All my life I had wanted to go to America. All my life I had listed it in the top 10 - to visit, to see, to touch, to feel. It didn’t even matter to me which part of America, as long as it was on the coast. When I was growing up, America was something like Mars - as unavailable and undesirable to live in, but still as attractive travel-wise.
I had never admired America the way everybody who likes adventure literature admires Australia. Yet the Indians (the Mohican!) , the treasure hunts, the Scarlett O’Hara story - all of that kept it very high up my wish list.
I had a great time in all four states I visited. I know it was very touristy, yet I wanted it to be touristy to the point of being tacky, so I didn’t mind much. Crabs at Pier 39 in San Francisco, humble gambling in Vegas, a Broadway show in New York (the horses in Central Park unfortunately didn’t happen, too damn cold).
Nice country, I thought, - probably even great for retirement. Until I saw Sicko. Bloody hell! America, being one of the vastest, richest and certainly the loudest countries on the planet cannot provide proper medical care for its citizens.
I know they say we are spoilt here in New Zealand. The more I travel the more I realise how great this country is, and how lucky we are to have the freshest seafood cheaply (relatively, yes) and breathtaking scenery in any given point of the country, and two-day travel time to keep all buggers out. But I still thought America was full of life, very open-minded, very consumer-oriented, yet very demanding and very “you have to have”-oriented.
In New Zealand, where they copied the British system of medical care and social welfare, essentially everything is free. You get free emergency care and the proper follow-up; free maternity care and paid leave up to 6 months; free assistance in giving up smoking; free surgery; free gyms for the obese and so on. The system works very simply: if you are unhappy with the public wait, get an insurance and get operated on in a private way. If you do not want to get the insurance - oh well, the government is here to look after you.
Things are different in America. 1. You have to have insurance. 1A. For that, you have to be insurable. 1B. You have to be able to afford health insurance, as it is quite pricey. 3. You have to be lucky enough not to have your health insurance cancelled, if your health gets worse. 4. You cannot choose your doctor, as you get one allocated. 5. If you do have insurance and things get sour, they must not turn sour enough for your insurance to cover only some of the costs. And there is probably 6, 7, 8 and so on in finest print.
I have no idea how Americans put up with that. With their budgeting, with their military power, with their absolute potential, they get such poor health treatment. I know France is a resourceful country, but look at Cuba! They manage to provide free health care. I imagine Canada can somehow survive by just collecting taxes, not fees. I just feel very grateful that I do not have to live there - despite of all my American dreams. And I will make sure I have a thick travel insurance next time I am over in the States. Because there is no other way.