Socialized Medicine, from a Survivor; What to Expect from America's Version of Britain's NHS

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W elcome, America, to the British NHS. That may not be what you were promised when your president first dreamed up Obamacare. But the National Health Service is what you're going to get all the same.

I did warn you about this, four years ago in my (depressingly) prophetic book Welcome to Obamaland: I've Seen Your Future and It Doesn't Work. I noted, for example, that your future president had grossly underestimated the costs of socialized health care. I warned that though he said at the time that it would cost between $50 billion and $65 billion, it undoubtedly would cost 10 times that amount. Look it up if you don't believe me. It's on Page 37.

But since last week's Supreme Court ruling, we are where we are, unfortunately. So let me, as a Brit who has been living the whole socialized-medicine nightmare his entire life, give you a few tips as to what you can expect (assuming Mitt Romney doesn't get in and boot the whole thing into the dustbin of history, where it belongs).

First, don't panic: It's not all bad. The National Health Service is what in Britain we call a curate's egg - which is to say, it's good in parts. The problem is, on any given occasion, you never quite know which it's going to be. Will the hospital, doctor and nurses' treatment be as it would by the cloyingly sycophantic maitre'd of your favorite high-class restaurant? Or will they treat you like Oliver Twist with his begging bowl, pleading piteously for a dollop of gruel? Are you a cherished customer or a darned nuisance? The NHS can never quite make up its mind.

Over the past couple of decades, I've experienced plenty of both. Only last week, for example, my wife had major surgery on her ear, performed brilliantly by a tweedy, well-spoken surgeon with a perfect bedside manner and a bushy Spitfire-pilot-type mustache. The hospital - Guy's - in which she had the operation done was clean and well-run. And the nurses were not only efficient, caring, friendly and able to speak English but also - though this was of more interest to me than it was to my wife - extremely hot. For this complicated surgical procedure - which, no doubt, would have cost many thousands of dollars in the United States - my wife paid precisely zilch. (Well, so long as you don't count the gazillions she pays in taxes.)

I also would love to tell you about a similarly successful operation I had a few years ago on my rear end. But you really don't want the details, especially not at breakfast. Suffice to say the problem was treated most effectively and - again for no money - I was relieved of much suffering by a first-rate surgeon.

Everyone in Britain tells stories like this about nice experiences they've had with the NHS. …