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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Enjoying the Benefits of Higher Taxation

I know that many people in the US are scared out of their wits that the US is "going the way of Sweden" and turning into a socialist society.  I almost laugh out loud every time I hear that.  For starters...the US is so FAAAAARRRR from being a socialist nation it's not even possible.  Secondly, going the way of Sweden wouldn't really be so bad if you consider some of the facts.
We have finalized Doug's hospital bills from when he broke his leg.  He had to be picked up from the street by ambulance and rushed to the emergency room for x-rays and treatment.  This part of his medical journey cost us $53.00.  Then we found out that he was going to be admitted and have emergency surgery the next morning.  He was given a temporary cast, drugs for pain and a shared room with 3 other guys and no TV.  So, not the luxury and amenities of a private US hospital but he received good care and ended up staying two nights in the hospital.  This part of his medical journey cost us $27.00.  Then he came home and two days later he got his cast wet and so we had to go back and have it re-cast.  The cost for that was $0.00.  Three weeks later, he went in and got the plaster cast off, took x-rays, saw a Dr., got the boot.  This part of the journey cost $38.00.  Three weeks later, he went in, got the boot off, stitches taken out, saw the Dr. and the physical therapist.  This cost $48.00.  Finally, he had the last surgery to take out the pin and get a final clearance.  He also saw the physical therapist.  This cost $27.00.  Total cost of Doug's emergency broken leg: $193.00 plus the cost of the pain medication, which was actually a bit high...about $100.00, but included morphine so I guess it was OK.  The crutches were free.  We returned them.  But now, Doug has paid the maximum a person can pay out of pocket for a certain time period so he has totally free health care until September.  I'm pushing him to get the torn cartilage fixed in his knee before then!  Yes, he still has a torn cartilage.  Poor guy.  But the point is this:  His injury did not put us in peril.  We are not going to pay medical bills for the next several years because of an emergency.  Yes, we've done our bit by paying our taxes, but the great thing about paying taxes as we do is that you are automatically forced to "save for an emergency" which most people do not.  So when something catastrophic happens, it often really sets people back.
Now, I'm not saying that we can compare the US to Sweden because the issues are complex and complicated, but I am saying that people really need to quit saying that countries like Sweden are really messed up.  This is not messed up. It is a way of providing for your population and making sure that people don't become destitute when an emergency medical situation presents itself.  We have been quite happy with the care that Doug has received and we feel very lucky that we have gotten through this whole ordeal without having to worry about paying for it.
Additionally, we are now about to embark on our annual winter hiatus.  We will leave on Thursday, take a long weekend in New York, attend a pastors' conference in Chicago next week and then take a 4 week (paid) holiday.  This is totally normal for Swedes, except most of them do it in the month of July.  We are odd in that we prefer a winter holiday since we have the chance to attend the conference and see family all at once, and an added bonus is that my parents are in a warm, resorty place: Palm Springs, California. Yes, it's sickening that we don't even have to cash out all of our days.  Once you turn 50, you get 35 days plus the public holidays.  Starting to understand how our 3 year contract turned into 12.5?  Of course, these aren't the only reasons, but the long holidays certainly make living here much easier as we have the privilege of getting back to the US to visit family regularly and still have time to refresh ourselves with some other kinds of travel.
So, when the conversation about universal health care or ensuring that all are covered comes up, instead of totally panicking that you will be forced into that "Swedish way of doing things" just stop for a minute and consider that higher taxes, put to use in the right way, could be a life saver for you or your neighbor when you slip on an icy street and break your leg in two places.