Monday, October 14, 2013

The cost of my breathing: UK vs USA

The New York Times is running a series of in-depth reports on the true costs of the healthcare system in the US. This week's article, The Soaring Cost of a Simple Breath, was truly astonishing.

I never blogged about it at the time, but last summer, I was diagnosed with asthma. One morning as I was walking to work, I had what turned out to be a severe asthma attack (where I actually thought I was having a heart attack). Over the next hour or so it combined with a panic attack and put me in the ER for a morning. Fun times.

After a bit of discussion and quite a few tests (they/I originally thought it was a cardiac arrhythmia), my GP sent me to to the asthma & allergy specialist, who figured out that I have asthma and an exciting array of allergies.

All of this, including the trip to the ER, the attendant tests, the take-home-and-wear-for-24-hours cardiac monitor, more blood tests, the allergy tests, and the asthma test, were free. As in no money at all. No copay, no insurance card, no bill in the mail, nothing.

Looking back, I've had asthma since at least high school, possibly earlier. I went on an ill-fated snowshoeing trip with my college roomie sophomore year, and nearly expired. I have always hated running, cross-country skiing, and any kind of endurance sport. Hmmm...maybe because I CAN'T BREATHE.

So. If I'd been diagnosed in high school, I would have been paying between $100 and $175 for EACH inhaler. That's madness. I go through about 3 of each per year (I have one for attacks and a different one that I take right before bed), but I'm a relatively light user. If I'd had to buy them when I lived in New York, I would have gone without. My insurance plan was basic, and my other meds were already costing me over $60/month (p.s. that medicine is free in the UK, as it's classed as one of the drugs that nobody ever pays for).

I refilled my prescription tonight for one of the inhalers, and paid £7.85. It would have been free if I were on benefits of any kind, or any number of other things.

Feel free to join the first world whenever you're ready, America. Once you get the government running again, that is.

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