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"Hospital care is free.." - Emails from my cousin in Australia

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WillYourVoteBCounted Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 01:35 PM
Original message
"Hospital care is free.." - Emails from my cousin in Australia
Edited on Sat Jul-11-09 01:36 PM by WillYourVoteBCounted
(I discovered I had cousins in New Zealand and Australia about a year ago. My mother grew up in New Zealand and met my father when he was stationed there during WWII). We began emailing back and forth, and the discussion on health care came up. We talked about health care and also caregiving. I am sharing with you some of my cousin's emails. It totally shattered my false impression on single payer health care. We have been hoodwinked. Lied to. Sold out. Our country is NOT the greatest when it comes putting our people first. We've been corporatized to death!

Emails from my cousin in Australia, about their health care system.
She grew up in New Zealand, now lives in Australia, and her siblings (my other cousins) still live in NZ. Keep in mind she is 49 years old. Names disguised for privacy sake.

Email from Australia#1: hospital care is free

My question

> I was reading on the internet that NZ has "public" health care where the
> government pays for much of your
> visits to hospitals and or for surgery? And that if you want "speedier"
> health care, you can purchase private health insurance.

My cousin's answer:

That's right, NZ's government has always been 'for the people', our healthcare system is very good indeed.
I'ts been a long time since I lived in NZ though and I don't have the most recent information on their services .
But when I was growing up in NZ everything was free, schooling, (except private schooling and University),
medical care, dental care, prescriptions, ambulance etc however once a person becomes a wage earner they must pay
for their own dental care although for low income earners or other people in diffuclt circumstances,
the government will subsidise the cost of medicine and treatment. Housing is subsidised too.

A couple of years ago A--- and I went over to NZ with C---- who had picked up a virus at one of the airports,
when we arrived in NZ we took him to the local hospital and they gave C---- the very best care,
they provided us with medicine, an after care programme and it cost us absolutely nothing!

My question

What is that like?

My cousin's answer:

NZ and Australia have a similar system, most hospital care is free however if you want elective or cosmetic surgery you must pay for it.

Medical insurance is a good thing to have, here the government actually pays for some of it as a tax refund.

A---- and I have private cover, so we have more choice, I can either go to a public hosptial for free or I can choose
to go to a private hospital and my medical insurance will pay for it.
The advantage of medical insurance is you don't have to wait as long for treatment and the medical care is often better as a paying patient.

Email from Australia#2: when family member gets sick

My cousin and I were discussing caregiving - my caregiving role for my mother (going on 10 years now) and my cousin's caregiving of her son, wh has special needs.
Her son has a degree of autism, I believe. Note that $12,000 NZD = approx $7516 USD at this time.
I removed names of my cousin's son and the name of a city for privacy.


I'm sorry that things are so tough over in the States especially as far
as medical care is concerned. If you lived here in Australia you would
be paid a generous allowance for looking after your mother. You would
also be entitled to many other benefits.

Example: My son has just been diagnosed as having PDD (Pervasive
Developmental Disorder), it has been quite an emotional time for us to
accept and process the implications of his diagnosis. It's not a
serious disability, but it means that life with and for my son is going
to be extra challenging. However now that I have a formal diagnosis
from a paediatrician, I am now entitled to spend $12,000.00 on any early
intervention therapy that I believe will assist him. I have to spend
the 12K before he reaches age 6.

Also every year I will receive 12 free
visits for speech pathology, OT, psychology etc and a one off payment of
2K for being in a 'remote' area, remote meaning that M----- is
considered to be a minor city with fewer resources. I can also call
upon a local agency to look after C---- at any time if I need a
babysitter or just need respite (I don't think I'll need this service).

I will also be assessed by a team to ascertain what sort of carer's
allowance I will be entitled to, this is paid weekly to me until further
notice. Many factors are considered and there is a sliding scale for
payments from severe to mild disabilities.

So even though I have been
dealt a bit of a blow, the government has stepped in and softened the
blow by providing me with practical assistance. Yes, we have a very
good health system here in Australia. I hope yours (in USA) improves
soon too.

DUers, what does it feel like to read the truth? Australia and New Zealand have had universal health care for decades.
What does it feel like to know what has been possible all along, but we were denied it?
If you "get" this, please recommend and also share with a friend.
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kaylynwright Donating Member (49 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 01:40 PM
Response to Original message
1. frustrating
It feels extremely frustrating. We have a long road ahead of us.
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WillYourVoteBCounted Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 03:08 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. the emails tell us what the media won't
that is why I posted them.

