Written by an American expat living in the E.U.
Updated & Republished
There are 59 million Americans who have no medical insurance, in the E.U. the number is close to zero. As such this diary reflects my own empirical experiences of the Stateside medical system and the medical system that I've been exposed to in Western Europe. The first thing that one is struck with over here is that literally everyone you see has medical care and is insured fully. It doesn't make any difference whether I am in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy,UK, France, the Benelux countries, everyone you see irrespective of income, education or social background is insured from cradle to grave. In fact these people have never seen anyone in person or never known anyone who isn't always insured. Seeing uninsured persons for them is an oddity which they don't know how to process, because they have no experience or reference point in their experience that allows them to do that, as it is a completely foreign concept to them.
Americans however don't have that problem. We are socialized from a young age to deal with the medical and dental indigent populations by stepping over them with callous disregard as part of our overall class conscious socialization process, and that's why our politicians even in the democratic party feel they can with impunity reject any public health care option.
A difference that is immediately visually apparent:
One of the immediate things a person notices is how good everyone's teeth seem to be, irrespective of their social background or the job they hold. Pretty much everyone that I see in sharp contrast to America has really great teeth. It doesn't matter if it is the chambermaid in your hotel, the waiter that is serving you, the meter maid, the street sweeper or garbage man, or the folks that work fastfood restaurants, even the unemployed all have compared to a huge number of Americans really great teeth, especially the children. Now I think that is something to really smile about don't you. I can't count the number of children I have seen in the past year and a half with what in the States would be very expensive braces, which over here virtually speaking are free. What an amazing, immediately visually, undeniable difference as compared to my experience in the United States. Western Europe is a large land mass with a population bigger than that of the United States, so it is difficult to generalize but generally speaking universal dental coverage of some type is essentially available to virtually everyone irrespective of employment status. So they don't generate media events where people are sleeping in their cars to line up for early morning charity care slots.
Another difference you can see:
How many Americans have we all seen who work low paid service jobs, who have to wear what for lack of a better term what might be called ratty looking glasses. That is to say glasses that have deep scratches or gouges, that have been broken and are glued together with obvious big cracks in the plastic or they are held together with tape. In Western Europe that isn't something you see very much of among low paid service workers, because a basic set of eyeglass frames and lenses are made available to people and their children virtually free of charge. If you want fancier frames, now those you have to pay for. If you want fancy lenses with no bi-focal lines, wafer thin etc.., those you also have to pay for. To reiterate Western Europe is a big place, so these things do change slightly from country to country, but basic coverage is generally available universally everywhere as it applies to medical and dental care to all populations, even the homeless.
A prescription for America's future:
A trip to a pharmacy also yields an immediate, visually apparent difference, because little or no money ever seems to be exchanged compared to American pharmacies, because in Western Europe virtually any medication can be had no matter how expensive for a co-pay of a maximum of $25 US or usually less as a rough generality. Most medications for chronic conditions in most Western European countries are free. Depending on the country in Western Europe for seniors and children, medications are provided at little or often no cost at all. Now isn't that a prescription for America's future?
Choosing your own doctor:
As I've been in Western Europe on and off for the last 20 years, I've never seen a medical plan where people were not able to choose their own doctors. Nor have I ever spoken to anyone over here who has had that experience. This leads one to ask the question, how is it that the paid liars for the Republican party are able to scare people with their prevarication filled diatribes telling them that under a public option plan would not be able to choose their own doctors, because the govt would do that for you. Wherein they forget to mention that American HMO's regularly not only choose your doctor for you but also your hospital, but I guess that's ok because they're not the govt, and to be quite pejorative about it, we're too dumb to know the difference right? We're also too dumb to know that health insurance companies regularly deny care and claims as well as ration care for the good people. As for the 50 million uninsured well the truth is we are to reiterate just socialized to step over them, therein empowering our politicians, with almost complete impunity even in the Democratic party not to give a public option in health care reform a fair hearing.
Collective responsibility versus individual responsibility:
What I see in Western Europe is collective responsibility being practiced. Wherein everyone irrespective of income, irrespective of education or social background has basic access to medical and dental care to include prescription plans as a right of citizenship, therein covering nearly 100 percent of their populations in a way that provides for substantive cost control to govt, business and society, because health care is considered to be a public good available as a right of citizenship. What I've seen in American society is that our leaders in govt and business lie to the people basically telling them that they can have a free lunch by shifting the responsibility away from the collective to the individual. Therein ignoring the postulate that says if you want good roads, clean communities, good infrastructure, good schools, good public services and a good health care system then you have to be prepared to collectively pay for them, because there is no such thing as a free lunch.
This is in sharp contrast to the Republican ethos that espouses it is ok to bankrupt the country if only it means enriching yourself, because medical care to these people is a private good and not a public good available as a right of citizenship. What we are therefore left with is the most expensive health care system in the world that doesn't insure 50 million people. That allows for Americans on average to live 3 years less.
All of this is to say nothing over the immense amount of fear and suffering and financial insecurity that the failed for-profit health care industry has hoist on the American people. That is why finally we need a public option, because competition works to improve health care delivery and access. If you support the primary thesis of this diary please recommend it to a friend and ask them to contact their member of Congress in support of a public health care option, as the only way to preserve the American dream!
Harvard study links 45,000 U.S. deaths to lack of health insurance