FREE HEALTH FAIR and community discussion – April 12th

Have you lost your health care? Will you be covered by Covered California, the Affordable Care Act? Are your deductible or co-pays too high? Were you denied treatment? Are you unable to afford prescriptions? Are you unable to get dental care?

We can have a TRULY COMPREHENSIVE, AFFORDABLE HEALTH PLAN FOR EVERYONE. Learn how. Let’s stand up for our rights! Come to a FREE HEALTH FAIR and community discussion on how to fight for our health care.

The Santa Clara County contingent of the Campaign for a Healthy California is holding its annual  Health Fair at Andrew Hill High School, located at 3200 Senter Road (at Capitol Expressway) on Saturday, April 12th  from 10a – 2p. The Health Fair includes a free health clinic available to all who attend.

Health Fair 2014 – English flyer

Health_Fair_2014 – ESPANOL_flyer

Health Fair 2014 – Vietnamese flyer

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Thinking It Through – Health care debate far from finished

Sara Foss's Thinking It Through

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The other night I attended a debate at The Linda in Albany, WAMC’s performing arts studio, on whether the U.S. should adopt a single-payer health care system.

Sponsored by the Albany Medical College chapter of an organization called Students for a National Health Program, the debate pitted a doctor who favors a single-payer system against a doctor who opposes such a system.

Under a single-payer system, the government, rather than insurers, would pay all medical costs, much as it does through Medicare for Americans 65 or older.

The pro single-payer side was represented by Dr. Paul Song, a California oncologist from the group Physicians for a National Health Program. Offering an opposing view was Dr.

Mitchell Heller, a New Jersey-based emergency room physician representing the Benjamin Rush Society, a libertarian organization that supports limiting the government’s role in health care.

I’ll admit my bias upfront: I support a single-payer model.

And though both men were able debaters, I wasn’t surprised when an after-debate poll showed Song had won. Heller did a great job of articulating his vision for the health care system — a vision most people found horrifying.

When Song cited the fact that medical bills are the biggest cause of bankruptcy in the U.S., and that many of the people declaring bankruptcy actually have insurance, as evidence that America’s health care system doesn’t work, Heller replied that bankruptcy really wasn’t bad at all. If a patient declares bankruptcy, it means he or she received needed treatment, he explained, which is true.

However, most of the people in the audience seemed to think that America can do better — that it can create a system where people receive the treatment they need and don’t have to go into bankruptcy to get it.

Will the Affordable Care Act create such a system? Nobody at the debate seemed to think so.

One of the things I found most interesting about the discussion was the simple fact of its existence.

After all, the U.S. health care system is undergoing a big transformation, courtesy of the Affordable Care Act. But this hasn’t stopped people from advocating for something different. Conservatives often complain that the ACA goes too far, while progressives believe it doesn’t go far enough. Listening to the debate, one thing seemed clear: Nobody is especially happy with the state of health care in America and Obamacare is unlikely to change that.

Recent surveys show health care costs remain the top concern for local business leaders.
The Siena Research Institute’s annual survey of upstate New York business leaders found that 80 percent of respondents cited health care cost as the challenge they are most concerned about; 69 percent said they believe the law will have a negative impact on their business.

Polls show that Obamacare also remains unpopular among the general public.
According to a January Gallup poll, nearly half of Americans say the Affordable Care Act will make the U.S. health care situation worse in the long run, while slightly more than one-third think it will make the situation better. A majority of uninsured Americans who visited a health insurance exchange website reported having a negative experience, which is especially troubling, since these are the people who stand to benefit most from the law.

One of my friends, a self-employed photographer who hasn’t had health insurance in years, was initially very excited about Obamacare and its promise of affordable, easy-to-purchase health insurance. But after spending roughly 30 hours on the federal website and phone, trying to sign up for a plan, her enthusiasm had cooled.

It’s possible that public opinion of the Affordable Care Act will improve as the kinks get worked out and benefits begin to kick in. But only time will tell, and much will hinge on whether patients are satisfied with their overall experience with the health care system.
And since the system is overly complicated, needlessly opaque and expensive, satisfaction seems unlikely.

Costs will continue to rise and employers will continue to pass those costs along to their employees, who will come to regard statements and letters from their HMOs with confusion and dread, if they don’t already. Yes, the Affordable Care Act will enable millions to obtain health insurance. But health insurance comes with its own set of frustrations, as anybody who’s ever seen their co-payments steadily rise or been denied coverage for recommended treatment can tell you.

