Monday, June 15, 2009

Greatest Fear Turns to Pleasant Surprise

Have you ever had the following experience: your greatest fear turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to you? Had you not been forced to play out the scenario, you would not have had the opportunity of being so pleasantly surprised.

Unfortunately, this happens all too often. We don’t experiment with something new because we fear the outcome which is a great unknown to us. We’re going through that scenario today with the prospect of making significant changes in our medical system.

The potential change pushes our fear buttons and sets off powerful emotional charges. Our health is so very personal and we want to be in control of our medical care. We want to choose what is best and not deliver that right to our government.

I understand all of the reticence and fear which makes sense when you know what you know, but don’t know what you don’t know. Most people hear nothing but negative facts about other medical systems around the world. They are led to believe that the U.S. medical system is superior and the only one that delivers professional, unlimited and personal care.

It was just four years ago that I had the same reactions. As we were moving to France for a few years I made my husband promise to bring me home to the U.S. if I needed serious medical intervention. I had no trust in any other country’s medical care as I had only heard the fear mongering about socialized medicine of the last decade in the American media.

That mind-set led me to being closed and prejudiced in my thinking of what might be possible. I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised and humbled by my medical care while living in France. In fact, I wish I could do something to bring that same level of care and experience to the U.S at the same cost to me here as there. The humanity and sense of individual care that I feared would be lacking outside the U.S. turned out to be very much present--everything that the U.S. has lost in recent years.

I was treated with humanity, expertise and great individual care. From mammograms to dental check-ups, I had fabulous care and experiences for a fraction of the equivalent cost here in the USA. My personal experience led me to conducting qualitative research among an ex-pat community to see if others shared in my positive sentiments. Unanimously, I found others singing the praises of their medical care. There were no long waits for procedures; they had a thorough and lengthy doctor visit covering all of their concerns; they were given whatever tests and services they requested without question.

We hear of all kinds of catastrophes in the press about other countries where people are victimized by lack of choice and an inferior delivery system. Some of those cases may indeed be valid, but I cannot say that I or dozens of people I surveyed had the same experience. Most said, in retrospect, that they were glad they happened to be in France when they found out that they had cancer or that they had a heart attack.

I realize I am comparing the consistently number one medical system in the world, the French system, to that of the US which is consistently ranked in the teen’s but I make the case nonetheless. I have often heard politicians ask consumers if they would like to give up what they have in the U.S. and risk having the inferior system such as the English, French or Canadian system. So the next time a fear-mongering politician asks me if I want to risk having a medical system like that in England or Canada, I’ll gladly respond affirmatively for the French System. Yes, please. I’d be happy to receive the highest level of healthcare at a fraction of the cost I now pay with the current health care system here at home in the USA!

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