Aug 272007

This is my “How can it be the end of the month, and I haven’t written about anything social yet.”-post. Though I have to say that this month I feel like I haven’t said anything of substance, social or not. I blame it on vacation. (Also the not reading your blogs. Sorry. I’ll come and visit you after I return from Paris. Yes. Really.)

The thing that stuck in my head this month (apart from many fluffy things) was something Ewe wrote about Health Care in the US. And that mixed with numerous pleas for financial help on various blogs.

So: It’s a shame. Being sick shouldn’t make you bankrupt. Especially if you’re paying for health insurance. And then, when you actually need it – boom – you’re not “covered” and on top of serious illness comes financial debt. It seems to be better in Canada, and it certainly is better in Germany. Even in England, or so Ewe tells us. She writes:

I’ve never been without excellent, dependable health care, health care that never required more than a reasonable co-pay, and I’ve certainly needed it over the years for my multiple knee surgeries, shattered elbow, emergency appendectomy, pregnancies, etc.

I have been thinking about that phrase “reasonable co-pay” since then. I don’t quite know what reasonable means here. When I was pregnant and had a baby there was only one thing I had to pay for, and that was some kind of test that wasn’t deemed necessary but that my doctor recommended. It cost me about 40 €. Otherwise, dozens of ultrasounds, checking in with the doctor once or twice a month, a big ultrasound made by someone specialized in pre-natal diagnostics, giving birth in a hospital, the cesarean, staying in said hospital for ten days, all this cost me – nothing.

Health care in Germany is not heavenly, not by far, but I have never heard of somebody having to pay for years because he got seriously ill. People are required by law to have health insurance and employers are required to pay half of the monthly fees.

The US system leaves me with my mouth open in utter astonishment. I have a friend who moved to the US when she was pregnant with her first child. Her husband had a job at a university in Colorado. She told me that she had to enroll in classes she didn’t want to take (and pay for the courses of course) in order to have a reasonable health insurance. In Germany she would have had insurance through her husband. Like my son can have health insurance through me or my husband (it doesn’t really matter) without extra pay. When my friend had her second child in Germany she was surprised by all the test and check-ups that were done. Obviously, she didn’t have those when she was overseas.

Families like this have enough to deal with, they shouldn’t have to go fundraising so that there son can have necessary surgery. To me this appears inhumane. While people in the US are fortunate to have this medical care available, the next thing they have is to worry about the cost. In Germany all of the surgery, and most of the therapy would be paid for, just like that.

Nobody should be without “excellent, dependable health care”. My heart weeps for the people who live in countries where there is no medical care to speak of but I find it exceptionally cruel that there are people living in one of the richest countries in the world – and one that is very proud of having the best of everything – who can’t afford medical care. Or people who just have lost a loved one and then in addition to have to deal with that loss have to face bankruptcy on top of it.

  15 Responses to “Being sick shouldn’t make you bankrupt”

  1. It will take a revolution to make any significant changes in the US. It seems to me that a big part of the problem is that there is so much excess and extravagance and some people would have to have a bit less in order to accomodate others with genuine need. I’m a bit cynical, but I would not say that having less of anything is not a very “American” concept.

  2. Amen.

    Yes, it is way better in Canada. I have never known anything other than universal health care. I still find the situation in the U.S. astounding.

  3. I am astounded that a system like the one in the US exists. The paranoid part of me wonders if it is a way to keep a huge gap in the have’s and have nots.

    and um paris? sigh.

  4. It is nothing short of shameful the the so-called “richest country in the world” is unable to provide something so basic as accessible health care for all its citizens.

    But we have plenty of $ for making war.

    It makes me sick.

  5. Whoops, I meant that I would say that most Americans would not give anything up. I guess I got a little heated up and went crazy with the double negatives.

    Have a fantastic time in Paris. I’m so jalouse.

  6. Unfortunately, as unbelievable as the current health care system (or lack of it) in the US is, it’s about to get worse for some of the most needy. Currently, if a low-income child is denied Medicaid (federally funded health care), most states will provide it up to a certain income level. A new bill has been signed that requires a year-long waiting period before that child can be considered for State funded medical assistance, and the ceiling has been drastically lowered. That will leave even more children without any medical insurance at all and at great risk. Can you imagine having to wait a year before you can afford to get medical care for your child? It is a crime.

  7. brilliant post. and terribly, horribly sad. what the hell is wrong with us?

  8. The US system is scary. I completely agree with sober briquette and Meno. I am so thankful to be living in the UK, our NHS may get a bad press at times but it is there. ALways.

  9. There is a new industry where Americans are flying to Asia to have surgery because it is half the price and the standard of cares is excellent. There is even a hospital in Thailand that specializes in this kind of care.

    Some of the US HMOs are approving this kind of procedures so that they dont have to pay as much for the patient…. it is an odd sort of outsourcing..outsourcing the sick.

    My mother is Colombian and lived in the US but she would fly back to Colombia when she needed dental work because it was cheaper and of very good quality.

    I am just glad that I have been living in Germany for the last few years.. where children’s medicine is free and my payments have been reasonable.

  10. South African Healthcare is also rather shocking.

    But without it you are not allowed into a private hospital. Even in cases of emergencies they stabilise patients, transfer them to a public hospital and only allow them back once they are able to prove that they belong to a medical aid.

    And public hospitals are a hit and miss, too many patients, careless staff, too few doctors.

  11. Funnily enough, the NYTimes had another really interesting article on this today, about how the Cancer Society is now running commercials about how so many will never benefit from progress in fighting cancer and other serious diseases because they don’t have the insurance to do so…

    It also points out that 1 in 4 families without healthcare become impoverished if a member is sgtricken with cancer, as do 1 in 5 families WITH healthcare. It’s just so wrong.

    (Oh, and by ‘reasonable’ co-pay, I meant US$5 or $10 per appointment, which, all things considered on my particular plans, couldn’t be deemed unreasonable from my perspective and position. I know the co-pays were less, or even nil, for senior citizens. And no co-pays were required by anybody for anything done while hospitalized.)

    Finally. Green here. I love Paris.

  12. Thanks for this post. The system in the US is truly shocking. But, like so many other shocking things these days, apparently not shocking enough to motivate real, lasting change.


  13. It is MUCH better in Canada, yes.

  14. Are prescription medicines covered in Germany? We pay for our own here in Canada, which is no big deal when we’re talking about a round or two of antibiotics – but I’ve been made more aware recently of how large a hole that policy can make in our social safety net for people with illnesses like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. You CAN go bankrupt in Canada for being ill if you’re unfortunate enough to have an illness that is treated with medicines rather than surgery or hospital stays.

  15. Thank you for all your comments. I’d like to know a little more about the South African system. (Or maybe I don’t, I’m not sure.)

    To Bubandpie: Yes, prescription medicines are covered. You have to pay something between 3 and 10 € per prescription. But not more than 2% of your annual income. For hospital stays we have to pay something like 15 € a day. There used to be times when we didn’t have to pay anything apart from our monthly health insurance rates but the system doesn’t work like that anymore.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.