Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In Which All My Dreams Come True, Provided I Never Get Sick

So, here I am in ~California~, in the **~**Bay Area**~**. I am in my second week of orientation at seminary. Well, technically I am at seminary, though as an MA student I guess I am not really a seminarian – just surrounded by them.

My school is very progressive. A hundred years ago it was cheerfully educating women and Asian-Americans, back when ladybits and Asianness were widely considered obvious signs of inferiority as a human being. Today its population is over 50% queer-identified and extremely diverse, racially and religiously. Classes haven't started yet, but I'm already pretty sure that this is the best seminary in the world.

Last night we had an incredible worship service. Christians, pagans, Jews, and unaffiliated seekers gathered together to share a profoundly filling and calming experience of the divine. It was like nothing I've ever experienced before, and it was amazing.

I love the fact that I get to take very intellectual classes on things like Constructive Theology and Political Theology, and I also get to take part in worship and spiritual praxis. I love that I'll be learning heart-things as well as head-things. And I love the sunshine.

The other day someone asked me what I miss from home. I couldn't really think of anything. I miss my friends, obviously, but I'm making plenty of new ones so it's not as though I'm sitting alone crying for them. (Still love you guys, though!) One thing that occurred to me later is the NHS.

Oh, National Health Service. You are big, lumbering, and often inefficient. Sometimes you offend me. You seem to have a very nasty culture of silencing whistleblowers. Nobody would pretend that you are perfect; even so, as far as the blazing sun is above the feeblest anglerfish in the Mariana Trench, that's how far you are above the ridiculous US healthcare system.

I don't know if many USians understand just how absurd your healthcare system seems to an outsider. Let me explain:

You're in Britain, and you need a doctor. You're feeling peaky, or you need birth control, or your acne's flared up, or whatever. What do you do? You go see a doctor. Doctor treats you. If you need a prescription, you get your drugs – free if you're in Scotland or Wales, for a small sum (except for birth control) in England.

I'm not leaving any steps out. This is exactly what happens, from start to finish. It doesn't matter if you're unemployed. It doesn't matter if you're a taxpayer, a foreigner, a child. You see a doctor and you get treated.

This is normal for me. This is what I'm used to. Do you know how outrageous your system is to me? It literally would not seem out of place in a dystopian novel about an oppressive futuristic society that murders its citizens on a daily basis.

I'm in the US now, and I do have health insurance. If I need the doctor, I don't have a frickin' clue what I do. From the sound of things, my best bet is to fly home and get treated on the NHS.

Aside from the healthcare clusterfuck, I love everything about being here. I love the weather (obviously! I've been here ten days and I haven't been rained on once). I love that people are so friendly, and find my accent charming instead of weird. I love that the town is a lot like Camden. I love that I got to stand on the Golden Gate Bridge. I love my school. I love that I can look out of a classroom window and see a palm tree across the Bay. I love that, several times a day, I have to fight down the urge to lie on the ground kicking my heels and squeeing for joy.

I'm a grad student at a progressive seminary in California. What more could I want? (APART FROM UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE, SERIOUSLY, GET IT TOGETHER CONGRESS)


  1. Well, the doctor you get to see depends upon your plan. You should have a list or just call around - need to see a specialist? Call the specialists in your area and ask if they take your insurance.

    It's what I have to do and I have poor-people state-insurance (which sucks, by the way, it's bottom of the barrel). It's actually the main reason I'm not officially married yet (if I was, they'd factor in my SO's income and deny me, yet he cannot afford insurance for me and hasn't had any for himself in more than a decade. He just got into a position to get some, which eases some of my worry).

    Also, don't believe it when politicans say "Oh, people can just go to the ER in emergency." Technically, you can, but I know from experience that they'll charge you an arm and a leg for saving your life and will not leave you alone. Dystopian is right - it is very common here for people who can't afford insurance and do not qualify for state help to "just see how it goes" when ill or hurt and make themselves worse as a result. My guy spent a whole summer suffering from pnemonia and scaring me to DEATH because we couldn't afford for him to see a doctor.

    Sorry for the rant here. I've lived in the USA all my life and it's the only system I know, but having been on the ass-end of it and having friends face similar, I am full of anger over it.

    Otherwise, I'm really glad you're enjoying the sun and surf in Cali. I've never been to San Fran, but I've been to L.A. and it's a pretty neat place.

  2. If you have health insurance through your school, they should definitely be able to tell you what you need to do should you get sick. If not, go ahead and call your insurance agent, and they'll talk you through it.

    I've not had health insurance much in my life, and don't have it now, but in my current job working as a legal assistant for a personal injury lawyer, I deal with health insurance companies and claims all the darn time, and I don't think the US system is so much dystopian as it is just incredibly clumsy and cobbled together from whatever spare parts were lying around.

    One of the weird things about the US is its tendency to attempt to compromise between diametrically-opposed political philosophies. We've done it since the beginning (House/Senate), and we do it today all the time. Sometimes it works pretty well, but other times, as in healthcare and housing, our attempts to synthesize capitalism and a sort of soft socialism tend to result in drastic failure, or at least boatloads of red tape.

    As it is now, I really just wish that we could pick between an NHS-style system or a primarily market-based system and quit monkeying around trying to do both at the same time. I do have an opinion about which one I'd rather see, but I'd rather have a functional system with which I have philosophical issues than one which absolutely doesn't work at all.