We should already know that most countries DO take care of their people.
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livetohike Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 03:29 PM
Response to Reply #1
7. Welcome to DU!
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Strong Atheist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-12-09 11:18 AM
Response to Reply #1
17. Welcome to DU!

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depakid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 01:50 PM
Response to Original message
2. Depending on the condition, public hospitals may provide better care
because they're often the teaching hospitals, with the most up to date therapies.

Ptivate cover is also CHEAP and the federal government provides a 30% rebate.

In addition, minimum wage is currently at close to $14 per hour, though some of that's eaten up with higher petrol and food costs.
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Kansas Wyatt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 03:11 PM
Response to Original message
4. But but but....
We've got the BEST & GREATEST military in the world to kick around little countries for Corporate America!
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Obamanaut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 03:13 PM
Response to Original message
5. Are there taxes? nt
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DefenseLawyer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 11:23 PM
Response to Reply #5
16. Of course there are taxes.
But it is similar as saying we get free police protection in this country.
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Contrary1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 03:27 PM
Response to Original message
6. It's likely Australia's health care system will be more like the US in a couple years...
according to my friend who lives there. I hope the powers that be can come up with a way to save it.

My friend's mother was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor about three years ago. After release from the hospital, health care provided her with a wheelchair, bedside table, shower chair, and commode. When she needed to go to the doctor, she was taken in an ambulance.

A nurse came to check on her every other day, more often when needed. It was also arranged that someone came out to clean the bathroom twice a week. Since her husband was in his 80's, and my friend is classified as disabled, this was really helpful. I might point out that they were asked to pay for that last service, but only if they could afford it. That was left up to the family to decide. The cost was $2.00 a week.

When it became apparent that she could no longer be taken care of at home, she went into hospice. A nice room, overlooking a pond. The meals were good, and her husband opted to have dinner with her every night, which was provided free of charge.

If that is representative of socialized health care, sign me up.

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Spider Jerusalem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 03:36 PM
Response to Original message
8. The UK system isn't 'single payer', and it's free, too.
Hospital care is free on the NHS; emergency treatment is free for everyone, regardless of nationality or length of time in the UK.

Personal experience of the latter: I just spent six months in Britain (my fiancee is British; going back soon, hopefully). One day I became quite ill (migraine, and puking sick). My fiancee was quite worried and rang up a medical advice hotline; when they told her that a severe headache and vomiting were a possible sign of meningitis, she became even more worried, and insisted on calling an ambulance. I didn't want her to, having had headaches like this before and knowing that all I needed was time to get over it (and, honestly, having experience of the US healthcare system, where emergency treatment including ambulance ends up costing thousands, I was worried about the cost, since I'm not yet a British resident and don't have a national insurance number). I ended up going and being examined, and given codeine; all at no cost. Had the same thing happened in the US, I'd be looking at probably something in the neighbourhood of $3K or so.
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WillYourVoteBCounted Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 09:19 PM
Response to Reply #8
12. time to immigrate - "emergency treatment is free for everyone"
But it isn't so easy to get permission to immigrate to other countries as some
folks might hope. :{
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warren pease Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 04:59 PM
Response to Original message
9. The data's all out there... has been for years...
People just need to unplug the goddamned TEE VEE and do a little homework on their own. Of course, you run the risk of missing all that quality network programming, but still...

Here's some stats adding a little truth as a counterweight to the constantly repeated lie that the US has "... the best health care system in the world."

Here's data on the correlations between quality health care and leading risk US factors like poverty, education income levels and other outrageous inequities that drive the US for-profit medical insurance/corporate shakedown rackets.

Note that these risk factors are present in exactly one -- and only one -- of the WHO's 19 "advanced" nations of the world. The other 18 all use some variety of a national, single-payer, universal-access health care model that treats citizens like human beings instead of draft animals.

More here on at-risk, vulnerable populations within the US and why they're dying at rates unseen outside the third world.

The study linked above, published in 2005 in the "Journal of General Internal Medicine," identifies and analyzes risk factors among 32,374 US adults using data from the 2000 National Health Interview Survey. It reports:


Reported unmet needs due to cost: missing/delaying needed medical care, and delaying obtaining prescriptions, mental health care, or dental care.


