The Health Care Debate: Land of the Free

07/23/2009

As a temporary American expatriate living in Denmark, there are few things on this Earth more infuriating than the current health care “debate” going on right now.

I use “debate” entirely euphemistically, because the opponents of reasonable health care know they have no argument against it and haven’t had one for decades now. RIght-wing champion of the Iraq War, Bill Kristol, back in 1993 put it thus:

“[T]he long-term political effects of a successful Clinton health care bill will be even worse–much worse. It will relegitimize middle-class dependence for “security” on government spending and regulation. It will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests.”

In short: If this passes, the Republicans are screwed.

The party that passes real health care reform becomes the hero of the middle class for at least a decade if not a generation. As such the Republicans are trying to draw a line in the sand and hope they can use it as a sort of magical totem by which to return the country to 1993 when Newt Gingrich’s Republicans were in ascendency.

Again, this isn’t being hidden at all. Senator DeMint famously said this recently on the issue: “If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”

As I said, not at all subtle.

Of course, what makes it worse is that there isn’t just the Republicans, but the health insurance companies themselves who see themselves rapidly closing in on the end of the free ride by which they could literally fleece people to death with no repercussions.

But these are all the petty annoyances. Any American who’s been mostly conscious these last 20 years knows that that’s pretty much the score as it has always been.

What makes it the most infuriating of all is the bullshit about socialized medicine in other countries. How there are long waits, how America provides better care, how there are just conceivably horror stories out there waiting to eat you.

Now, on the most obvious level, it is infuriating because it is obviously bullshit. Every reputable study in the last 10-20 years has put us dead last among the first world nations in health care provided while paying far more than most any other nation for it. We even had to admit to it in our own studies on the matter.

Anyone who knows even a single immigrant from another first-world nation has heard them exclaim how much better the health-care was in their home country. Every expatriate who goes overseas confirms the same thing. For the secluded, Michael Moore’s Sicko revealed the same. And for those who avoid anything even remotely liberal have had to clue in to the fact that the worst horror stories the opponents can think to scare us with (long lines in the Emergency rooms, being denied our first choice doctor, facing delays to specialist care) are all things pretty well routine here in America even for those with nice private insurance plans.

When the worst of the scare tactics sounds like what you have now, except without all the hassle and monumental bills from the Insurance company trying to avoid paying for approved procedures, not to mention the horror of being uninsured, wherein bleeding and convulsing on the floor of the Emergency Room doesn’t at all reduce the wait time for admittance (as I personally witnessed when taking my partner to the emergency room some years back*).

But why I most fully convulse with rage is because in a little under a year, I’ll be coming home and leaving behind the most socialist of socialized medicine in the form of my Danish health insurance.

When I got here, I knew the score of how great the health care was, but I had no ability to truly appreciate the stark contrast. Health care is absolutely free here. It is a right like breathing and every medical procedure is covered. When I got my ID card, I got to choose my doctor from a full comprehensive list with full option to change for a minor fee if I wasn’t satisfied. When I made my appointment to check in on an IBS problem from back in the US, it went as smoothly if not more than in the US. I got full blood work and ultrasound absolutely free. When I went to the hospital for the ultrasound component, the waiting room was practically empty and it was right in, again free.

Now, the impact of this is subtle, I realize. It didn’t even fully hit me until I made my dental appointment with a local dentist. The dentist apologized to me, voice deep with sadness as he directly criticized the health care system. “Dental wasn’t covered by the system, I’d have to pay out of pocket”. It was so expensive, so unfair, the dentist seemed crestfallen to reveal this shameful Danish secret. So I nodded and asked how much.

It was the equivalent of $20. $20 being my copay back in the States. $20 being the basic amount I used to pay just for the honor of getting a basic check-up. The fee on top of travel and lost wages just to get the most basic of medical care. And this was their nightmare version of “is not covered under the plan”.

Yeah.

That’s what I’ll be giving up when I come home, a system I’ll likely never see copied because obvious plays to xenophobia and a nationalistic pride that needs America to sound like number one no matter the truth do have weight and merit at least in the halls of Congress and newsrooms if nowhere else.

And I’ll be giving that up** as I fully go through hormones and eventually surgery thinking every step of the monetarily draining way, “In Denmark, even this would have been free***.”

And that is the strongest most personal reason why this farce is so personally infuriating. That we literally seem unable to get ourselves to do as much as look at just how beyond us every other civilized nation is right now. That we have given up before we have started, because right is too far and right now is a heated political battle aired before the nation.

 

*Her primary doctor at the time operated from the emergency room so regular checkup patients mixed with the critically wounded and insuranceless while waiting for care.

** Also nearly ubiquitous single-sex bathrooms and people so dedicated to kindness and tolerance that they don’t so much as bat an eye when you come in to your final with freshly shaved legs. God I’ll miss Århus.

*** Abortion is fully covered and free too. You know, just like it was an actually necessary medical procedure fraught with all the same bloody ickyness and tough decision making of all tough surgeries rather than a political football.

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One Response to “The Health Care Debate: Land of the Free”

  1. […] The health care debate has rather fiercely seized my attentions as of late. I started writing some posts on more general identity issues, but this issue was distracting me too much to continue. I already addressed much of my personal stake and frustrations with the back and forth in this post. […]

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