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Opinion: Other countries’ health care systems offer examples

I write in support of the many Vermont citizens, elected officials, and public servants who continue the struggle to create a health care system that will serve all Vermonters fairly and well. Suffering from a serious illness is hard enough without bearing an expense that destroys the financial security of a person or a family. Can’t we Americans hear the reports of people in other nations that are doing better than we are?
I’d like to tell everyone about my personal experience. A few years ago I suffered from a condition which required emergency care at a hospital in Vermont and again later while my wife and I were visiting her relatives in Scotland.
Over the last 30 years my wife and I have received excellent care in Vermont hospitals with one exception. That one time, my experience in an emergency room put me through terrible pain and required extensive follow-up. Happily, with Medicare and good supplemental insurance provided with my pension, the out-of-pocket costs were not memorable, though I am sure there were some.
The care I received in a hospital in Paisley, Scotland, for the same emergency involved the care of a doctor who was careful and took time to help me while causing no pain and solving my problem with no further care required. Three hours in the emergency room there cost me nothing, either from my insurance or out-of-pocket. And I was a visitor from another country.
In the last several years my wife and I have traveled extensively, often asking people about health care in the countries we were visiting. We found that in countries with a national health service, care was provided for people on the basis of need, not based on citizenship or residency or any insurance they had to pay for. The most remarkable account we heard was told to us in New Zealand. There we met an American from the state of Georgia who ran a restaurant near Auckland. He told us that his mother became seriously ill while visiting him in New Zealand. The surgery she needed was not done anywhere in that country, so the New Zealand National Health Service covered all expenses for her and her husband to go to Sydney, Australia, where she received the care she needed. All costs were covered, including the air fare.
What people are spending on health care in other advanced nations is less than what we spend in this country for insurance, co-pays, deductibles, and all the rest. And the care is often better. I pray all the time that in our great country, especially right here in Vermont, we will work through the details so that everyone’s basic need for health care will no longer be the cause of deep anxiety, financial crisis, and desperation, the way it is for too many people here now.
Rev. George Klohck
Middlebury

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