Saturday, March 7, 2009

health care

This is outside my normal post, but I think that Health Care is important enough and personal enough to break through ideological constraints. Especially if I think I have something to contribute to the dialogue. Having been pregnant in Austin Texas and delivering a baby there (I drove myself to the hospital) and 2years later, having a baby in Stavanger Norway, I think that it is important that people understand what our idea of "free market" health care has wrought, at least in comparison to one of the most socialized systems in Europe. Our free market approach has created a market for competition in the the most exclusive realms of our health care system. It makes no sense from either an economic or sociological point of view. There are hospitals compteteing to the the most exclusive, up-to-date maternity wards for those few patients who have the luxury of a full American insurance plan.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country is suffering in ignorance and neglect. Strikingly,there are very few prenatal care options for women with out the type of insurance driven health care plan that I had. The average cost of a vaginal delivery in the US is $7,737 ( That does not include prenatal care. This make complete economical insanity because the costs for prenatal care are so much less than the costs for post natal issues (resulting from poor prenatal care).

Having a baby in the US is expensive. I was lucky because although I was in graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, at a time where they decided to deny all graduate students health care benefits (something to do with having equal benefits with the other UT schools), my husband worked for a larger international company with excellent health care offerings. I was very fortunate because my pregnancy was not normal and involved a lot of extra testing due to issues with my blood, my chemical and x-ray exposures (I was a CHE grad student), and the baby's weight)

Luckily, my first child was completely normal - born on her due date with perfect APGAR scores. And under the American health care system and my husband's international corporations' generous health care insurance, I was in a sleek hospital in a private room with a jacuzzi tub (cant imagine a women in labor using that) but was sent home w/in 24 hours of delivery. Not a lot of care.

In Norway, all of my prenatal care was free. A surprise to me was the lack of paper work> Are you pregnant? was the question, and a simple "yes" entitled you to the best prenatel care in the world (in my opinion). No paperwork, no forms.

My second child was a week late and I was in labor for 2 days. But we still thought it would be easy. IT wasn't. After an emergency C-section, I was in the hospital for 7 days (I could have stayed for 10 but wanted to get home for xmas). During those 7 days, I saw women being taught how to breast feed, how to care for their children, why it was important to vaccinate their children, what the vaccination schedule was, and all kinds of information that the US system hopes is picked up by homes, churches or other groups. Postpartum care was excellen with nurses coming to homes or local well baby checkup centers to ensure that ALL children were vaccinated.

This is important: After seven days of very high tech, personal care, I was told that I could go home. My question was what paperwork to I have to fill out? The answer was none. Just dress your baby and go home. The USA is so overwhelmed with bureaucracy when it comes to health care, we don't know has simple it can be.
Most new moms in Norway are in the hospital for 7 days in a ward room. In someways I was lucky. I had a private room. This had nothing to do with my ability to afford it but rather the complications involving my sons' birth.

My prenatal and postnatal care was better in Norway than in the US under any metric (cost, time, quality - any). So when people say the US has the best health care in the world, I have to wonder about what world they have been living in.

Medical procedures should be based on need not what you can afford. If you have a sick child, you will want the best possible health care. It is like paying for firemen when your house is burning down. Shouldn't we have a health care system that is better than that?

1 comment:

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