Meanwhile, the rollout of Obamacare continues. More than 501,205 New Yorkers have received insurance through the state’s online marketplace; in the past two weeks more than 88,000 people enrolled. Will these people be satisfied with their new insurance? Or will they yearn for something better? Again, only time will tell.

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at (sfoss @ dailygazette.net). Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Her blog is at >>

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DEMAND Whole Foods’ CEO Stop Spreading Lies about Obamacare

Whole Foods’ CEO, John Mackey, has been using his position as head of one of the most respected companies in America to promote anti-Obamacare lies and deter people from signing up for life-saving health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.Fight back against this kind of confusing misinformation and SIGN THE PETITION to demand John Mackey stop misleading Americans. Statements like these confuse people about the law and scare them away from signing up for the coverage they desperately need. Join Courage’s Obamacare Reality Response Team and add your name to the statement below:

“Mr. Mackey, stop spreading misinformation about the Affordable Care Act. Despite the fact that millions of Americans believe a single-payer solution would work better, Obamacare is a FREE MARKET approach to the healthcare crisis — not a “government takeover,” as you claim it is. It’s shameful that you would use your business prestige and media influence to actively promote destructive confusion and lies about affordable healthcare options when the lives of millions of Americans are at stake.” SIGN THE PETITION!

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Some Middle-Class Families Find Price Of Subsidized Health Coverage ‘Awfully High’

This Kaiser Health News (KHN) story was produced in collaboration with USA Today

The lure used to get uninsured Americans to sign up for health law coverage was the promise of generous premium subsidies.

But the promise comes with a catch for almost 3 million people earning between three and four times the federal poverty rate: They may have to pay up to 9.5 percent of their income toward that premium before the subsidy kicks in.

That could take a substantial bite from their budgets — potentially as much as $600 a month for mid-priced plan for a family of three earning between $58,590 and $78,120.

As a result, some middle-class families may decide health insurance is beyond their reach, and pay a penalty rather than buy coverage.  While consumers in that income range account for a relatively small share of the 17.2 million eligible for subsidies to buy private insurance, that could still spell political trouble for the law. Insurers could also see problems if premium costs deter the sign-up of healthy enrollees, whom they need to offset the costs of covering the sick.

“The real question is, will this be affordable?” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, a California-based advocacy group.

It’s too early to know the big-picture answer because consumers have until the end of March to buy coverage in the federal and state online marketplaces.

But individual families have begun making their decisions.

“Awfully high,” is the verdict of Tim Ross of Madison, Ind., the owner of a light commercial construction firm who canceled coverage for his family of five several years ago during the depths of the recession.

Under the health law, Ross’ income qualifies his family for a subsidy that would cover about half the cost of a mid-level “silver” plan, according to online calculators. There are five silver plans he could choose from, with his share of the cost ranging from $494 to $590 a month.

Ross, 47, would also be responsible for copays for doctor visits and prescriptions and an annual family deductible ranging from $4,000 to $7,000.

“I would love to have insurance,” said the small businessman, who knows he would take a big chance by remaining uninsured.

But he said he is likely to forego buying a policy, hoping that if a family member needs expensive care, he can negotiate lower prices with doctors and hospitals as he has done in the past.

“We are at the point in our lives where if we want to go out to supper,” he said, “we can. “If I want to buy my kid a pair of blue jeans, I can do that. If I had to pay $600 a month out of my income, we could no longer do that.”

How Much Is Too Much?

Half of American families spent 3.1 percent or less of their income on health care before the law took effect—with those who have job-based coverage generally spending less than those who buy their own insurance, studies by Linda Blumberg at the Urban Institute show.

That’s because employers pay a large percentage of the cost of health insurance and those plans tend to be more generous as well.

Still, a quarter of all households spent 8.2 percent or more on health care, which includes premiums and out-of pocket costs, such as copayments for doctor visits, hospital care or prescription drugs. Those are the ones most likely to struggle to pay bills – and who risk falling into medical debt.

Even with new coverage that may require some families to spend more than that “doesn’t mean they are worse off than before,” Blumberg said. “They are still far less exposed than they would be if they got into a car accident and were uninsured” and faced potential financial devastation.

Lower-Income Get More Help

To be sure, the health law’s subsidies sharply reduce costs for many lower income Americans, who account for a majority of the uninsured.

