I had been a supporter of universal, yes, I’ll say it—socialized—healthcare long before I moved to Italy. Now that I’ve been here for a few years, I am officially a True Believer. I wish that every registered voter in the U.S. who opposes a national healthcare plan could experience just once the freedom and relief of going to the doctor, the hospital or the pharmacy and paying nothing or next to nothing for quality, modern care and medicine. I wish they could know the comfort of realizing that if they lose their jobs, they will still have healthcare. That if they become seriously ill, their medical expenses will be covered. That when they or their parents reach old age, they will never have to worry about how they’ll pay for medication or treatment.
I hear the naysayers make a lot of uninformed statements about universal healthcare, especially about how terrible it is in other countries, and how unhappy the citizens of those countries are with their programs. So here, I’d like to dispel some myths about universal healthcare as it works in the rest of the developed world (since the U.S., prior to October 1, at least, was the only developed nation without a national healthcare program):
WE DON’T ENVY THE U.S.
To those people who still think the U.S. medical system is the envy of the world, think again. The rest of Europe can’t figure out why arguably the world’s leading nation still doesn’t have a comprehensive healthcare system to take care of its people. For the most part, we’re quite happy with the care we’ve got, thank you. And just let a group of angry politicians try to take it away from us—they’d be booted out of office sooner than you can say “Obamacare.”
WE’RE DOING JUST FINE, THANK YOU
To those people who say, “Oh, socialized medicine is fine, unless you’re really sick,” wrong again. In four years’ time, I, members of my family or acquaintances have been treated, successfully I might add, for the following:
- Stomach and colon cancer. Regular check-ups in the years following surgery confirm that my loved one is still cancer-free.
- High risk obstetric care. This included all prenatal screenings, C-section and recovery, follow-up care and a pediatric nurse visiting my house.
- Diabetes and dialysis. An ambulance comes every day and transports a neighbor to and from the hospital for dialysis and diabetic management.
- Broken bones. When we took my husband to the ER, he was immediately taken to X-ray and put in a cast. We were in and out in two hours, and they loaned him crutches.
The bill for all these services? $0. Or, since we’re on the Euro, I should say, €0, which is actually about $1.35 times 0.
WE STILL PAY LESS
To those people who say, “Sure, but your taxes are a lot higher.” Yes, our taxes are somewhat higher, but define “a lot.” With premiums, deductibles and co-pays, the average insured family of four in the U.S. pays more than $21,000 a year for health coverage. That’s on top of their income taxes. So even if our taxes in Italy are higher, they don’t come close to the difference that Americans are paying for healthcare. Plus we have that no-doctor-or-hospital-bill thing going for us.
It’s truly disheartening to witness what should be a period of great, positive transition for the United States gutted by a disgruntled Republican party determined to see President Obama fail at all costs. The Republican fight isn’t about compassion or concern for public welfare. It’s about their greed, and their hatred of Obama. Maybe most members of Congress and of the general public opposed to ACA can never imagine themselves unemployed, injured and unable to work, or stricken with a serious disease. Maybe most of them will never face those desperate straits. Maybe they’ve got theirs, and they really don’t care about the welfare of their fellow citizens. (Sadly, I suspect there is much truth in that last sentence.)
I don’t wish bad luck on anyone. But I do wish that for just one night, all those members of Congress who have voted—more than 40 times—to repeal ACA would have to lay awake at night, and worry about how they’ll pay their medical bills, how they’ll pay for a lifesaving treatment or drug not covered by their insurance, about whether they’ll go bankrupt trying, or if their children will have to forgo college as they watch their savings get sucked away by healthcare costs. Maybe then they’d do the job they were elected to do, and serve their public by governing responsibly and letting the Affordable Care Act start to work.