Monday, November 24, 2014

The American Health Don't Really Care System

I haven't been able to post or write as much as I'd like to lately. Sometimes, reality has a way of rudely interrupting. Since the middle of October, I have been dealing with the ongoing crisis of my wife's eye problems. I have been the caterer, cleaning staff, personal shopper, chauffeur and entertainment director as well as my regular menial labor schedule. She had been sort of ignoring that her vision had been deteriorating for a while and the real hint I had that there was a problem was when she tried to drive at night. For me, it was sheer terror and I started demanding to let me drive. I really knew there was a problem when she agreed and let me. She recently changed eye doctors and her new doctor is a real artist! On the first appointment, he informed her that she had rapidly advancing cataracts in both eyes and had to have corrective surgery. He then said, that this was actually good news, because it was relatively simple and he specialized in the procedure. He also told her that the cataract surgery would go very far in relieving the ongoing mild glaucoma she had been being treated for. He also informed her that he would be able to implant new lenses in her eyes and she would never need glasses again. My extremely beautiful and neurotic wife has had a life long phobia about eyes, so she kind of freaked, to say the least.
But after the initial shock, she stoically prepared for the procedure.  We thought a lot about how this would have impacted us if we still living in America. Both of us could only have the luxury of Health Insurance in the USA while we were working. When I was young, my family was literally destroyed by the American Health System. I was hounded by phony debt collectors until I was in my late 20's trying to get me to pay bills for my mothers hospitalization and treatments for MS. She died when I was 12. My father died in debt a few years later. We were guilty of being Middle Class Americans. I was lucky enough to have a friend who knew a lawyer who crusaded for victims of the American Health Care system. He wrote a few letters, performed some kind of legal juju and I never heard from the debt collection agency again. How those scam artists found me in New York City years later, I never knew. We had insurance. My father worked for Chrysler, but the insurance obviously wasn't enough.
I know people in the USA who use prescription drugs to treat conditions like asthma. Even with good insurance, for many people there is a cut off for the amount their insurance will cover. A yearly drug allowance. Then, you are on your own. One friend schedules a vacation to come here to France. Luckily he has friends in Paris and down here to stay with.  He has discovered that the cost of buying the drugs he must buy to maintain his health is only a third of the cost of the same drugs in the USA. So he figured that a cheap round trip to France would save him a few thousand dollars a year in prescription asthma drug costs above what his insurance will pay out. We introduced him to a French doctor who gave him the prescription for the medications he must take. He pays full price for the drugs and doctor as he is not in the French Health Care System, but, he still saves a few thousand dollars a year even after the price of a round trip flight to Paris from New York. In fact, the price Americans pay for the same drugs, made by the same company sold in Europe is roughly 8x!

I have been a life long chronic asthma victim, but my condition is no where as serious as my friend's is. I have to take medication as well. It was never properly diagnosed in America, but I did have a prescription for medication. I take medication now for the condition and I figured that if I lived in the USA, I would be paying almost $2,000 a year or more. Here? As a French resident and enrolled in the Health Care System, my cost comes to around 70 Euros a year, much of which is reimbursed into my bank account. A regular doctors visit costs me 2 Euros. I do pay for a supplementary insurance, Mutual de Perigord of less than 20 Euros a month. This upgrades the quality of any hospitalization I might ever need ( I am guaranteed a private room with a TV, magazines and phone among other things), most of my prescriptions and covers much of the cost of glasses and my dentist as well.
A few years ago, when I began to discover the world of blogging on the internet, I contributed to a blog that seemed to have a very eclectic readership. French, American, Australian and Eastern European! Dome of the Americans were extremely conservative. When we ever discussed health care, they became enraged. A lot of nastiness directed at me as an opportunist who left America only because I could "suckle from the teat of Socialism". That was a direct quote from a crazy lady in Kansas who bragged that she was privileged to live in the Good Ol' USA and pay 700 dollars a month for rip off health insurance. I could never figure out why Americans felt that this was an indicator of their Freedoms. I feel the decent Health Care is every one's right and that is what insures a higher level of Freedom. Freedom from being made indentured servants to an out of control greed driven system that preys on your very life. What was all that shit from Sarah Fucking Palin and her Death Panels about again? Tell me how that applies to my buddy who came to visit from Chicago and ended up being checked into the Hospital in Perigueux on the verge of a heart attack with no money and no insurance? He was in the hospital for a week and got the very best care and no one asked him for a centime in spite of the fact that he told them he was a poor American artist with no health insurance. He walked out of the hospital with a very affordable bill and only the promise to pay them back as he could.
Or, in contrast, the bizarre but all too real story just last week ,of the Canadian couple who decided to take a vacation in Hawaii. At the time, the wife was 6 months pregnant and they purchased Blue Cross Insurance in case there were any problems. The problem? There was a problem and the wife gave birth to a baby 3 months prematurely in a Honolulu Hospital. The baby was healthy but they were presented with a bill for almost 1 Million Dollars! Blue Cross refused to pay it claiming the pregnancy, which they had purchased the insurance specifically for, was "pre existing condition". This is a Health Care System?
The thread of this particular rant began with my wife's cataract/lens implantation surgery and wondering how much money it would cost us. The reality, I spent more on vet bills this year. The specialist eye surgeon and the office consultations were the most expensive outlay and we are being almost totally reimbursed. The trips to the Eye Clinic, for 3 surgical procedures were provided by a medical taxi service which was free. The surgeries were totally covered under the Medical System. The medications my wife is taking in her recovery are almost totally reimbursed. If we needed a nurse to come to our home from the local medical center in Hautefort, it would be free. The doctor in Perigueux is a true artist. His clinic is state of the art. My dentist has a facility that is beyond anything I ever saw in the States. The level of care and kindness we get from the medical staff is personal.
I know that there is great health care in the USA, but you get what you can afford. Good health care is considered a privilege. Excellent health care is based on what you can afford. Insurance guarantees very little. You get what your provider is willing to pay for.
This is the lack of empathy that flavors so much of the American character. When you don't have anything, it's easy to find someone lower than yourself contemptible and self serving to make yourself feel better by denying them access to what little you have. This degrades the quality of life for the entire society. Improving the quality of life for those who have less than you is the way to enrich and make an entire society more humane and healthy. I know I am only saying what you have read before, but by discussing it and acting positively, instead of passively scrambling for the paltry sheckels that are thrown to you from the limos of the gods and demanding quality, the affordable Health care that is your right, not a privilege will be yours. America is the only Western democracy that doesn't provide it for their citizens. The ACA is a beginning, but fighting the lobbies of the drug companies and health care providers and the billions of dollars in lobby graft slipped into the pockets of their puppets, is out and out war. The Republicans have no alternative plan and they seem to think that they can use this as a divisive issue and destroy it piece by piece. Decent affordable, quality health care is your right, but you are going to have to positively fight for it!
By the way, the stitches come out on Thursday...being my very unusual beautiful wife, she had a very complicated problem that required a third operation. We know that it will be totally successful...the right eye is perfect! What really worries me is that she is going to be able to see too well! Already, she noticed the color she chose when we repainted the first floor of the house last summer is not at all what she thought it was. Damn if I'm going to repaint it again!

1 comment:

Ol'Buzzard said...

I get so fucking tired of hearing politicians brag how great American is compared to other countries. It is a great place - if you are wealthy.
the Ol'Buzzard