I just saw Sicko online 2 days ago. I have to say hurray for Michael Moore on this one. I lived without insurance in the US for many years, as my mother does currently with a chronic illness. I also know how it is to be stuck at a full-time job you hate, unable to quit or just work part-time and go back to college to finish your degree, because you can’t lose your health insurance.
Having moved to Germany a little over a year ago, I’ve now seen the other side of the coin. In the movie I think Mike may present a slightly rosier picture of France & the UK than deserved, but not much. Germany also has universal healthcare. When I moved here we visited the public insurance office (no more than a 30 min wait) and found all my new docs the first month. I can see ANY doc I want for a copay of 10 Euros PER QUARTER (no charge if you’re referred to them by your family doc), they all have ultrasound machines and more in their offices, so you get immediate tests, and I had no problem obtaining prescriptions for insulin, pump supplies, test strips, asthma inhalers, thyroid pills, etc right away. Each prescription is 10 Euros for a 3 month supply, with exceptions made for those without enough to pay. (Germany isn’t as cheap as the UK, but that sure beats the heck out of the $75 a month copay I had just for insulin in the US!) I have never had to wait more than two weeks to see a specialist, and if it’s seemingly an emergency (like cancer suspected) the insurance company guarantees they’ll find you an appointment within a week or so. In the hospital you are helped right away (waits no longer than in the US), there are house-call docs, ambulance rides for 15 bucks and staying in the hospital doesn’t cost more than a few bucks per day no matter how many tests they do or how many meds you’re on.
My only two gripes are that they judgmentally micro-manage diabetes so much I’ve wanted to bash something after appointments and their prescription system is lame. (You must get an actual paper copy from your doc each and every time you need more medicine. There’s no such thing as a “refill”, so if you have chronic illnesses life is a constant series of visiting doctors for referrals and prescriptions. They’re revamping this system in the next 2 years, though, so I have hope. )
“Socialized medicine” is simply NOT the nightmare Americans have been told it is. Yes, taxes are a little higher, but I hardly see the Germans all going broke because of that. They still seem to have plenty of money to take their 6 week long vacations to Spanish islands. And they don’t have to live in fear that an accident or heart attack will leave their family bankrupt. Honestly, every German you ask is simply appalled by the American system. And ‘Sicko’ isn’t even released here until October!