News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Health: Debate over best system will continue

There is no doubt that I prefer social healthcare. That means I support healthcare funded by countries, such as the UK and Spain, rather than needing to buy private health insurance, as in the US.

Now, that is not to say either healthcare system provides superior medical care. It is purely about the costs.


An American protester calls for the country to have one health plan.

Neither system is entirely free as workers pay something from their salary or wages as contributions toward the cost. But there are other big differences. Social medicine is free at the point of use, with no charges for doctors’ treatment or hospital care. The same cannot be said of private health care, where even GPs charge fees and you need health insurance. In fact, in the US, not having health cover has legal penalties.

Despite that, many people find the cost of insurance to be prohibitive.

I find it strange, and more than a little ironic, that insurance costs got worse after the US passed the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. How can ‘affordable’ equal more expensive? Some monthly premiums escalated from less than $60 a month to more than $300. And others cost a lot more.

Let me be clear, I am not saying the American system is flawed. It is just not for me.

Prescription costs a question of health

One item of contention in the UK is the cost of prescriptions. First, you must recognise that the UK IS made up of four healthcountries. A trip to the pharmacist in England will cost you £8.60 per prescription drug or item.  But prescriptions in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are all free.

Since Lisa and I moved to Spain almost two years ago, we have been surprised by the low prescription charges here. Yes, we do pay – but just cents, certainly not excessive.

The standard of care here is excellent but, as anywhere, it can vary from doctor to doctor. We recently chose to change our doctor to another within the same health centre. It was so simple.

Last week, I had my first appointment with our new doctor. He listened to what I had to say, prescribed a couple of medications, and, as I have MS, he referred me to see a neurologist. Stopping at reception on the way out, I left with a confirmed appointment with a neurologist. It will be my first in 12 years.

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* * * * * is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Support groups can beat loneliness and being alone

support group_editedBeing alone and loneliness may seem to be the same thing but they are not, far from it. It is just as easy to be lonely in a crowd as it is to be happy when alone.

Illnesses and diseases like multiple sclerosis can bring some of each; maybe time alone, maybe feeling lonely even if not by yourself. The good news is, though, there is something you can do. I suppose it’s a form of self-help.

Self-help? Well, yes and no. One simple answer is to realise the value of joining a local support group. These exist in countries all over the world. They bring people together who share common life experiences for support, education and mutual aid.

By belonging to such a group, you will be able to share your experiences with others living with a similar condition to yourself and learn from them how they deal the same sort of issues. You can hear about new information, gain support from others and, in return, have the chance to help others.

In fact, instead of feeling lonely or alone, the group experience can lead to you feeling empowered and more self-confident.

For a few examples, let’s quickly visit the USA, Australia and the UK.

In the USA, National MS Society self-help groups focus on support, advocacy, education, wellness or may be more social in nature.  Some groups also serve specific populations, such as young adults, parents with MS, care-partners or African-Americans.  Other groups may have a specific focus, such as physical activity, wellness or healthy living.

MS Australia’s peer support program is a great way for people affected by multiple sclerosis to connect with and support each other — both those living with the disease, and also carers, family and friends.

Giving and receiving practical and emotional support can help you understand a recent diagnosis, manage your symptoms and live well with multiple sclerosis. It’s also a great way to make new friends!

You can connect with an MS Peer Support group face to face, online, or over the phone — whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. It’s completely free to participate.

In the UK, the MS Society has branches around the UK that may have associated support groups but there also some independent local support groups. Prior to moving to Spain last year, Lisa and I regularly attended monthly sessions of MS Synergy – an independent support group operating in North Wales. I’d recommend it.

Alternatively, wherever you are in the world, if there is not suitable group near to you, you may be happy talking to people online. There is an ever growing range of website, blogs, discussion groups on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites where people with MS can share experiences and ask questions.

Lastly, yes I have used MS as an example here but don’t think that support groups are just about the one illness. Whatever you are living with, contact your disease’s national organization and ask about support groups in your area.


MSNT strapline copy



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