Germany

Socialized Health Care: Efficient, Delightful and Slightly Cold

Dedicated to all the asshats headed into Congress back in the USA who are trying to repeal the health care bill as a first order of business.

I laid on the cold wooden floor of my apartment alternating between hot and cold compresses trying to reduce the pain in my back. On one hand I was frustrated, sick and tired of my cranky spine. On the other hand I was excited and eager at the prospect of finally trying out German health care.

After dealing with insurance in the USA, I was curious to pay a little more in taxes for no deductibles, cheap prescriptions and top rate care. Yes, I know many have equated socialized health care to Nazism, Communism, Nihilism and any other frightening sounding -ism; but I always thought I’d rather have the government up in my health business than a profit-driven, lowest-cost motivated medical insurance company.

My back has bothered me for the past couple years. Probably from too much time hunched over a computer screen. When it first began, I used alternative treatments, including acupuncture, massage and rolfing. (A few $30 co-pays to visit the in-network doctor, in addition to monthly insurance payments, only to be prescribed painkillers I had to pay for out of pocket was not worth it.)

This picture comes up when you type 'socialized health care,' though the German system was much better than any DMV visit I've ever had.

I had avoided setting up an appointment here in Germany hoping to delay my entry into the supposed grinding bureaucracy of state health care as long as I could.

I finally acquiesced one morning while laying on the office floor with a co-worker overhead insisting we call the doctor. She spoke quickly and efficiently in German and came out with an appointment for two days later.

Well, okay, that’s not too bad. But surely I’ll be stuck in the waiting room for two years with all of the other degenerates once I get there.

I arrived at the office and was quickly invited to fill out a form, no doubt to provide the government with all sorts of enticing information they could use against me. Actually, it was just a page or so and I had to write my address and any allergies. I paid my 10 Euros and waited five minutes before I was placed in the doctor’s office.

Under the German system, you make a one-time payment of 10 Euros each quarter that you visit a doctor. After that, it’s all good. No worries, just call for another appointment when needed. If needed, the doctor will prescribe massage or acupuncture or chiropractic (which are all covered under the system).

"Sorry ma'am, we're going to have to put you to sleep now."

My co-worker was familiar with the doctor I was going to visit.

“She works quick, really fast,” Jennifer said. “Don’t come out of there without a prescription for massage or something.”

And so I entered the arena bull-headed, but I was taken aback as soon as Dr. Nagel entered the room.

“Okay, what’s happening?”

“Do you do sports? You should do more sports.”

“Take off your shirt. Your back is wrong.”

“Okay, get on the table.”

She laid my arms across my chest, jumped up and laid her weight onto me as I took a deep breath and popped things back into place. Then she stood up, wrote out a prescription for some meds and told me to get some x-rays.

“Well, wait, no, is there anything else I can do? Can I get some massage included up in here?” I inquired.

But the cold, steely eyes of Dr. Nagel said no, and she sent me off. Sometimes socialized medicine can be cold and heartless. But then again, my old doctor in the US was the exact same way.

So I took my x-ray sheet downstairs and two friendly, plump German women had me remove my clothes. X-rays are fun. Slap the film, chop it in place, boom the lasers and do it again. Slap, chop, boom. Slap, chop, boom. After what seemed like 12 x-rays – which seemed a bit gratuitous – the women entered one last time.

The bigger one with the better English was putting on rubber gloves. I immediately began sweating, this just about my back, right? Ha, ha, right ladies? I knew it! I knew socialized health care was sick and twisted!

Coccyx! It kind of looks like a plow.

But she just handed me a weird leaded jock strap and asked me to place my things inside while they x-rayed my coccyx. And then they let me out.

Two days later I was back to bounding up the stairs at work and enjoying affordable drugs (5 Euros for a 20-day prescription).

Did socialized health care make me a zombie? No. It was pretty much just like the US except overall it seemed cheaper, easier and headache free. Plus none of those annoying after the fact letters from the insurance company saying, ‘oh, wait, sorry, we’re not going to cover that much, so you owe us more.’

Am I nervous the government will deny me health care over chronic conditions? Well, not really. There’s no profit motive to deny patients like there is with insurance companies.

What about preventive health care? So I don’t know about this, but if you’re fat, I hear they’ll give you a prescription for a gym. (Holy awesome!)

When I die, will they use my coccyx as a plow? Probably not, but hey, you’re right. It does kind of look like a plow.

Is it a cold, heartless government bureaucracy? Well, maybe a little bit. Or it could be just because I was in Germany. But seriously, overall, it was quick efficient, and delightful, if slightly cold.

*Oh yeah, if you’re in Santa Fe, look up this guy and his wife for all of your health care needs:  the Magical Dr. Zhao.

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