Saturday, September 19, 2009
The American Health Care Debate
Traveling introduces a person to the many health care systems that exist in the world. As a Canadian, I grew up with free health care and always took it for granted. The Canadian health care system is not perfect, but then again, neither is the American health care system. In fact, I’ll take the Canadian model over the American one any day.
After being admitted to a hospital in the United States, I feel qualified to judge the differences (mainly disadvantages) of the American health care system over the health care systems in other countries to which I have traveled.
Unless you’re living it, one does not realize the additional stress of having to pay a substantial medical bill. Sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars! My hospital bill from the United States was over $3,000. In Guatemala, I had similar symptoms and went to a hospital and the bill came to less than $100 (including the prescription). Last year I almost died (literally) from food poisoning when I was in Costa Rica. The doctor’s bill? $100. Last month I went to a hospital in Berlin and saw a nurse, a surgeon, and a gynecologist and received prescriptions for antibiotics and painkillers. The bill was 141 euros. One of these countries doesn’t belong. Can you figure out which one it is?
In addition to lower medical bills, I’ve found that the treatment in other countries is much better than the treatment I’ve received while traveling in the United States. Medical emergencies are handled more calmly and pragmatically; in the United States my experience has always been with doctors who are hyper-reactionary, panicky, and stressed out. The whole medical industry feels as sensationalized as a Hollywood celebrity scandal.
Reading about the current American health care debate while living in a country (Germany) with socialized health care is enough to drive me insane. Luckily, I’ll be able to afford the psychological therapy needed to recover.