In this episode, I will explain some of the differences in attitudes toward health care. Now, because I am a lazy ex-pat who spends her time in Spanish bars and not researching the nuances of international health care systems, I can only tell you about attitudes, not the ins and out of public health policy in Spain.
Basically, explaining American health care to Spaniards is fun. When I talk about my personal history, I always get looks of scandalized horror.
Why? Because I am an American who grew up without consistent health insurance.
Even explaining this little fact usually takes a few minutes. Because all Spanish citizens are a part of the public system. They have the right to go to any public hospital or clinic and pay nothing, or very little. Yeah there’s long wait times and run-arounds, but it’s always available. And, despite the impression many Americans have of the scary “socialist” Europeans, wait times are comparable to America: a couple hours to half the day without an appointment, wait a couple weeks to a month for a specialist if your case isn’t urgent.
Now, once my friends grasp the concept of an all-private system, we move on to: Jeannette didn’t have any form of health insurance from the ages of 18-22.
Cue the bug eyes. Cue the, “But what would you have done if you were hurt or sick?”
And then I have to explain about the little avoid-going-to-the-doctor dance that so many people play: like downing Vitamin C and praying your colds never go into pneumonia. Or being in your early 20s and relatively healthy, so health care is NOT a priority. Not compared to rent, food, or even beer money.
“But what happens if you have to go to the hospital?”
“Giant bills and huge debts if you can’t pay cash.”
More bug eyes.
Let’s make an analogy. Imagine your friend just admitted he never wears a seat-belt and drives without car insurance. Stupid, right? Now let’s say that you know for a fact that said friend also speeds occasionally (who doesn’t?) and will drive home from the bar after a couple of drinks. Whoa man, that’s nuts!
That’s what my Spanish friends think of the Americans operating without health insurance.