Controlling for personal demographic and community factors, individuals who were low income, uninsured, and had no regular source of care were more likely to miss or delay needed health care services due to cost. After controlling for these risk factors, whites were more likely than other racial/ethnic groups to report unmet needs. When presented as a risk profile, a clear gradient existed in the likelihood of having an unmet need according to the number of risk factors, regardless of racial/ethnic group. (Translation: It's class warfare, not racial or ethnic or religious warfare. And it's being waged -- and won -- by the rich against all members of the peasantry, regardless of race, color or creed.)


Unmet health care needs due to cost increased with higher risk profiles for each racial and ethnic group. Without attention to these co-occurring risk factors for poor access, it is unlikely that substantial reductions in disparities will be made in assuring access to needed health care services among vulnerable populations.

Not surprisingly, a fair number of Americans die each year simply because they lack the money to buy access to the perverse US for-profit medical industry. 22,000 of them in 2006, according to this study, and it's not much of a stretch to imagine that number is somewhat higher these days.

Happily, some of our home-grown terrorists the parasitic vampires who run these corporate shakedown rackets -- are doing quite well sucking the marrow out of their customers' bones before they kill them. Warms the heart, doesn't it

And finally, note that in this 2005 study measuring overall quality, fairness of access to and effectiveness of 190 countries' individual medical systems, the US ranks 37th -- just ahead of that medical nirvana, Slovenia and right behind Costa Rica, where there may not be an ATM or Starbucks in every little wide spot in the road, but there's nearly always a medical clinic, open to all, regardless of ability to pay.

Surprisingly, Australia isn't doing all that much better, sitting just five notches higher than the US at number 32. But they did have their own problems with asshole privatizing neocons and, to their credit, they voted Howard back into well-deserved obscurity. So he's back to washing cars in Adelaide and plotting a wingnut takeover of the Van Allen Radiation Belt... or so I'm told.


(the former "Warren Pease" trying to reclaim his lost identity so he can win great prizes in the local essay contest.)
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bobbolink Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 05:06 PM
Response to Original message
10. There needs to be a website collection all these stories. By country.
Edited on Sat Jul-11-09 05:13 PM by bobbolink
THEN some accurate accounting of how much they actually pay in taxes, as compared to the U.S.

It would be a huge eye-opener!
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warren pease Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 09:51 PM
Response to Reply #10
13. Do you simply refuse to look stuff up on your own?
Goddammit. The information's sitting in databases all over the world. All you have to do is dip a ladle into the stew and dish some out.

For example, I just posted a bunch of stuff directly above your post that debunks half the garbage these malevolent propagandist bullshitters have been tossing out for decades. Took maybe a half an hour to locate it, and another few minutes to post it for the world to see.

But if nobody bothers to do their own research, what the hell good is raw data unsupported and unverified by the tens of thousands of americans who get screwed -- or killed -- every single year?

So here's a link to the granddaddy of all national medical system statistical abstracts: the landmark 2000 WHO study comparing 190 countries against fixed standards ranging from excellence to incredible ineptitude. The US ranked 37th on this list in 2005, the last time it was updated.

But here's the whole sorry story, for your personal amusement. Fun for the whole family, too:

(It looks a lot prettier when you actually load this tab delimited database, but here's a truncated version of the shameful US dollar figures anyway.)

United States of America
Indicator Value (year)
External resources for health as percentage of total expenditure on health ? 0.0 (2005)
General government expenditure on health as percentage of total expenditure on health ? 45.1 (2005)
General government expenditure on health as percentage of total government expenditure ? 21.8 (2005)
Out-of-pocket expenditure as percentage of private expenditure on health ? 23.90 (2005)
Per capita government expenditure on health at average exchange rate (US$) ? 2862.0 (2005)
Per capita government expenditure on health(PPP int. $) ? 2862.0 (2005)
Per capita total expenditure on health (PPP int. $) ? 6350.0 (2005)
Per capita total expenditure on health at average exchange rate (US$) ? 6350.0 (2005)
Private expenditure on health as percentage of total expenditure on health ? 54.9 (2005)
Private prepaid plans as percentage of private expenditure on health ? 66.3 (2005)
Social security expenditure on health as percentage of general government expenditure on health ? 28.8 (2005)
Total expenditure on health as percentage of gross domestic product ? 15.2 (2005)

Compare these with comparable stats from actual civilized countries, then draw your own conclusions.

