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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Experiencing Soshulism Firsthand

by David Atkins

I have often said that the instant cure for much of what ails America would be to make every adult citizen spend at least three months living overseas in a social democracy of their choice, be it Japan, South Korea or most of Europe. Fear of universal healthcare, belief in exceptionalism and general ignorance of the existence of other cultures usually derives from never having stepped foot for more than a week at a time outside of tourist traps in a country outside the U.S. Or, in many cases, never having stepped foot outside the country at all.

Dave Johnson at Scrutiny Hooligans points to a great L.A. Times column exemplifying this point earlier this month by David Horsey:

In the mid-1980s when I was a graduate student in England, my parents came to visit and my mother ended up getting a first-hand look at socialized medicine.

It was my dad and mom’s one-and-only trip to Europe -- a very big deal -- and I wanted to show them as much as I could. We crossed the English Channel to France and drove to see the cathedral at Chartres. The first night there, Mom slipped and sprained her ankle. By morning, she couldn’t walk and was in need of a doctor. We ended up at a hospital where, with no wait at all, she got X-rays and a friendly, highly competent female doctor checked her out and wrapped her leg.

As we were leaving, my mother asked where she should pay the bill. This was hard to translate -- and not just because of the gap between French and English. The hospital staff tried to explain that there was no charge. My mom did not think that was right. She felt responsible. She wanted to pay. After a bit of back and forth, it began to dawn on her that not only was there no bill, but the very idea that there should be one was foreign to these citizens of a country where healthcare was a right, not a commodity.

When we got back to England, Mom had a cast put on her leg. In the little village clinic, there was a bit of a wait and the doctor was perfunctory, but the deal was the same as in France: free of charge.

My mother’s experience with socialized medicine made her feel like a bit of a freeloader. She was, after all, not a taxpayer in either of these countries. Still, she did learn something that many Americans -- and particularly many members of Congress -- do not understand: European-style socialized medicine is not a hellish system without redeeming qualities. Doctors are expert and treatment can often come without a wait. If you are poor, you do not have to seek primary care in an emergency room, as is often the case in the United States. Even tourists do not need to worry if they hurt themselves or get sick; care is available for everybody.

It is a fact that European countries spend far less on healthcare than the USA. It is also a fact that Europeans, as a whole, are healthier than Americans. You would not learn that by listening to conservative opponents of the new healthcare law. They seem to believe the most damning complaint to be made about “Obamacare” is that it is moving the country toward a European-style, government-run system.
The most effective fuel for the plutocrats' fire is still the ignorance of their rubes.