After I arrived in the UK, I didn’t go find a new doctor right away. In fact, I put it off for quite a while. I had this persistent sense that I needed to wait for something — a number, a card, something to show that I could get healthcare.
Of course, I didn’t need any of that.
My husband looked up a nearby surgery (that would be the doctor’s office or clinic in the US). We filled out our patient registration forms online and stopped by in person a couple days later to sign a form and schedule new patient appointments. After assuring the receptionist that we live in town, she smiled and signed us up. No more questions, no additional identification needed.
I had one standard intake appointment with a nurse, to start with. She asked about how we’re getting on here in Wales, wanted to know how it was in Germany, inquired about my “hubby,” who had the next appointment after mine. She assured me that my blood pressure was perfect, although my heart was racing (it always happens at the doctor’s office).
My following appointment was with one of the doctors at the surgery. She laughed with me as I struggled to mentally convert inches into centimeters and pounds into kilos. (I swear, I have to do the conversion every time. Those numbers just don’t stay in my head.) We chatted, and she wrote me a prescription. As I walked out of the surgery, I made a point to make eye contact with the receptionists, who smiled and waved goodbye.
I headed across the street to the pharmacy, where they took my prescription and filled it while I waited. I made a note of all the shelves of over-the-counter medicines available. (No more having to ask a German pharmacist to pick something out from behind the counter for every little ache and pain!) Eventually, they called my name and handed me the medicine, asking me to confirm that my address was listed correctly. And that was it. I slowly slipped the bag into my purse and, as I watched the elderly woman next to me do the same, I made my way to the door.
These may seem like mundane, routine things, but here’s the thing: I never once had to show an insurance card or pay anyone for anything. That’s right: totally free healthcare. Every time I walked away without paying or flashing an insurance card, I felt like I was getting away with something, even though around here it’s perfectly normal.
It may not be a perfect system, but I’m impressed.