Socialized medicine – a letter from an American in Italy

From Doug Dowd
Bologna, Italy

August 6, 2009 Ukiah Valley, Mendocino, North California

Letter to the Editor
Anderson Valley Advertiser

As an 89-year-old native San Franciscon who now lives in Bologna, Italy, I would like to offer a comparison between health care in the United States and Italy. My experience convences me of the need for a strong governmental health care program as put forth by President Obama.

In 1966, I was a professor of economic history at Cornell University when I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to teach in Bologna for a year. On the first day of my first week in Italy, while attending a professors’ meeting in Rome, my wife and I were hit by a car that ran a red light. We were hospitalized for several days, returned to Bologna for further care, and that was that. Cost: $0.00.

When I returned to teach in Bologna in the 1980s, after continuing my teaching career at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and San Jose State, I was again struck by a car and hospitalized. Cost: $0.00.

As I aged, I did have to pay for always more medications. The costs were at least as high as in the United States, the equivalent of $200-$300 monthly. But that changed a few years ago (while continuing my US citizenship and taxes) when I became an official resident of Bologna. I now have a little health card and a family doctor., who sends me to specialists when needed. My privileges are the same as the Italians. Cost: $0.00.

When I present pharmacists with my many prescriptions, they are filled. $0.00.

Meanwhile, as a US citizen, I continue to pay what economists refer to as “health taxes” — health insurance premiums, Medicare and Medicaid taxes, etc. In the United States, we pay the world’s highest health taxes, and much of the money is squandered. The wealthy get tax breaks, and HMOs and drug companies pocket billions in profits at the taxpayers’ expense.

Americans have long been told that we have the “best health care system in the world” and taught to fear “socialized medicine” for its alleged absence of choice in personal physicians, long waiting lists for surgeries, etc. From my experience, such charges are absurd, ridiculous, and deceitful.

In short, we have allowed ourselves to be robbed, with substantial dangers to our health. President Obama needs our active political support if health is to take the place of thievery.
See also A Canadian diagnosis US health care

One Comment

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Front page is and there is a redirect link at the top to the energy blog.


Amir Satvat