A Bi-Partisan Plea for Healthcare from a Foreigner in America

Posted by | July 16, 2009 | america | 2 Comments

taxalarmistcopy[The picture above is from the New York Post, it makes false or misleading claims (highlighted) about propsed healthcare taxes. It is part of an alarmist trend in the reactionary press which makes what could be a bi-partisan issue appear necessarily polarized].
Having lived in America for 10 years, its a great place – but there are two things that feel broken, the legal system (with opportunistic litigation and judges who legislate (on both sides of the political spectrum)) and the healthcare system (with its bureaucracy, mercenary feel and lack of universal coverage).
In healthcare the culture of litigation compounds the problems of both medicine and the law, and its failings should anger those on the left for its patent social unfairness and the right for its obviously inefficient free market failings.
Solving this should be a bi-partisan call to arms, but it has become a polarizing force through lies and deception. A proposal to increases taxes by miniscule (1%) and overhaul the whole system is being spun by knee-jerk reactionaries as a huge tax hike on the middle classes.
As an outsider who has experience of multiple countries healthcare, I feel compelled to share my anecdotal experience of it in the US.
Despite having healthcare coverage here, it was cheaper for me to pay for a doctors visit in France where my wife is from and buy an antibiotic out of my own pocket than claim against my insurance and pay the co-payment. If I lived there or in another european country such as the UK, (but not Ireland), this would be free with a nominal fee for prescriptions (less than $20) – and contrary to perception I would pay about the same in taxes. In Switzerland, I would pay for the mandatory healthcare (about half of the US rate, but with better service and results) but in the end it would be a wash because of lower taxes.
But its not just about day to day coverage. A health insured friend in the US who had a heart attack received a $300,000 bill after finding that his insurance company only paid 90%. A friend of my wife is nearly bankrupted by her treatment for cancer. The worst part is that many people in the US do not seem to know that its only there that this happens. In every single other industrialized nation the threat of being bankrupted by medical bills does not exist.
And treatment in the US is vastly different from anywhere I’ve been (I have lived in 4 other countries). Nearly every time I go to the doctor I am sent for some kind of test – this seems like a good thing and who am I to argue, I am not a doctor? But when I asked a doctor in the UK (after having been sent for a brain scan for dizziness that was a drug side-affect) I was told that the risk of the scan was possibly higher than the chance of disease. What may have been happening is that the doctor had to minimize his risk of being sued by increasing my health risk.
This abrogation of responsibility which seems to me to contradict the hippocratic oath also manifests itself in the annoying habit of giving you a choice for every treatment. When there are two people in the room making a health decision, a fully qualified medic and a trained architect, apparently the architect (me) has to make the choice. If you wanted to have an operation in a creative and unusual, but life threatening, way, you might want want to ask me. But I’d recommend a doctor. Yet when I say to a doctor, ‘well you choose from your recommendations’ he says (me) the architect should.
The responsibility problem is often not the Doctor’s fault. My sister, who is a doctor in the UK was told not to offer to help Americans if they fell ill while flying. The reason was fear of being sued. Litigation is just one part of the reason why US healthcare is a massive rip-off costing 40% more than anywhere else in the world with no better results.
For the capitalists amongst us, US heathcare is a DMV-like Byzantine rats nest of paperwork, unnecessary ass-covering treatment and co-payment drug costs which exceed buying them directly off the Internet.
And that is if you have healthcare. If you are one of the 46 million Americans, the only people in any developed country that don’t, then your life expectancy is less than if you lived in Libya.
What the Obama administration is proposing is to replace inefficient Stalinist style corruption with something economically far less socialist than the US military. So what’s the problem?


  • Hartwood says:

    I have reservations about the Healthcare Law. Will it cause negative reprocussions to my parents expenses? Do the positives overshadow the cons?

  • God love the US Congress. They’re gonna increase taxes and drop our pay. What do you think employers are going to do when employee expenditures increase?