"One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Germany on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878." Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad


Adventures in "Universal Health Care"

Well, this is a controversial topic these days (or so it seems when we read the news from back home). But we just took Penelope to the doctor for her 6 month checkup, and it's on my mind.

I'm not here necessarily to weigh in on the debate. The most important thing I've learned since being over here is that too, too much of what I used to think about health care in Europe is simply false, and now I realize the same is true about health care in the U.S. So my own cards are guarded--if I even have any cards to play. I just want to talk about our experiences, with our family, in our city. So here's a list of general and specific observations.

1. The Europeans think American health care is CRAAAAAAZY. So everyone knows that we are the "only industrialized nation that does not have a universal health care system"--this fact is repeated ad nauseum. For what it's worth, we don't exactly hang out with the riff raff here in Germany, and it's fascinating to observe how superior European's view the European system to the U.S.'s. Not only do they think Americans are morally unjust in not fasciliating a more democratic system, they think a corporate/profit system is inferior even in terms of quality. They seem simply unable to understand why all people should not have a basic and sufficient access to healthcare. And moreover, they think their own care, for all people, is better. Whether or not these judgments are true is another issue.

2. The Christians we have met are especially troubled by the health care probelm in the U.S. (and yes, despite what you have heard, there are Christians in Europe). They don't understand why hospitality is not the impulse of American Christians. They do not mix words here. They view us--yes US!--as hypocritical in calling ourselves Christians and yet possessing an access to a basic dignity that others must struggle to acquire.

3. So when I'm not busy making sure the earth still spins on its proper axis, I read some news, and what amazes me is how many political pundits (on both sides) talk about universal health care as if there is no private option. Countries vary in this issue, but the existence of a public system does not mean the elimination of a private option (and certainly not in Germany). It is just silly the way this is discussed in the American news cycle. What is interesting, however, is how many people who could choose a private option do not.

4. You often hear in the U.S. that we should not trust the government with decisions about our health. Europeans wonder why we should trust profit-making corporations. They can really stump you on this one, believe me.

5. Not only do you have a general private option here, you can get done anything you want to get done, provided you pay. We have a cosmetic surgery practice just down the road from us, and from the pictures on the window they do a great job with boobs.

6. The general care for babies is more comprehensive here. Penelope was given sonograms on her hips and kidneys, which our insurance in the U.S. did not cover. The doctor insisted on it, and it made me feel like we were coming from a third world country. Throughout our close to 1 hour visit with our doctor here (YES, 1 HOUR!), issue after issue came up in which the system here offered significant advantages (the European Vaccination Card sounds like a great idea, by the way. I want one!).

7. The medical system here is also quite efficient. We had a 9:30 appointment. We arrived at 9:15. We had no paperwork to fill out. We simply gave them our contact information and previous records and sat down (we had previously discussed our general situation over the phone). At 9:30 (YES, 9:30, the time of the appointment) we were taken to the thoroughly homey, huge, and well equipped room for the checkup. We were greeted and treated by competent nurses and the extremely kind and observant doctor. We never felt rushed. We could ask any question, and the doctor was very thorough in his responses.

So there you have it. This round obviously tilts in favor of the European system, but this is just our recent experience. I'm not sure what system is best for the U.S., mostly because the U.S. is so much bigger than the individual European countries (but we can all agree the current system is a disaster--or have you ever negotiated with your insurance lords?). It is unfortunate, however, that so much dicourse in the U.S. about universal health care is altogether incorrect, even among those supposedly "in the know."

What is most important for us is that Penelope passed her exam with flying colors, except that her head, evidently, is a bit asymetrical. And in response to that news she left her mark, peeing on the examination table twice.

1 comment:

  1. For what it's worth, I find this to be a helpful meditation on how Christians might think about the issue of healthcare: