Please don’t forward me links to good articles in The Washington Post or transcripts of speeches from well-spoken congressmen. I just want the straight dope. Why should I be worried? Why should I be fretting that I moved to a country that gave me free healthcare from the moment I stepped down off the plane onto its soil? And then let me choose between four competing healthcare plans? And then handed me a card and said, “Now, go get sick!”
I should clarify something. Our current healthcare plan is not free. It’s almost free. Upon signing up with a national healthcare provider, we got a call from a representative who offered us an upgraded version of the plan we chose (to the tune of about $20/month per person; less for kids). I had heard from friends that the upgraded version gets you the better pharmaceuticals (for the one who takes antibiotics, read “my husband”) and access to alternative practitioners (for the one who doesn’t, “read me”). So we said, “We’ll take it.” After all, we were used to contributing out-of-pocket fees for our private plan in the States.
However, so far, I feel like we’re getting a lot more for our money here than we did in the States.
No office co-pay for sick visits. And while we do still have to pay out of pocket for most prescription medication, the cost for a 10-day dose of the high end antibiotic here, for instance, was 14 NIS (which is the equivalent of about $4).
Plus, I just heard yesterday that because I have the upgraded version of my plan, I can go to a nearby wellness center and have a full work up done by an osteopathic physician for only 30 NIS and then choose from a variety of body workers and alternative practitioners for about 60 NIS per 50-minute visit! (You do the math now; the dollar is about 3.4 shekels.)
I haven’t had a chance to fully delve into all the benefits that come with my Kupat Holim membership. Mostly because when I asked the customer representative for a booklet in English, she apologized and told me one doesn’t exist. Someone should let the Jewish Agency know this, as it’s a bit of a hiccup for new immigrants who have not yet learned Hebrew, but desperately need health care.
Why do we desperately need health care? Well, for one, a lot of new olim are babymaking machines. Not me, mind you. But lots of other women.
But, second of all, because new olim are weak. We’re mostly migrating from ultra-clean communities and then plopping our kids in Gans that not only refrain from using antibacterial hand lotion eighteen times a day like they do in American preschools, but hardly ever instruct the kids even to wash their hands. Take that, immune system!
I normally never need the doctor. In fact, in the last four years, I saw my primary care physician only twice for well-visits and zero times for sick visits. Ever since I started paying attention to my health and making lifestyle changes that strengthened my immune system (insert plug for Mindful Living NJ and The Wellness Bitch here), I never get colds and only rarely pick up those winter viruses that put you in bed for a day or two. But apparently, it’s a known fact that newbies get pummeled by Israeli germs and bacteria. For those of you who’ve had kids in daycare, it’s like that first year you put your kid in; it seems as if he has a never-ending runny nose.
Since moving to Israel, I’ve been sick at least three times, despite my arsenal of American-bought herbal and homeopathic rememdies. I purposefully schlepped over here oil of oregano, zicam, Boiron’s cold calm, Young Living essential oils, and a whole slew of non-medicinal products that usually help me stave off colds when I feel the first tingle of a sore throat. Not working.
My middle guy has been sick for almost two weeks now — on and off with a mix of symptoms. When we finally took him to the doctor the other day, she told us it was possible he has mononucleosis. I don’t know about you, but I associate mono with college co-eds and too much making out. Not something I think my 4-year-old is going to pick up. Apparently it’s quite common for kids under the age of 5 here in Israel. (But usually goes unnoticed or undetected.)
Being sick in a foreign country stinks. Parenting sick kids in a foreign country stinks a lot worse. But as worried as I was about what we’d find here in terms of level and quality of service, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Certain politicians would have you believe that citizens of countries with socialized medicine have to walk five miles in the snow just to see a doctor who is going to treat your influenza with leeches and vodka.
Not so here. (So far.) No long lines. No long wait periods to get in to see a particular doctor. Friendly staff. Doctors who listen.
Perhaps I should give it time. After all, we’ve only had to deal with a cold or a little “shil shul.” Maybe there will be plenty to piss me off about socialized medicine in due time.
My Passover wish: Let us continue to be so lucky that moving forward our experiences with Kupat Holim are as few and as pleasant. I have enough to deal with, dear Lord, without having to Google Translate lab results and medicine contraindications.
Please hear my prayer.
Jen Maidenberg is is a writer, editor, activist and former assistant editor at the Arizona Jewish Post. Visit her website at http://jenmaidenberg.com/.