Guest Editorial: The Right to ... DIE: Contrasting the American Health Care Dilemma by Monica Vieira Tuck
(DALLAS - July 6, 2012 ) - I will never forget the movie, “John Q”. That had to be a phenomenal fictitious story of a situation that should never happen in the most civilized/free country in the world. I still remember movies from the golden Reagan era where the red evil was trying to defeat the good guys against freedom and the nation that will protect and save the world. What is the reality of the state of health care in the good ol’ USA? I don’t think anybody could ever understand the cruel reality of the inhumane state of the American Health care system unless you’ve been through it.
In the summer of 2004, I arrived in Texas. I was 5-months pregnant and immediately sought a doctor so I could follow-up on my medical care. I went to the 1st visit and was informed that because I had no medical insurance that my first bill would be $900. That would be the cheapest bill that doctor’s office ever sent me. On the day of his birth, after many similar payments, I was confronted with the bizarre situation of having to pay my epidural before it was given to me.
So, I got up from the bed (I was in labor, mind you) and walked a few steps to the closet were my purse was, took out my check book, and wrote a check. Still to this day, that image of me stumbling in a room alone - in labor - reaching for a method of payment is something that makes me both sad and mad at the same time.
A few months later, the final bill came home and the total of Daniel’s birth was $18,000. It was an easy, very well-assisted birth. The doctor was amazing and the nurses and assistants were the best any woman can have. However, for that money in my country (Portugal), I could have given birth at the 4 Seasons Hotel, ate Caviar and drank Champagne as the first after-birth meal.
Before I continue, in my humble opinion - I want to share this comparison that BBC news did about two similar cases:
Angela, Chicago, US: ”It started when I was getting ready for work as a pastry cook. While in the shower, I found a lump in my armpit, so I called my aunt who is a physician’s assistant and she told me to call my doctor. “But at that time I had only been with my company for two months and so I was on a probationary period. This meant that I had to wait 90 days for my insurance to kick in. It was hellish – I went to work and I was a wreck. “After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, treatment – and payment – started quickly. I went for a 20/80 insurance option which means that my insurers paid 80% of my bills and I paid 20%. So I was getting bills every week. “The doctor’s office had to ask my insurers for permission for some of the therapies I got. For example, I had to get a MUGA scan which checks to see if your heart is okay to stand the chemotherapy but my insurers had to give me permission to get the test. “And I wondered why, when I was having all this insurance, why I had to ask permission for a certain test? “Ultimately I filed chapter seven bankruptcy. The hospital was billed for $193,426 which was the 80%. The mind boggles. It’s a lot of money. Can you imagine what that would be for people without the money?”
Cathy, UK: ”It started in 2008 when I noticed a lot of irritation on my breast. The doctors told me three times not to worry, but by February this year I went back and asked them to check. After some tests they found I had an early form of cancer. “Up to this point this was all free at the point of use under the National Health Service (NHS). I pay money in every month in my salary, as we all do in England, and then hospital visits and doctor’s appointments are all covered. “In May this year my breast was removed – which was very quick. I’m very happy since the operation that this was removed. “Next year I go back for reconstruction of the nipple. Interestingly enough, this could be seen as a cosmetic operation, but this is something I can have under the NHS. “Goodness knows how much it would cost if it wasn’t covered by the NHS. “I do feel gratitude – some towards myself for making the doctors take me seriously – and now towards the NHS.
This is what happens in Europe on a daily basis; cases are treated by order of urgency and if anybody wants to pay for private care, they can. Another common option is people who don’t want to wait for the family doctor visitation that can take up to 2 months can go to a private doctor and pay 100 or 200 Euros and then that Doctor will book and schedule any big procedure at the public hospital for free. Europe has the simple notion that EVERYBODY has the right to healthcare.
A percentage of every worker wages goes to the national healthcare foundation, so when anybody needs to use it, they can freely walk in at any emergency room and get any medical care for free or at a 10 euro admission fee in some countries (like Portugal).
Many would say that the European economy is broke, and I must agree that it is. Now, we have free health care and education that costs a lot for the government. I don’t understand what the excuse in the US? What are American workers getting for their paycheck deductions?
My shock over the 12-weeks unpaid maternity leave led me to feel deeply sorry for women that are forced to leave their child even earlier than that timeframe simply because they can’t afford to stay at home and care for the new life. Maternity leave all over the democratic and industrialized world is paid for, and, in some countries, the mother (or father) can stay at home up to 16 months with a paid leave, although the average time is between 3 to 8 months.
That time is considered a special and important bond with the newborn and is allowing the new mother body to heal and catch up on the new schedule that often can take a huge impact on the couple and their rest - or lack of it.
The average citizen is not as well-informed as he/she should be. The Evangelicals and all other religious groups’ opinions about the right of women getting birth control in their plan (which is a tremendous attempt to regress 50 years in women’s freedom) are irrelevant and need to be kept inside church sermons on Sunday. Further, people need to stop being scared of the word ‘socialism’ because the majority don’t even know what that means and jump into semi-protests instead of fighting in the same direction.
People often disagree without understanding that this system doesn’t work and that is why millions die at the hands of the medical industry and their outrageous prices - as there is a price to live and a cold bed to die if the wallet is empty and hope is gone.
Priorities need to be established, and passing the so-called ObamaCare was a huge victory for the American people. It is a victory for the ones who stay at home in pain afraid of calling an ambulance because they can’t afford the bill. It was a victory for the families that need that break and that peace of mind, something that can’t be explained unless you have lived it. Unless you live with the fear, you can’t recognize how important this law is.
I often lose my calm when people tell me that they can’t choose their doctors (MISCONCEPTION ) and that this system is just fine. I snap back with the same question: WHAT DOES IT MATTER what doctor SAVES YOUR LIFE? Yes, you can choose your family doctor from the available list in your area, but in any case, WHO cares?
I have the same reaction when the discussion goes to the sad aspect of the debt most doctors graduate in. And that is a correct statement that will lead me to another article: The cost of education!
It is a circle that won’t stop until somebody with courage and heart realizes that in able to get, you gotta’ give. That person so far is Mr. President - Barack Obama, a man that maybe because of his well-traveled upbringing and sense of human rights had the courage to get into a war with the pharmaceutical companies, insurance mob, and the tight clan of doctors that want to keep making $500k a year, live in the luxury of the hills, and continue to enjoy the lucrative benefits of this shameful health care system.
This war is going to be bloodier than the Iraq battles as those institutions are worst and more organized than the Mob in Sicily when it comes to protecting their billions.
One can’t miss what they never had. It is going to take time for Americans to realize that some things in life are free. Do you?