Subsidies are pegged to the federal poverty level and are most generous for those who make the least amount of money. Those who earn between the poverty level and twice that, or up to about $23,000 for an individual and $39,000 for a family of three, must pay between 2 percent to 6 percent of their income towards the monthly premium before the subsidy would kick in.

Extra help in the form of lower deductibles and copayments is available for those who make up to 2.5 times the federal poverty rate, about $48,825 for a family of three. An estimated 75 percent of the uninsured qualify for those subsidies.

Those who earn between two and three times the poverty rate, or up to about $34,500 for an individual and $56,000 for a family of three, must pay up to 8 percent of the premium cost before the subsidy would kick in.

And those who make between three to four times the poverty level — less than 16 percent of all consumers eligible for federal subsidies – must pay the highest percentage of their income, or up to 9.5 towards the premiums before getting federal help. Not everyone will pay that much because premiums vary around the country and some people will be able to purchase a plan for less than 9.5 percent of their income.

The millions who qualify for Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor, generally pay little or nothing for their health care.

Most people with job-based coverage – the majority of insured Americans — are not eligible for subsidies and therefore not affected by the 9.5 percent requirement.

Origin Of 9.5 Percent Benchmark

The law’s drafters set the 9.5 percent benchmark during final negotiations over the health law, mainly to meet a directive from the White House and congressional leadership that the law cost less than $1 trillion over 10 years and contain provisions to pay for that, which included new taxes and fees on drug makers, insurers and high-income Americans. The primary goal was to get the bill passed, not figure out what struggling middle-class families thought they could afford.  An earlier version would have required some families to pay even more.

“The desire was to get it down as much as possible and stay within the budget target,” said John McDonough, a Harvard professor who was a key adviser to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions during the health law debate.

He hopes a future Congress will lower the percentage of income that subsidy-eligible families must pay. Otherwise, he said, “it won’t be affordable to everyone who needs it.”

How much the average American family can afford to spend on health care is a matter of debate.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that the average household spent about a third of its income on housing, 17 percent on transportation and nearly 13 percent on food, the three largest categories, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Health care accounted for nearly 7 percent, including premiums, drugs, doctor visits and medical supplies.

But averages aren’t how most families live.

The Economic Policy Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C., says that housing costs vary widely across the country. Two parents with one child living in Bowling Green, Ky., for example, would spend about $675 a month on housing, while a similar Los Angeles family would spend $1,421. Adding health premiums and deductibles to the plate can be tough – and many families have no savings.

“I would like to live in a world where people didn’t have to trade off health care versus putting food on the table,” said economist Elise Gould at the Institute. “Should it be fixed in the health care law? Or are there other things we could be doing so people don’t have to make those choices?”

Advocates point to provisions in the law that they say will make coverage a good value to hard-pressed middle-class families, including the provision of preventive care without a copay, broad benefits, the capping of out-of-pocket costs and the requirement that people with medical problems get coverage.

“Compared to where we were before, it’s an enormous improvement,” said Ron Pollack, head of Families USA, an advocacy group that supports the law. “Is it sufficient? That’s a different question.”

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Obamacare’s Founding CEO Wants To Bring Single Payer To Massachusetts

Talking Points Memo, 2/6/14


AP Photo / J. David Ake

Sahil Kapur

 On his first day as governor of Massachusetts, Donald Berwick promises to set up a commission tasked with finding a way to bring single payer to the Bay State. It’ll have report back to him within a year — ideally sooner.

Having run Medicare and Obamacare in Washington for 17 months, he has concluded that the existing hybrid system is too cumbersome and expensive, and that single payer is the right fix. And he’s the only candidate in this year’s contest who dares to go there.

“The Affordable Care Act is a majestic step forward for this country — for the only nation that hasn’t made health care a human right yet. But luckily I’m in a state that’s able to take even a bigger step,” Berwick told TPM in an interview. “And a single payer option — even if the country is not ready for it, I think Massachusetts is ready and it’s worth exploring.”

A political novice, Berwick is an underdog candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2014 elections — the most outspoken progressive in the race. A pediatrician, Harvard health policy professor and former health care executive, his talent for — and obsession with — health management caught the eye of President Barack Obama, who in 2010 appointed him to be the Administrator of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which was tasked with getting Obamacare off the ground in its infancy. Berwick left in December 2011, after his recess appointment expired and Senate Republicans refused to confirm him.

