Little Cloe was about 10. She got a lot of ear infections as a child, and she caught a doozey that August while we were in
We had swapped houses for the month with a French family who wanted see the American Southwest. We found each other through a house-exchange agency in
The Esquirols – she was a bookkeeper; he was an electrician; their eight-year-old daughter left Barbies for our girls to play with – made sure before they left that we had their healthcare card, with their national ID number on it. When Cloe’s fever would not go away, we piled in the diesel VW Golf and drove to the doctor out in the country.
It was a big old gray house under the plane trees. The waiting room was to the right of a central hall in what had once been the parlor. The exam room was to the left. The doctor and his family lived in the rest of the house. Ellen remembers smelling something delicious cooking, onions perhaps.
When we walked in the waiting room, everyone there looked up and said, “Bonjour, m’sieurs-dames.” Every time someone new came in, we all chimed in unison, “Bonjour, m’sieurs-dames.” When the doctor poked his head in the door to call someone across the hall, we politely wished those leaving, “Au revoir, m’sieurs-dames.”
The doctor listened to Cloe’s heart and lungs, looked in her ears and throat, and prescribed antibiotics. He said that if the fever didn’t let up soon, we should call and he would stop by on his house-call rounds.
Total cost – not counting the antibiotics, which we picked up at the local pharmacy (they came in a white paper packet) – exactly nothing. Zero francs. Zero dollars.
I am remembering all this because the dysfunctional healthcare system in the
Sicko attacks, in
Is it coincidence the film is opening in
On NPR’s “Science Friday” last week, the topic was
Why? What’s wrong with this picture? Just about every piece of the puzzle is bloated beyond reason, said author and Harvard surgeon, Dr. Atul Gawande, who was a guest on the show. Everything except the medical treatment itself: we do have the skilled doctors, the machines, the high-tech facilities for superb care. It’s just that they are not universally available; they are there, on-demand, for the rich.
Universal coverage is un-American, anti-marketplace, anti-innovation, anti-profit. It’s socialism, for Chrissake! Or so say defenders of the
That last is from Bill Maher in an essay for Salon.com a couple of weeks ago.
But, as Maher wrote, how broken can a place be that has the best healthcare in the world, that is not dependant on Mideast oil, that has the lowest poverty rate and the lowest income-inequality rate among industrialized nations, that generates the smallest carbon footprint on the planet? And, French people are not fat.
“I don’t want to be French,” Maher wrote. “I just want to take what’s best from the French … Can’t we just admit we could learn something from them?”