Insurance for All: Germans Can’t Fathom US Aversion to Obama’s Healthcare Reform

May 13th, 2012

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Miriam Widman, May 11, 2012:

In Germany, people are baffled by how hostile a country as religious as the United States can be to the principle of mandatory healthcare insurance. Not even conservatives question the system, which businesspeople say gives Europe’s largest economy a competitive advantage.

As the United States Supreme Court considers whether requiring people to have health insurance is unconstitutional, Germans are bewildered as to why so many Americans appear to be against universal coverage. 

They also question the continued portrayal of US President Barack Obama and his health reform backers as socialists and communists, noting that healthcare was introduced in Germany in the 19th century by Otto von Bismarck, who was definitely not a leftist, and is supported by conservative and pro-business politicians today.
“It’s a solidarity principle,” says Ann Marini, a spokesperson for the National Health Insurers Association. “Not every ‘S’ automatically means socialism.”

Marini and others say that mandated coverage is something that is simply not questioned in Germany. Furthermore, even the most pro-market politicians wouldn’t dare to dismantle the country’s health insurance system.

System Only Works if Everyone Takes Part: … //

… Don’t Religious Americans Love Their Neighbors?

But there are other reasons why Germans are confused about the US healthcare debate. The US comes across to not only Germans, but to many Europeans, as a religious country. God seems to be part of many US debates, especially ones surrounding the presidential campaign. In secular European politics, the Almighty is rarely if ever invoked.

“For me the US is a very religious country. It doesn’t matter which religion I look at — love thy neighbor is a very, very important point in religion,” health insurance spokesperson Marini says. For her, the apparent deep religiousness of many Americans doesn’t jibe with their unwillingness to be part of a healthcare community.

Politician Wolfgang Zöller, a member of Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union party, argues that Christian principles support a national healthcare system and both are compatible with capitalism.

He wonders how a working class man with a family who doesn’t have insurance pays for an operation when he becomes sick.

“The question of health insurance is a humane question,” he says. “I want every person — independent of age, independent of income or pre-existing conditions — to have the possibility to be helped when he is sick.”

But that is not happening in the United States, according to numerous statistics.

The US ranks last out of 16 industrialized countries on a measure of deaths that might have been prevented with timely and effective care, according to a study released last year by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that supports independent healthcare research. Germany was in ninth place, according to the “National Scorecard on US Health Performance.”

Premature death rates are 68 percent higher in the US than in the best-performing countries. As many as 91,000 fewer people would die prematurely if the US could achieve the leading country rate, the report said. Instead, the study notes that “access to healthcare significantly eroded since 2006,” with more than 81 million working-age adults — some 44 percent of those aged 19 to 64 — uninsured or underinsured in 2010. This was an increase of 35 percent from 2003 levels.

Other advanced countries are managing to outpace the US in providing “timely access to primary care, reducing premature mortality, and extending healthy life expectancy, all while spending considerably less on healthcare and administration,” the study goes on.
And that’s exactly what Zöller says he’s talking about. When people become sick they should be helped regardless of their financial or social situation, he says.

“Otherwise you’re left with the famous saying, ‘the poor die young.’ And I don’t want that.” (full text).


Electric Dreams: Congested Streets Spark E-Scooter Trend, on Spiegel Online International, by Jürgen Pander, May 11, 2012: As cities become more crowded and traffic more snarled, commuters and engineers are searching for better ways to get around the world’s urban hubs. E-scooters, once considered an unpromising technology, are making a comeback as major car manufacturers rediscover their utility and sudden popularity …
See also Gallery: Two Wheels are Enough, 8 photos.

Ukraine – The Body Politic:
Part 1: Getting Naked to Change the World, by Dialika Neufeld, May 11, 2012;
Part 2: We Scream and Show Our Bodies;
See also the relevant Photo Gallery.

Safeguarding East Germany’s Dark Past: Agency Chief Says Stasi Archive Should Stay Open, by Stefan Berg, May 11, 2012;

… and: wikileaks on YouTube (any theme).

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