An Italian view on the American healthcare system
This article, Mi faccio operare in America o, per esempio, in Spagna?, published in the blog “Letter from Washington DC”, introduces a delicate issue: the healthcare system. Every country can really be considered a world of its own under many points of view, but when it comes to health, things get serious and people cannot avoid making comparison and expressing their opinions. How do things work in other places? What are people’s rights about healthcare in other areas of the world? These are frequent questions every individual has thought about at least once in their life: Italian journalist Oscar Bartoli makes us all think about it.
Should I have surgery in the USA or, let’s say, in Spain?
A friend had an angiogram done in a Washington hospital; after two days of hospitalization, his medical bill was of over 60 thousand dollars, with each blood pressure measurement invoiced at 500 dollars.
A while back, I myself went to the chemist’s to buy Nasonex, an inhaler for allergies. It cost me 120 dollars: in Spain, it costs the equivalent of 21 dollars.
In the US, as well as many other industrialized countries, colenoscopy has become a routine procedure. Many American hospitals have specialized centers for this test, which requires total anesthesia and an O.R.: the cost exceeds 1200 dollars, while in Switzerland people pay 655 dollars.
These data emerged from a survey published in the New York Times, and outline once again the unbalance of the American healthcare system when compared to that of other developed countries. In the US, the average expense for a hip replacement is 41 thousand dollars, although it normally exceeds 75 thousand; in Spain you would pay 7 thousand dollars. A package of Lipitor is 120 dollars, while in New Zealand the same Lipitor is sold for 6 dollars.
All depends on the perverse system of healthcare coverage: hospitals unload costs onto private insurances, especially in case of emergencies involving people who are unable to pay. Doctors, in turn, ask hospitals to reduce costs for every patient. A lot of specialists prescribe check-ups even when they are not strictly necessary. Pharmaceutical companies justify themselves by saying they have to amortize the costs of research. Insurance companies raise private citizens’ premiums, which are then entirely spent in case of serious illness.
President Obama’s story is meaningful: in the end, citizens pay the bills, just as those companies offering health insurance to employees and, in the case of Medicaid, each federal state.
The partial failure of Obamacare, the highly trumpeted American healthcare revolution, is proof that honest and independent politicians can do very little against the world of healthcare lobbies. As for those very lobbies, they’ll keep rolling with pleasure into the direct and indirect advantages they are ensured by companies. Until the day they are discovered. Until that faithful day.
By Oscar Bartoli ( translation Anna De Filippo )