Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Why is the US healthcare system so cruel? !!

"The right wing crazies can go ahead and make jokes about France and socialized medicine, but let's ask them about why France can serve their vets and their citizens with better health care and for less money."

I'm reminded once again just how nasty and cruel the US healthcare system is. On Friday, my mother in law was rushed to the hospital here in Paris following a stroke. It's been a rough weekend for the family because her condition is so serious. Fortunately she was sent to the top hospital in Paris for this condition so she is in the best possible hands. 

My father in law is a mathematician and generally the most logical and calm person that I know. Under these circumstances though, he's been struggling with the pain of wanting to help his wife of nearly 50 years. It's been difficult to say the least. What's noticeably absent from this process is worrying about fighting with his insurance company. The focus is completely on the patient and trying to make her comfortable and healthy. A few years ago when Jojo and I were taking care of an elderly friend here, it was the same.

I then compare this to what I witnessed in the US when my father was dying from poor cancer treatment. (I wrote this post comparing the two systems back in 2007.) My mother was a complete emotional disaster from both worrying about her husband and also trying to navigate the insurance coverage. As exhausting as it was trying to care for my father and hoping that his condition would improve, it was even more exhausting fighting over payment coverage. Both my mother and father always worried that his cancer treatment would bankrupt them.

Perhaps I'm preaching to the choir with this but really, the US healthcare system is about as mean spirited and nasty as I've ever seen. We allow the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to get away with almost whatever they want. We have too many people in the political class - mostly Republicans, but too many Democrats - that accept and allow this. It's all about campaign money and few people in Washington are willing to make the hard choices to stand up for regular Americans.

For the Dick Cheneys of the US, the healthcare system is fantastic. There's no question that the US is full of great doctors and world class medical care. The problem is, we don't call them the 1% for nothing and most of us are not part of that world. For the 99%, it's a struggle. How is it that in such a great and rich country like the US, we can't just focus on patients, but have to be so stressed about how badly we're going to be shafted by our insurance company? 

Will Obamacare help make this problem less stressful? Like everyone else I don't know. But keeping the system as it stands today (or God forbid, moving backwards) is not an acceptable option. We have to start improving the healthcare system and start treating our own people with compassion - real compassion, not GOP compassion - if we're to remain a serious country. Americans deserve better than what exists today.



Health care in France - special support for veterans

With the story of US vets being mistreated upon their return from Iraq I have compared those stories to a close friend and retired WWII wounded vet here in France. Donald is 80 years old and both American and French, his father being a US journalist who came to Europe to cover the WWI news and his mother, a local from Cannes. In November upon his return to France for the winter months, Donald fell ill while we were eating lunch. After a call to the emergency services, an ambulance took him to a local hospital – Val de Grace – where he was tested and monitored. Sadly, the hospital discovered a few very serious and advanced health conditions which can be attributed to avoiding doctor visits due to religious beliefs. (The French system provides a complete health checkup every five years, free of charge.)

A few days after his arrival at Val de Grace, which is one of the most prestigious hospitals in France, the hospital asked us during our daily visit if we knew anything about Donald’s health care coverage. I compared this to my US example where my mother had called 911 when my father was being treated for cancer and upon entering the lobby of the US hospitals – again, after a 911 call – the first thing the hospital wanted to clarify was his health insurance policy, leaving my father waiting in the lobby during a critical time. In France, Donald is officially listed as an injured war veteran (from WWII) so his health coverage is 100%. Not just 100% of the government assigned costs, but 100% of all health care costs which is above and beyond the standard coverage. In the eyes of the French system, Donald sacrificed for his country and so today his country is there to support him in his time of need. Treatment and health care can be at any number of hospitals as opposed to special military hospitals or VA hospitals in the US. Val de Grace just happens to be connected to the military.

Donald spent one month at the hospital in a private room with round the clock care in a hospital that often treats senior politicians from France and the world. They insisted that he stay in order to get his diabetes treatment started properly, so he could adjust and familiarize himself with the treatment. Sending him out alone was not even a consideration and the hospital refused to allow him to leave until we had organized regular medical care at his home in a remote village. Can you even imagine this in the US?

As I listen to the Republican smear machine get started in their attacks on nationalized health care and their quietness during the years of mistreatment of US soldiers returning from Iraq, I have to wonder whose interests they are protecting. From my vantage point I just scratch my head and wonder why this crowd is so against being there for soldiers and citizens who are in need. I know France is not popular with that crowd because France was correct about Iraq, but what I see is a country that actually stands up for its vets and is there during times of need. France is a country that has found a way to implement a top ranked health care system where its people are covered and its veterans are treated with proper care and respect. If the love-the-war-hate-the-troops people can’t grasp these basic ideas they need to realize that they are in the minority because the American people are looking for answers, not another smear campaign. 

The right wing crazies can go ahead and make jokes about France and socialized medicine, but let's ask them about why France can serve their vets and their citizens with better health care and for less money.

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