This picture, though poignant, can neither portray the full impact of this trying experience nor the full amenities and benefits I had during my 5-week hospital stay. My co-pay of 50 Euros (approx. $ 44 at the time) was the only payment I made. With universal health care, there are no deductibles.
In order to paint a more accurate picture of universal health care coverage, I thought you would be greatly interested in learning about those amenities and benefits. Here is a list of what my 5-week hospital stay encompassed:
- A semi-private room throughout my stay
- Meals 3 times a day
- Comprehensive round-the-clock care from hospital staff
- An ambulance transport when I was transferred to another hospital
- A complete battery of tests (blood work, EEGs/EKGs, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, various pre-op stress tests, etc.)
- All medications
- Top neurosurgeon flown in from Munich, Germany, specifically, to perform my surgery at no additional costs to me
- 7-hour high tech laser surgery (body traction/immobilization included)
- 1-week recovery stay
Furthermore, I was placed on sick/medical leave for the rest of the year (6 months). My health insurance paid not only for my physical therapy which took place 3 times a week but also the obligatory share of my sick leave benefits along with my employer. I reiterate…6(six) months sick/medical leave on top of all of my hospital & therapy benefits. Don’t you think Americans deserve the same comprehensive & excellent care?
More Food for Thought
In case you were wondering whether or not my premium was raised afterwards…the answer is NO. Germany’s universal health insurance is always a fixed percentage (11% – 14%) of your income, irrespective of pre-existing conditions or acute medical events. There is no underwriting and you are not penalized for being female, a minority, obese or anorexic, over 21 or any other “underwriting nightmare scenario” that might arise.
It is ALWAYS a fixed percentage of what you earn. One of the reasons behind this is that health insurers are not seeking profits. And because it is a service and not an “industry”, whatever profits that are generated are recycled within the health care service systems and institutions to improve patient outcomes, equipment and facilities. Other reasons why premiums are a fixed percentage of what you earn are to ensure 1) that it will remain affordable to you and 2) that arbitrary decisions based upon profit-making mechanisms and goals that could be made by those overseeing your well-being are prevented. Countries that have universal health care have long understood that the universality of health care is vital to creating and maintaining a healthy labor force which, in turn, will keep employees highly competitive as well as free of fear from an unforeseen financial health disaster which could change the trajectory of their individual and/or family life.
Subsequently, in case you do have an “unforeseen and catastrophic” health care event, you will not be “thrown away” to find a way to fend for yourself and your dependents. You will be cared for and rehabilitated so that you may lead not only a productive work life but be there for your children and loved ones. The provision of universal health care by the judicial, legislative and executive branches of a civil society shows the depth of a country’s dedication to and appreciation of its citizens. Universal health care is deeply personal and humane.
Basic Information on Universal Health Care
Although Germany’s current universal health care system began taking form prior to World War I, Germany ratified treaties such as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, in 1966, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that sealed a contract with its citizens to provide much needed public works services (health care, education, housing & other critical infrastructure). These declarations to uphold universal rights have been integrated into Germany’s social compact and rigorously enforced by the federal government.
The following links will provide you with some theoretical and statistical insight into universal health care systems. Please read these resources to inform yourself about what universal health insurance is and its foundations.
The Political Economy of Universal Health Coverage
The following is an extremely enriching resource for those who want to keep abreast of what physicians wanting change in the U.S. think, observe and advocate for.
From Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP):
The following links provide general information on human rights. The U.S., by the way, has signed but NOT ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as other relevant Articles:
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (a part of the International Bill of Rights)
I wanted to take this opportunity to send a special thank you to the Walgreens staff who took painstaking measures to get the best photo possible from my MRI scans (esp. the young lady in nursing school who produced this extremely clear picture). Thank you so very much for everything!