“I’ve been looking hard at the Massachusetts budget and I’ve become more aware than ever of how the rising costs of health care are taking opportunity away from other investments,” he said. “I saw it in Washington, and I see it in Massachusetts. We need to find money for transportation, education, the social safety net. … And so I feel a sense of urgency about getting costs under control without harming patients at all.”

There are huge obstacles, as he acknowledges. Entrenched industry groups who prefer a multi-payer system. Insurance companies who would cease to exist. Conservatives who view such a system as an affront to economic freedom. Questionable support from the state legislature. Even though liberals across the country passionately support the idea, no state has set up a single payer system yet and no president has seriously considered it. Luckily for Berwick, Massachusetts is ahead of the curve on health care: In 2006, Gov. Mitt Romney set up the nation’s first ever state-based universal health care system, which subsequently became the template for Obamacare.

Berwick and three other candidates vying for the Democratic nomination are getting crushed in the polls by Martha Coakley, the attorney general known nationally for her 2010 U.S. Senate campaign that failed spectacularly. She has the support of 56 percent of Democrats, according to a Suffolk University poll out this week. Berwick is a distant fourth place tie, with a measly 1 percent. (Worse yet, he’s polling behind the top Republican candidate, Charlie Baker.) He refused to talk about Coakley, but pointed out that Elizabeth Warren was also relatively unknown early in her Senate campaign, and that Mitt Romney was also a political newbie. The primary is seven months away, on Sept. 9.

So far, his campaign says he’s raised about $847,000 and spent $706,000. He touts endorsements from Massachusetts State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D) and Mass-Care, the state’s campaign for single payer. Mass-Care’s executive director Ture Turnbull said rising health care costs “are crippling the economy in Massachusetts” and harming families and clinicians. Berwick’s spokesman, Joshua Cohen, predicted that “we’ll start picking up more support soon.”

“I would claim that I’m the boldest progressive in the race,” Berwick told TPM. “We’ve not minced our words. I say what I believe. I’m the only candidate to support single payer. I’m the only candidate opposing that law that allows casinos in the state.” He worries about being seen as the health-care-only candidate when it’s not the top concern of Massachusetts residents — 98 percent of whom have insurance — and insists he’ll also prioritize education reforms and “repairing our very flawed transportation system” if he becomes governor.

Berwick has the scars to show his liberal credentials. Former underlings at CMS lavishly praise him. He had a series of high-profile clashes with congressional Republicans in Washington, who forced him out because he once said nice things about the British health care system. They said it signaled his support for “rationing” — a claim that Berwick vociferously denies.

“What did I learn? People took comments out of context and converted it into basically lies,” he said. “They attributed to me ideas I didn’t have, and they did it for distortion. It happened more than I thought. But it never for a moment changed what I believe.”

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The Play Obamacare Needs: ‘Mercy Killers’ at the Working Theater

Michael Milligan, actor and creator of the one-man-show, Mercy Killers about the American Healthcare crisis.

Michael Milligan, actor and creator of the one-man-show, Mercy Killers about the American Healthcare crisis.

By: Emily Wilson

A solo show at the Working Theater in New York called Mercy Killers reminds us that whatever the merits of Obamacare, having a lot of uninsured people is no good.

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama defended his signature health care plan, the Affordable Care Act, saying it will cuts costs, cover more people, and increase choice. In her response to the address Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Republican representative from Washington state, voiced what other critics of the act say—that it’s not working and “health care choices should be yours, not the government’s.”

The debate over health care and how to reform it has been extremely heated, bringing up such emotional issues as access to care, bankruptcies over health care costs, the pharmaceutical companies’ role, and insurance companies denying coverage. All of these get addressed in Mercy Killers, a solo show at the Working Theater in New York through Feb. 16. Julliard-trained actor Michael Milligan doesn’t pretend to be neutral—he wrote and performs the story of a man who loses his house, his business, and finally his wife after she gets cancer, ending up with him in the police station telling his story, to show how the lack of access to affordable health care can devastate people’s lives.

Milligan says he was driven to write Mercy Killers (which goes on to Ithaca and Colorado after its run at the Working Theater) by his loved ones’ struggles with health care as well as his own.

“I was passing kidney stones and I did what probably a lot of people do—I went online,” he said. “I diagnosed myself with kidney failure. Then I looked up how much it was to go to the emergency room. It was $8,000, so I stayed home. If it had been kidney failure, maybe I would be dead.”

