwife. I don’t think the message I’m getting from it was intended, but here it is: in the 1950s, this poor neighborhood in London had better access to medical care than many people in the United States have today. With COVID-19 in the mix, we’re well past the time to admit that healthcare is a human right, and anything but guaranteeing universal access creates additional hurdles to overcome in a disaster like the one we’re experiencing today.

The UK established the NHS, their healthcare system, in 1948. They still have it to this day. I’m sure there have been changes over time, but the gist is the same: in the UK, when someone is sick or injured, their first concern is to get to a doctor, not to scrape together funds.

Healthcare doesn’t function like other industries. If I can’t afford to shop for jewelry, I don’t buy jewelry. If I can’t afford a new TV, I don’t buy a TV. If I need surgery to live but can’t afford it, I can’t afford not to get surgery – my choice is find the money or die. In the US, many call an Uber instead of an ambulance to go to the hospital because of the bill.

There’s such a thing in my country as “medical bankruptcy.”

1948 was over 70 years ago. We still do not have healthcare guaranteed in the USA. There are people dying from curable illnesses and injuries in a supposedly wealthy, developed nation, because they do not have health insurance, and because we allow healthcare and pharmaceutical companies to artificially hike prices to unattainable levels that literally no. other. country. pays. Here’s a Huffpost article from 2017 about the average cost to give birth. And other countries have the same drugs and treatments available, without paying these insane costs.

If you’re from the US, I encourage you to imagine a time and place with no need to stress about whether the closest doctor will accept your insurance, whether you’ve met your deductible or can afford your co-pay. That describes 1950s London, and basically the entire developed world today, minus the USA. The right-wing in my country keep claiming that to suggest a Medicare for All system is to aspire to Venezuela’s struggles, instead of recognizing that most developed countries figured this out sometime in the last century. We should be embarrassed that we’re the hold out, not proud of a system that fails a significant portion of our people.

If you have healthcare experiences in the US or elsewhere, feel free to share in the comments. Have you experienced healthcare that was free or low-cost at the point of care without huge monthly insurance premiums? What was that like? I can only imagine.

Happy thinking!


4 thoughts on “What I Learned About the US Healthcare System While Watching Call the Midwife

  1. Little ol’ Panama has it figured out. ER visits are $1 and if you are admitted to the hospital, $20. My daughter was in the PICU 5 days for asthma exacerbation and the bill was $20. The Panama Canal revenue pays for the social services of the country and housing for the poor. Here, our natural resources go to the highest bidder for corporate sales and profit.


    • Thanks Jim, it’s a treat to see what a reasonable healthcare bill can look like. It’s sad here – the corporations have figured out that if they spin our broken system as “freedom of choice” people will fall in line. So many great choices like bankruptcy or death.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nancy! So good to hear from you. How is it going and what are you up to these days?

    In 2011 I gave birth to my son and ended up with a c-section. During the surgery I had a allergic reaction to one of the drugs they’d given me and stopped breathing. My baby and I ended up in the ICU for two days, and then on a regular hospital ward for another two days. The total bill was $243,000, for which I was responsible for 20% (child birth is not included in our $7,000 per person/per year deductible…so we went into debt over $40,000 for childbirth). And people wonder why the younger generations aren’t having kids. 😦


    • Hi Violet! Good to hear from you too! These days I’m OK, working from home mostly. I realize I dropped off the radar for a while there though. My job got really demanding, and then I changed roles, which has been really good for my mental health. So now I’m back! How are you?

      Wow – thanks for sharing, that’s a truly insane bill. That they would specifically carve out childbirth as not counting towards the deductible is an additional level of cruel.

      I’m definitely one of those younger people not having kids. (On the young end of the millennial generation.) I’ve gone from always wanting kids to thinking absolutely not right now. I can’t even point to a number of years in the future when I would be down to have kids. It’s not a visceral “Absolutely I don’t want kids” reaction, but it’s a far cry from “of course I want kids someday!” The world feels too uncertain.

      Liked by 1 person

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