Notice that:

World health statistics 2008 presents the most recent health statistics for WHO's 193 Member States. This fourth edition includes a section with 10 highlights of global health statistics for the past year as well as an expanded set of over 70 core health statistics.

The WHO Core Health Indicators database is no longer updated as of May 2008. WHO is pleased to announce the new version of the WHO Statistical Information System (WHOSIS), which offers the latest available data. Please update your bookmarks to reflect this change.

Yes... please do...

And you also wanted some "stories" on medical outcomes in various other countries where they don't treat their citizens like used toilet paper? Then go here for a cleverly concealed condemnation of the US for-profit medical system, couched in terms like "risk factors," "coverage of services" and "mortality and health status."

Finally, note this rather amazingly honest statement from one of WHO's heads of research, issued in a news release announcing the first-time availability of the 2000 study:

"The position of the United States is one of the major surprises of the new rating system," said Christopher Murray, M.D., Ph.D., Director of WHO's Global Programme on Evidence for Health Policy. "Basically, you die earlier and spend more time disabled if you're an American rather than a member of most other advanced countries."

Just so...

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bobbolink Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-12-09 03:36 PM
Response to Reply #13
18. Goddamn it yourself! I'm sick of your attacks. Is that all you're here for?
I submitted a good idea for SOMEONE WHO'S NOT TOO LAZY to get the info all together to use to refute the RW (and that includes the "Blue dogs"!) that MOST people are hearing.

You can sit and attack people or you can do something useful.

You don't like my ideas? Fine, I happily invite you to put me on ignore.

So, either apologize for your shitty attack, or get off your own lazy ass and do something POSITIVE.
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warren pease Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-12-09 10:27 PM
Response to Reply #18
20. Ummm... you DO insist on missing the point, don't you?
Or is this just another happy accident?

Point one: having done all the work and posted links to most of the stuff you seem to think doesn't already exist, I'll see your TOO LAZY and bump it a TOO LAME TO KNOW WHAT'S SITTING RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEIR EYES...

Point two: Anything that gets people to stop sniveling and start agitating is, in my view, good. If anger works for you, great. If it doesn't, find some other motivator, get past that learned powerlessness phase, then start getting in peoples' faces and raising some hell.

Point three: No response needed.

Point four: Putting people on ignore just means that my argument, and/or my ability to make my case, sucks. I don't put people on ignore.

Point five: No apologies necessary or forthcoming. If "lazy" means digging around in the world's databases to find evidence of fraud on the part of US insurers and their PR/ad/marketing machine, so be it. If "positive" means maintaining some pollyanna-like state of bliss ninny-ism, where never is heard a discouraging word, I'll pass, thanks.

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bobbolink Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-13-09 07:19 PM
Response to Reply #20
21. So, you go around purposely angering people, supposedly to get them "active"?
That is reprehensible, and if you consider that "progressive", you've been taking lessons from the other side.

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warren pease Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-13-09 11:49 PM
Response to Reply #21
23. Oh gee whiz, gosh golly...
Edited on Tue Jul-14-09 12:33 AM by warren pease
...Oh my... why can't we all just get along? Well, here's one reason:

"That is reprehensible, and if you consider that "progressive", you've been taking lessons from the other side."

You may have noticed that the other side -- let's be accurate and call 'em reprehensible bastards -- wins an inordinate amount of the time. You may have also noticed that I'm not remotely interested in losing to these pricks over and over again, if only because I've had so very much practice already.

Plus which, I'd have to be among the top 1 or 2 percent of American elites to benefit from the policies and programs and insane tax structures they've managed to co-opt the entire federal government -- and every compliant aparatchik who gets sucked into it -- to do their dirty work for them, perpetuate their strangle-hold on a once-proud democratic republic and make damn sure everybody understands who's running the show around here, lest somebody get a little too uppity for easy suppression.

The great stink about the "death tax," draconian usurpation of individual rights and liberties as they try to play it, is the product of agitation on the part of 20 families. That they all happen to be so filthy rich that they literally have no idea how rich they are to the nearest billion may have something to do with the power they're able to wield in their own behalf. The bribocracy doesn't run on air, you know...

