Gratitude: Health care


One of the things I’ve been most grateful for in Switzerland is health care. The system that’s in place is similar to what the state of MA and now the Affordable Care Act have been attempting — personal coverage is mandatory, insurance companies must provide minimum coverage that’s outlined by law, they cannot discriminate based on preexisting conditions, and maternity care is included in basic coverage.

We had great health insurance in the U.S. through IBM — it was one of their best plans. But when there were health issues, it took us months to sort out co-pays, hospital bills, and actual coverage. Ultimately, we ended up spending a few thousand for screenings, tests, and procedures that were probably life-saving and completely worth it, but the entire process was stressful because we never knew when to expect another bill. The insurance company was unhelpful, and every department in the hospital handled billing differently, so we spent hours on the phone with multiple people to try to figure out accounting.

Here, we’ve had a few medical things come up, but even ER visits never cost more than a couple hundred (without insurance). We have deductibles, 10% co-pays in certain situations, and a cap on the amount we’re expected to pay out of pocket. I don’t fear envelopes from either the hospital or the insurance company because everything is clear. If I have insurance questions, I have a single contact person I email who writes me back by the end of the day with explanations. The system is transparent.

On top of that, the doctors and nurses I’ve met with have been universally kind. They don’t tend to share numbers and data the way I’d like, although they will if asked directly. This weekend I even received a handwritten note in the mail from a doctor congratulating me on improvement via an intervention (everything is fine — I had a borderline issue that we’ve been able to manage with a new exercise regimen).

This was a first, and I was completely delighted. I’ve always been grateful for coverage, but I really appreciate the care that’s accompanying it. Medical situations are so fraught with stress already — I’m a fan of anything that alleviates it, from kindness to transparency.

It makes me terribly sad that so many people go without adequate care, let alone thorough, preventative care like A & I’ve received, both in the U.S. and here. Here’s hoping that the U.S. finds ways to contain medical costs while improving health care access for all…

© 2016 Anindita Basu Sempere. 
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