Insight Into Healthcare Around the World
To date, I have lived in and received medical care in five different countries: France, the United States, the Netherlands, Hungary and the United Kingdom.
Just for reference, I am an American, but have spent a good chunk of my adult life in various countries. I was, however, diagnosed with SLE whilst in the United States.
I find that often healthcare in other countries is romanticized, just as European life is romanticized in general in the United States. Have you ever seen Michael Moore’s Sicko? If so, you’ll know that it made healthcare around the world seem flawless and the healthcare in the US seem battered and broken (which, truthfully, it is).
However, I am going to try to give you a brief rundown of my experiences with healthcare in different countries being as unbiased as possible. Please remember that these are only my experiences, as yours may differ slightly from mine due to many different factors.
None of this is said to make anyone look bad, but rather give insight into different healthcare systems from an American perspective.
In the United States, I have always had pretty good insurance, and I consider myself extremely lucky. I know my case is not the norm.
However, with good insurance, I was also able to have quick access to doctors and did not have to pay high premiums. And while most facilities were modern and tests thorough, doctors who truly care about their patients are a needle in a haystack. Every so often, you find a gem, but I often found that doctors were incredibly dismissive of my lupus symptoms, particularly due to my age.
I was finally diagnosed, after lots of struggle and insistence on tests, after five years of symptoms. And although I have fortunately never struggled to pay a medical bill due to my awesome insurance, I am aware that this has not been the case for most.
Without good insurance or a heavy purse, many Americans are simply priced out of healthcare and cannot afford to attend regular doctor visits or pay for their medications — which are extremely pricier than the medications abroad.
For any non-Americans reading this article, healthcare in America is entirely dependent on your ability to procure employment. An employer will provide you with healthcare after you have worked with them for a period of time, and this may include your spouse and dependents.
Depending on the coverage, it may cover entire doctor’s visits, hospitalizations and specialists, or it may only cover a percentage. If you are a freelancer or your job does not provide healthcare (typically if you work less than 40-hour work weeks), you can purchase your own, but you are typically denied care for any pre-existing condition.
This makes living with lupus extremely tricky unless you are able to carry on full-time employment or want to live on disability (which will provide free healthcare). Obamacare is trying to change some of these rules that exclude people from having viable healthcare options.
In France, I didn’t experience much of the healthcare system, so I considered not even writing this paragraph. However, while I lived there, I did experience a chest infection that required a (free) visit to the doctor.
Since I was there to study French, I braved the visits without a translator, which caused a few frustrations. However, in the end, I was given medication for my problem which cost less than €10.
They told me to bill it to my insurance in America and I almost laughed. I also remember that at one point the chest infection was so bad that I tried to go to an emergency room, to which I was told I could not and had to go somewhere else — presumably a walk-in clinic.
All in all, my experience with the French healthcare system is a positive one. To be honest, I am not exactly sure how French healthcare works on a bureaucratic level, so I apologize for not being able to give that information.