Mercy Killers tells the story of Joe, a body shop owner who listens to Rush Limbaugh, sympathizes with Tea Party politics, and then finds his beliefs in self reliance shaken when his insurance doesn’t fully cover his wife’s cancer, leading to divorce so she can qualify for Medicare and then to bankruptcy. It has gone all over the country, including Minnesota, Illinois, California and Ohio, as well as to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it won the “Fringe First” Award.

The appeal of the play shows how it’s tapping into a universal concern over health care, says Laurie Wen, the executive director of Physicians for a National Plan.

“I work on this every day, and I was sobbing,” Wen said. “That’s why this is so powerful. Every day in the news we’re hearing about healthcare and you can look at charts and data, but this cuts to the heart of things, which is that it’s immoral to have people die when treatment is available and it’s immoral when a wife has to divorce her husband, so she can get care.”

With the implementation of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and controversy over the bumps in the rollout, healthcare reform has been all over the news. In the midst of this, Mercy Killers tackles issues such as medical debt and the role of pharmaceutical companies in a personal way, says Josh Starcher at Heathcare Now—NYC, an organization that advocates single-payer healthcare.

“We’re debating the Affordable Care Act, but we’re not remembering the bigger picture that the system right now is not working.”

“It’s all wrapped up in a love story, and part of the humanizing factor is it centers around a husband and a wife and the impact a medical crisis has on their lives translates to the impact it has on everybody’s lives,” Starcher said. “It’s something everybody can relate to. With the Affordable Care Act everyone is talking numbers and policy, but this addresses the actual impact on people’s lives.”

That’s why Mark Plesant, artistic director of the Working Theater, wanted to bring Mercy Killers to his theater for a run of four weeks in Manhattan, with a week in the Bronx and another in Queens.

“There’s a rawness to the character, and one of the things that’s so powerful for me is it breaks the barriers down. It’s not an ‘us versus them’ kind of issue,” he said. “We’re debating the Affordable Care Act, but we’re not remembering the bigger picture that the system right now is not working, and it’s a real problem to have a lot of uninsured people. About 60 percent of bankruptcies are health care related. The play says let’s look at the big questions.”

Milligan says audience members always want to come up after the play and tell him their stories.

That sharing is crucial to moving a discussion on health care forward, says Starcher.

“Whenever we share our stories, we realize we’re not all alone,” he said. “People are having these conversations around the Affordable Care Act and how it’s being implemented and maybe out of that comes discussions about what we do want and organizing to get it.”

SOURCE >>

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Having a baby in Paris gave me a crash course in socialized medicine—and a new, very French definition of “costly.”

In this series, an American in Paris pits the French welfare state against the U.S. market economy in five key categories: childbirth and health care, preschool, higher education, immigration, and shopping.

140122_$BOX_Dispatches-ChildbirthIlustration by Robert Neubecker

When I got pregnant with my daughter, I had been living in France for only about six months, and hadn’t yet received my Carte Vitale, France’s universal health care card. The day I went for my first sonogram, my midwife warned me that I should brace myself for a big bill. “Since you don’t have your Carte Vitale yet,” she said, “it’s going to be costly.”

I’m an American, and accustomed to American medical costs—I’d always worked for small businesses, where company insurance usually came with high co-pays and out-of-network deductibles. So of course I tensed up. “How much will it be?” I asked the midwife fearfully. “Will it be—more than 1,000 euros?” (That’s about $1,300 at today’s exchange rate.)

She looked at me like I was crazy. “No, it won’t be that much!” she exclaimed.

The final bill for the appointment was 150 euros, or about $200, which I paid in full, and for which I was later reimbursed in full.

In other words, “$200 minus $200” counts as a “costly” medical bill in France.

France is a proud welfare state, where public spending accounts for 53 percent of GDP—the second-highest percentage in the developed world (only Sweden’s is higher). The U.S. is the third-lowest, at 36 percent (ahead of Ireland and South Korea). Having a baby so soon after moving to France gave my husband and me a crash course in one of the largest components of the French welfare state: its medical system, which has often been called the best in the world.

France’s health care system is a public/private hybrid: Everyone is covered to a certain extent by the government’s Assurance Maladie, but most people also have private insurance, called a mutuelle, that is either offered through their employer or bought on the private market. There’s a thriving private insurance market in France—one that the Affordable Care Act can only dream of. Private medical insurance is advertised on the sides of buses and alongside movie previews in theaters, and there are plans geared toward numerous niches: college students, freelance professionals, and people who work in restaurants, to name a few.

