Growing Up under the Blanket of Socialized Healthcare
I grew up in France, snug under the blanket of social security. At the end of each doctor's visit, my mom would pull out her floppy checkbook and write out a tiny co-pay check. I always loved the ceremony of it. Always started feeling better as soon as the check was ripped out of her checkbook and ceremonially handed over to the doctor. It wasn't until I got old enough to pay attention that I realized the check was actually so small.
Some doctors did receive a bigger check though, like those that put us on faster appointment track or provided special services like attempting to tame my raging acne. There were also two types of hospitals. Those that required no check at all, the ones with hard linoleum floors and no pictures on the wall, and those like the American Hospital in Paris that had really comfortable couches in the waiting rooms.
I didn't experience the American healthcare system until I came to the States for boarding school in high school. Late at night, studying for exams, I picked at a hangnail until it became infected. The infection festered and throbbed, sending driving pain every time I picked up a pencil to write. After the school nurse soakings proved ineffective, they shipped me off to the local doctor who lanced it and prescribed some antibiotics.
I received the bill a few weeks later: $250. French social security didn't cover my overseas care and my allowance for the semester was wiped out. It was a rude awakening: my first taste of how quickly doctors' bills in America can wipe out uninsured individuals.
I spent the rest of my high school and college years terrified of serious illness, cramming all my medical needs into Christmas and summer visits back to France. Then I got a job right after graduation and joyfully joined the ranks of the insured in America.Continued on the next page