Friday, March 14, 2014

Healthcare in the USA? A dirty European newcomer point-of-view!

When people ask me "Where do you come from?" I’m answering, "I'm a French Israeli Californian".
Usually it generates a small laugh and no more questions, about cultures or habits.
Sometimes I get: “How do you like it here?”

I’ll love to answer an unconditional “A lot, thank you!” but I have to say, it’s very hard.
One of the reasons is the American healthcare system. But much worse than this, it's how Americans are dealing and talking about this whole issue of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. It is very disturbing for me.

I’m coming from two countries that are clearly ugly socialist empires for most Americans. Still, in theses countries (and so, for my entire life), I never linked my family health issues with my financial status.

Let me be clear, like every human being, I’m worried about my health and especially the health of my children.
Like every normal family we had to interact with doctors, specialists and hospitals many times in our life. During all this time I never considered the costs of it.

My daughter has Celiac disease and when I learned, it really worried me. Today, thanks to my wife, instead of being an issue it became a blessing. But, during this whole process, I never worried about money. And in France today the health system pays for the extra cost of Gluten Free food!

And since I’m here, it’s horrible!

After my son fell and got a deep cut above his eye, that needed stitches, we went to the ER. And even with the amazing health insurance coverage I got, we needed to pay $500 of out-of-pocket. So, I heard myself joking “Next time he can bleed to death!” How can you live like that? Kids hurt themselves. And every time it happens: Oups! Here goes the saving for our next vacation.

Naturally, I talked with the locals, to try to understand how it works. And, almost all them, started to complain about Obamacare and how it is hurting the middle-class. They talk about illegal immigrants sucking the system.
Like you can see in here:
"So illegal immigrants get health care without paying for it, but citizens face the choice of either buying expensive health insurance or paying a tax," Coburn and Barrasso wrote. "The cost of illegal immigrants‘ health care in the emergency department of hospitals will be shifted to Americans with insurance."

They are totally valid financial argument, and in France and Israel there were also people abusing the system. For any system you put in place. There will always be abusers!
And frankly, from experience, the white males with hypochondria are bigger abuser than illegal immigrants.

Anyway, what’s annoying me here, is that we are talking about health. Yes, there are immigrants with Cancer. It looks like they love it to have Cancer. They woke up one morning:
Now that I’m an illegal immigrant in the USA and I have Obamacare: It’ll be great if I’ll get Cancer!

They don’t get it! You cannot make a money decision when health is involved. Sorry you’ll have to die, we are broke. Are we back to the Middle Ages! I missed the memo?

Actually, I lied before about never worried financially. A friend of mine (he was an employee in the company I co-founded), discovered that his mother had late stage stomach Cancer. There was almost nothing he could do at the stage, except one drug that had really good results. But, the National Insurance did not yet approve it.

So, he needed to pay more than $5,000 a month, to buy this drug from his own pocket. What kind of choice is that? Sorry Mum I need the money, you’ll die!
He used his savings (we helped), she got better, and finally, he sued the National Insurance to prove they were wrong. Then he organized a protest to reform the approval system (it was too slow and under high budget constraints) at the government level. we helped in the protest, and it worked.
Israel National Health Insurance system got better. It made me feel good. Politicians actually listen and cared.

I have this very bad feeling: Nothing close to this can happen here. In America if you are poor, you die, it’s normal.

Basically, the question is not financial, the question is:
Are the USA rich enough (like Europe, Israel, …) to have citizens that worries about health, because being healthy is better than being sick, and not because it’s going to cost?

What disturbs me is that I know why America Health care system is like this.

Health is the most important part of life. In the USA employers have the power to influence your health.
Imagine yourself as a father of 3 kids that rely on your health insurance. Do you think you are going to risk anything that may get you fired? Can you protest your work conditions?
Now, as I’m actually an employer of American citizens, I can feel this power and leverage I have. It’s disgusting me!

If you are a good person, stop complaining about Obamacare, make the people that do not pay their shares (the 1%) understand that American citizens wants to live like all the others healthy rich citizens of the world: Without financial worries about health!

The solution is clear. Just go to and act!