Monday, March 10, 2008

Health Care in the United States, part 1...

As promised, I have been thinking a lot about health care, since I was thrown back into the American system last fall. This is not political writing, just my impressions of our system, as well as the socialized system in France. If you are inspired, please share your views and I'll be happy to read them with an open mind and heart. Every one's opinions are important, it's what makes our country great, and I want to hear what others have to say about socialized medicine. It's important in the election this fall and something we all need to look at openly...

So, here's my story of my medical care in the United States:

The day we arrived in the United States was pretty uneventful, but I do remember Love Bug crying more than usual. I just thought she was tired. By our second day, she was fussy, not eating, and just generally seemed to be in pain. I tried to call doctors in the area for an appointment, but had trouble. I heard things like, "we aren't taking new patients" and "you have to have a baseline physical before you can come in for sick care... can you go to your regular pediatrician?" No, lady... I can't go to my regular pediatrician, because he's 3,000 miles away in France.

Finally, we gave up on calling pediatricians since it was getting late and we went to the emergency room out of desperation. We were charged $241 for the visit and another $264 by the doctor who NEVER EVEN SAW US or SPOKE A WORD TO US. A nurse practitioner saw Love Bug and doubled checked with the pediatrician before giving us a prescription. What was the horrible diagnosis that require $500 in medical care?

An ear infection. And the $500 was not covered by our insurance because we have to meet a $1,000.00 deductible per year for the Emergency room before they will pay anything. Since we were living in France, with socialized health care until the day before, we obviously hadn't met that deductible yet.

Fortunately, we live comfortably and can afford this. But what about those who can't? $1,000.00 is a lot for most people. $500 for an ear infection is obscene. What about those who are poor, who have no insurance, and don't know anyone who makes a living wage?

Well, the even better news came a few weeks later... we hit our deductible! I was told to have a flu shot, so I headed to the local grocery store/pharmacy for mine. They were offering the pneumovax (for pneumonia) as well, and since I had suffered with this a few times in my life, I decided to get one. Well, my arm started aching an hour later. By 9:00 pm (6 hours later), my whole arm was red, hot, and swollen... as well as sore. We decided to go to the emergency room, since no clinics nearby would treat this kind of thing (they handle ear infections, bronchitis, etc. only). It was a bad reaction to the vaccine. I waited for two hours before I was only seen for 5 minutes. My bill came a few weeks later for almost $600. Since we only needed $500 more to meet the $1,000 deductible, our insurance covered $100 of it. Gee, thanks...

I also had my teeth cleaned and had two fillings done with a local dentist who was a approved provider with my insurance. For the cleaning and x-rays I was charged $120, and for the fillings, I was charged $180 and $165 dollars respectively. These were fair charges based on the area I was in at the time. My insurance only paid $14 for the cleaning and $28 for each of the fillings. I brush and floss regularly, but was blessed with our family trait- soft enamel. Dental health is being paraded in the media as "vital to physical health, especially of the heart". But not vital enough for my insurance to cover apparently. Oh, and by the way, my x-rays weren't covered since I had had them one year earlier. They only cover dental x-rays every two years.

Again, we are okay and could cover these expenses, but what about the families who can't? I don't have some obscure insurance... I have blue c.ross/blue sh.ield.

Obviously, we need something better. I'm not convinced that socialized medicine will work on a large scale in our country, because we are so lawsuit-happy with malpractice, but I would like to at least see some pilot programs for children. No parent should have to decide between treating a child's illness or putting food on the table. I'll post part 2 of this post later this week, about experiences with socialized medicine in France. You can judge for yourself. Their system works well in France, but would it ever work here?


*carrie* said...


I am thrilled you wrote about this! I was actually planning to write on this topic tomorrow, because Eric and I just watched a documentary over the weekend on American healthcare vs. universal. I totally thought of you, because they cover France pretty extensively, and interview several Americans living in Paris. I look forward to reading more, and will link to your thoughts!

Susan said...

There is a lot to be said for the health care industry. I used to work for health insurance in America for a non profit organization not trying to make money, just break even. We paid 1 year $500,000 in pharmacy claims. Next year, no change in membership or prescription, went up to $2,000,000. Why? Because of lawsuits!

Universal care works in Germany, at a price. Doctors and nurses are less educated in Germany. But let us talk about taxes. The Germans are taxed 50% of their income. It is not enough. They need to raise more taxes because the healthcare system is almost bankrupt.

It is easy as an American making an American paycheck and paying American taxes while living in Europe. I am living as a European, paying Europe taxes and it is tough looking at my hubby working his butt off making so much money and seeing only half of the earnings. He would make the same amount at Walmart. There are many perks to the system, but at what cost?

Ask me why we live in an apartment with 1 bedroom? Why we go out to eat once a year? Why the Germans have the lowest birthrate in the world. Taxes taxes taxes eat your money. Who can afford the live in those big houses like the Americans? Where would you put 3 kids? How long will the social system in Germany uphold the demands? Why is the unemployment rate at 10%? There is a correlation between the 2.

Overall, sure the European system is better insured. It is agreat thought. But are you really willing to downsize your life to pay for the "dream" healthcare system that France and Germany have? Germany is taxed at 50%, Frances taxes are higher, Italy even worse.

US system needs a reform. But be wary of the people telling you how great socialized healthcare is. Ask a German or French person how THEY feel about their system.