Because my husband worked at a French company, he immediately began paying into the system, which covered me as well while I wasn’t working. In addition, my husband’s employers provided a choice of mutuelle; the top-of-the-line plan, which we signed up for, cost about 50 euros ($68) a month. By contrast, in the U.S., I’d been paying about $350 a month with an additional $50 co-pay for each doctor’s appointment.

Our first task was to find a place to have the baby. I’d suspected I was pregnant for two weeks before I took a pregnancy test, not wanting to be overly anxious. This was my first mistake. “You must call the maternités now—vite! Vite!” my friend Anais practically yelled at me when she heard. And she was right: Six weeks pregnant, I was already too late to get a spot in many of Paris’ public maternity wards. Only then did I learn that most Parisian women call the hospital the day they miss their period. I have a friend who walked to her local hospital with her pregnancy test in hand the minute she found out.

This kind of crowding, especially in bigger cities, is one of the downsides of a government-run health care system. On the upside, had I managed to book a bed in one of the public wards, my birth would have been completely free, paid for entirely by the government’s Assurance Maladie. Everyone pays into Assurance Maladie through charges that are taken directly from their paycheck. (Unlike Americans, French employers and workers quote salaries as net, not gross—so your salary is what you receive after deductions for health care and other social services.) From the sixth month of pregnancy to 11 days after a child’s birth, the government covers a woman’s medical expenses in full.

In full—except for the costs of a private clinic if you’ve missed out on a public ward. There are plenty of private maternités in Paris, and I found a great one, with an English-speaking midwife who agreed to follow my pregnancy from the outset, as I still had no regular doctor. But how expensive would it be?

Luckily, transparency in the price of medical care is a legal requirement in France. The government sets what they consider fair prices for all appointments and procedures, and then reimburses these for everyone at 70 percent. This is not unlike Medicare and Medicaid in the U.S., but because the French government system covers the entire population, it has more bargaining power to keep prices low. For example, a private appointment with a midwife is calculated at a base cost of 28 euros—the same price it would be at a public clinic or hospital. The government will reimburse the patient 18.50 euros of this, even if the midwife charges more; the rest the patient pays out of pocket and/or has covered by a mutuelle.

It’s not uncommon in the bigger cities, particularly in Paris, for a doctor to charge more than the government’s recommended price. But these overages, called dépassements, don’t come anywhere near what an American specialist might charge. In fact, under French law, a doctor must issue a receipt explaining any dépassement above 70 euros before beginning the test or appointment. (France is also arguably more creative than U.S. health care providers in keeping childbirth costs down. For example, women who are likely to have complication-free births are usually referred to a Level 1 maternity ward, which has an operating room in case a C-section is necessary but no neo-natal unit or full hospital facility attached to the clinic. In the U.S., most women deliver at a full-service hospital, even if it’s likely they will experience no complications.)

Not only was I getting accustomed to a radically different idea of what constitutes “expensive,” but I was also adjusting to the outlandish notion that I would know the exact cost of my health care services before buying them.

In the U.S., meanwhile, it’s often impossible to get a price for a delivery out of a hospital. Estimates vary by orders of magnitude: This California study of 100,000 complication-free deliveries showed that new mothers were charged anywhere from $3,296 to $37,227, with no clear medical reason for the massive discrepancy.

By contrast, for my complication-free delivery and five-day stay in a private clinic, my total out-of-pocket cost was 400 euros, or about $542.

Last fall, I watched the rollout of the Affordable Care Act with great interest from across the Atlantic. I’m self-employed, and I’m just not sure how my husband and I would have been able to pay our medical bills under the old system if we’d stayed in the U.S. The ACA is an improvement, but I don’t think we should count Obamacare’s average monthly premium of $328 as a success. That’s still a lot of money for a middle-class family—and that’s before co-pays, in-network deductibles, and all manner of hidden costs. From my French-ified perspective, a single-payer system—with strong government oversight to keep the price of medical care low—seems like the only way to go.

A final note: If you have a baby in France, expect to bring your own towels to the hospital. While there are no $10 aspirins, there’s not much in the way of other amenities, either. But for great, affordable health care, I’m just fine with bringing my own shampoo.

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Original article found here >>

Claire Lundberg is a writer, literary scout, and former New Yorker now living in Paris.

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