Oct 13th, 2018, 04:41 PM

Dying to Live in France

By Marissia Tiller
abandoned hospital
Image credit: Flickr/Travis Wise
Is the American healthcare system indebting citizens in exchange for their lives?

“Are you scared to die, Mamma?” I asked, shocked, devastated by what she had just told me. “No, baby. Death is a natural part of life. I just don’t want to leave you.” The only child of a single-parent mom, I was scared for her to leave me too but I didn’t dare say the words. She was all the family I had. Instead, I heard myself reassuring, “Don’t worry about me, Mamma, I’ll be alright.” She passed three days later.

My mom went to the hospital the night before this conversation for abdominal pains to discover she had stage four cancer. I’ll never forget the words of the doctor who diagnosed her: “This type of cancer could have been 100 percent prevented with a routine check up.” He paused, then took my mom’s hand. “Ms. Wadley, I wish I had seen you in my office a year before for an annual colonoscopy. You wouldn’t be here today.” These words haunt me. Today, with the 2018 Midterm Elections, voters have the power to swing the House of Congress back into favor for a progressive healthcare policy: a policy for the people. 

"Is America a country for its own people? Or for profit, even when it’s costing citizens their lives?"

My mom, like many Americans (approximately 28 million at the end of 2016), did not have health insurance. My mom, like many Americans, could not afford to be seen by practitioners without coverage. My mom like many Americans, waited until the symptoms became so uncomfortable, that it was only then that she went to the Emergency Department because, by law, it is the only health care administration that has to admit patients, even without coverage. Is America a country for its own people? Or for profit, even when it’s costing citizens their lives?

The healthcare system indebts you. If you are not covered and seek treatment and, if it’s serious, you’re looking at upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt. Insurance is a private, for profit, affair. So you have to either be working for a corporate enterprise (full time, part time doesn't cut it) or take out a relatively expensive plan on your own under Obama Care. These are our part-time workers, contractors, freelancers, unemployed, and everyone inbetween. For those working minimum wage jobs, those with financial constraints, is a family plan of $1,168 per month under Obama Care feasible? 

Obama Care was an Affordable Care Act put into place under former President Barack Obama and the Democrat Party to offset the uninsured insanity. Bravo. It sought to open the market for independent policies made available to individuals; the concept being the more who opt in, the more affordable the policies. However, numbers have increased again as Trump attempts to dismantle the progress, jumping to 3.2 million in his first year of presidency alone. 

Even for those who are covered, health insurance is expensive. Consider the shitty plans so graciously offered by employers with high premiums and deductibles; or the unfortunates with pre-existing conditions; or the exemptions that fall under fine print of a policy. Millions of insured Americans who work 40 plus hours per week still cannot pay their medical debt.

How about this: as a working American citizen, I spent years paying off medical bills even with my employer's plan. Yet when I worked in France the healthcare system reimbursed the majority of my doctor’s visits, treatments and prescriptions, and with a supplemental insurance, the entire 100 percent. I’ve never paid off a medical bill beyond  what was due at the doctor's visit in all my two plus years in France. And here’s the kicker: I’m not even a French citizen.

"Is it really The Land of Justice and Freedom for All if the US is building up an empire of capital on the backs of modern day wage-slaves, only then to deny them basic health care?"

Why does my birth country deny me what another considers a basic human right? The words of French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau come to mind. Rousseau's The Social Contract puts forth the notion that people have certain inalienable rights, regardless of their position in society. One of his famous lines reads, “l'Homme est né libre et partout il est dans les fers,” or man is born free and everywhere he is in chains. Consider that for a moment. Is it really The Land of Justice and Freedom for All if the US is building up an empire of capital on the backs of modern day wage-slaves, only then to deny them basic health care?

After the doctor left the room, it was in this pivotal moment while staring at the abstract patterns on the cold hospital floor, that I thought, Fuck. That. I applied for and received Italian citizenship (through heritage on my dad’s side) and exactly a year after my mom’s death, I found myself boarding a plane, determined to refaire ma vie in the European Union. I chose to become an expatriate of the United States of America and, as long as Socialism and free healthcare reign, I don't plan to go back.

But not so fast. What about the millions of Americans who don’t have a get-out-of-jail-free card? My tell-tale heart palpitates with the pain of my own loss and my conscience weighs heavy for those still trapped in a system where they ask for peace of mind and are charged for it. 

I may have escaped the fate of my mother but I cannot abandon my fellow struggling countrymen and women. I will not stay silent: I’m callin’ shenanigans on the American healthcare system. There’s a disease running rampant and it’s not the cancer that killed my mom. It's the undiagnosed corruption of a capitalist, propagandist, classist system, and it’s high-time we stop buying our own chains.

Yet, these words are futile if no action is taken. As a final plea to American citizens and to us expatriates living abroad: Remember, remember, Midterm Elections are the 6th of November. Exercise your rights.