The pure of heart, however, spend a hell of a lot of their time lying in the streets, bleeding from every cranial orifice and maybe a couple more, trying to get their legs to work again after the robocops have run through the crowd, batons twirling and slashing, blood flying and spattering everybody within four or five yards, people everywhere choking on toxic gas, people shot with rubber bullets (which can still kill at close range if aimed above the belt), people tased into comas, choke holds reducing polite, middle-aged women to gasping, bug-eyed caricatures... That's how the other side plays the game and they're not fucking around.

Nor should you be, but there are many people who can and do wield enormous power by revealing secrets, whistle-blowing, ratting out their corrupt bosses or simply talking to five strangers a day on the phone, until the multiplier effect guarantees that every Venutian, Europan and Io-an has heard the message three or more times. Overkill, I know, but what the hell...

OK. Consider yourself un-goaded. You may just make it after all. If not, best wishes either way.

And how about that Prince Fielder. He's got Cadillac medical insurance, yaah, yoo betcha. There isn't an MRI or CAT scan in the world closed to Prince. Somebody will always authorize it, no matter how ridiculous and improbable and ineffective it may be.

You... me... maybe not quite so fortunate in this country, here caged within the planet's largest monument to pure bullshit and apparently more than happy to continue killing 22,000 people -- or more -- every single year because only in the US is lack of medical insurance a capital crime.

You think about that when you decide what's "reprehensible."

Personally, I no longer have time to be polite, and "the public option" is about as progressive as calling a black man "nigra" instead of "nigger," then claiming solidarity with "the movement."

I remember listening to Lester Maddox one enchanted evening decades ago on Dick Cavett's late night show, watching him wield that famous axe-handle he used to keep his lunch counter free of Negroes and other "aught-sighd ad-jit-taturz," while big Jim Brown the former football player glared at this little slack-jawed idiot like a panther deciding which side of his face to save for dessert...

You just can't buy entertainment like that any more. But every now and then, the DU boards come close.


(The aught-sighd ad-jit-tatur formerly known as Warren Pease now writing as Steven Franklin cuz that's kinda like 2/3 of my real name, eh? Close enough for gummint work.)

Edited for accuracy: Maddox and Brown were on Dick Cavett's show, not Carson's.
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Kingofalldems Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 05:11 PM
Response to Original message
11. But but--the repubs and their blue dog followers
claim this is pure evil and we need health savings accounts---yea that's the ticket.
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pacalo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 11:07 PM
Response to Original message
14. A great big K&R!
I've been in the process of gathering information about universal health care to send to my sister who has been persuaded by a British couple she's known for years that it's "horrible".

I plan to send her my own links of positive testimonies to send to her friends to get their feedback.

Using my own common sense & judgment, I think it's a Godsend.
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bobbolink Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-12-09 03:38 PM
Response to Reply #14
19. Thank you for your efforts! It's time to put these all together, then establish a website,
and do something like put up billboards in Blue Dog districts or buy full page ads, and include the website info.

Fight fire with fire.
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anakie Donating Member (935 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-11-09 11:15 PM
Response to Original message
15. When you say 'free' healthcare
All income tax payers pay 1.5 percent of your taxable income up to $150k for couples and 75k for singles. After you reach this level of income your levy rises to 2.5 percent of income; unless you have private health care. This is called the 'Medicare Levy'. Still cheap compared to other places but paid for none the less.

But you don't get a bill at the end of your treatment if it is in a public hospital. My wife had a hernia operation 3 months ago which was free (from a bill).


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Doremus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-13-09 07:28 PM
Response to Original message
22. Whenever you encounter a citizen of another country, ask them how they like their healthcare system.
You can conduct your own non-scientific research.

My brother has been doing this for years and he has yet to meet ANYONE who would trade their country's health system for ours. NOT ONE. He's asked Asians, Europeans, even an Iraqi who works at his company.

We have indeed been sold a bill of goods, OP.

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LooseWilly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-14-09 12:18 AM
Response to Original message
24. I recently got into contact with a cousin in Iran.
Even in Iran healthcare is more available than here in the US.

When the swine flu outbreak hit, and I got sick with... something, her first reaction was "i think its better for you to go and see a doctor if you feel caught flu !
i heard that its a dangerous one !"...
I then had to explain that I have no insurance. She was a little bit shocked that I could probably afford to fly to Europe for about the same amount of money as an overnight stay in a hospital would cost me...

I can only imagine what healthcare in Iran might be like if the country wasn't under a US embargo...
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