Jennifer Baker: U.S. health care: not so great
In response to the letters to the editor published in the Summit Daily opinion page on December 29, I would like to offer the opinion of someone with a unique perspective on the issue of health care in the U.S. While Mr. Gansmann affirms that the US health care system is “one of the best health care systems in the world,” and Mr. Wyman states that he has “visited and worked in 50 countries outside the USA” and that “when compared to the United States health care there is not a country that can match our current system based on health care given.” I dare ask how these two authors define “best” and “health care given?” “Best” for whom? Those lucky enough to have access to health care? “Given” to whom? To all or to a select group? How does Mr. Gansmann back up his affirmation? How does Mr. Wyman know that the health care provided to citizens in other countries he has “visited and worked in” is inferior to that in the U.S.? Based on what criteria?
I lived as an expat in Italy for 16 years. The single biggest obstacle and fear I dealt with concerning my return to the U.S. three years ago was the health care system. I sorely missed my homeland after so many years away, and do not regret the decision to relocate back to the U.S. with my family, but I now also miss the civility I experienced living in a country that provides access to health care to all.
Both my husband and I are self-employed. We work hard to support our children, pay our mortgage and taxes. We are athletic, have healthy body weights and are non-smokers. And yet we are forced to live in fear of becoming ill or having an accident. Our individual insurance policies have both dished up nearly 25 percent premium increases for 2010. Our combined annual deductible is $15,000, roughly a quarter of our annual income.
My 16 years in Italy included two pregnancies, one major surgery followed by a two-week hospital stay, a severely injured knee following a ski accident and a myriad of day-to-day medical issues. I was treated with cutting-edge technology, dignity and kindness. I was never awake at night as I am now, wondering how I can afford an ultrasound to diagnose a problem I am facing. In Italy I never weighed the odds of self-diagnosing on the Internet or not making the mortgage payment. I was treated in clean, Spartan health facilities, without fancy lobbies and fresh flowers in the bathrooms, but I could see my doctor anytime I needed to, and knew I would be cared for if ill or injured. My experience living in another country was one of true civility in this sense.
The mantra of the U.S. having the best health care in the world is just another misconception of an often juvenile, immature, bratty country. I am constantly struck by the fact that those making these claims are always those who can actually partake of and benefit from the health care system here. As for me and my family, we are lucky enough to have the option to hop on a plane, if our limbs are still working, should we truly need major health care. This even though we empty our pockets every month to pay our insurance premiums.
“Best” truly depends on your perspective. Try walking a mile in my shoes.
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