Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Return to Deutschland

After what turned out to be one of our best trips to the US, we all came back to Germany about 11 days ago. The trip back was in some ways frustrating (NWA has changed their luggage allowance policy, only one per person on intercontinental flights) and also better (the Dude slept most of the way).

Getting over the jet lag was difficult. For a week the Dude would go to bed peacefully at 7pm only to wake up at 9pm and cry for two hours. Someone said to me, "Well, you know it is only two hours and at least it is still early in the evening." Right. But when you are exhausted yourself and only want to go to bed, it can be the LONGEST TWO HOURS OF YOUR LIFE.

There were many highlights to the trip, one being the Detroit Zoo. I know, I know. I also thought, "Detroit has a zoo? How good can that be?" Turns out pretty darn good. The Detroit Zoo is one of the oldest in the US and was designed by the same German who designed the Hamburg Zoo. We went in the afternoon, in the middle of the week.

It was pretty empty (and a bit windy), so we had prime viewing of the animals, who were actually awake. The tigers, lions and bears all were moving around and kept looking at us like, "Hey! Where's my dinner?" The best was the polar bear exhibit, which features a pool and Plexiglases so that you can watch the polar bears play. The male bear was swimming up to the glass and splashing around. The Dude giggled and patted the glass; clearly having no clue that the bear could probably swallow him whole.

The Detroit Zoo . . . pretty awesome. Who knew!?

Since being back I have had a bit of what I call the "blahs." No desire to work. Sick of cleaning and ironing. Weather is not good enough to take the kid for a walk. Just blah. I have to say, it is a little frustrating as I actually have work to do and am hosting a Halloween Party on Saturday . . . maybe time to get off my duff?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Life on Mars

Two weeks ago I actually did begin writing a post about the outcome of the German election. And then, things happened. Nothing overly dramatic, mind you, however it was all distracting enough to pull me away from the computer. The German, Dude and I are currently on our biannual family vacation in Motown.

We have been here for about a week and everything is going pretty well. The flight was as I expected . . . long. The Dude only slept 1.5 hours out of the 8.5 hour flight. That was . . . fun. But it turned out for the best. After playing a bit with Grandpa when we got to the house, he crashed at 8:30pm and slept until 7am. Within two days he was over the jet lag.

This trip has been a bit odd, however. For the first time, I have come home, looked around and thought, "Have I landed on Mars??"

I first had this thought as we drove past all of the empty strip malls. The bumpy roads had pot holes the size of my Smart. A drive through my Grandfathers old Detroit neighborhood was down right scary. The German thought it looked like Sarajevo. We went up to Kmart to get a few things, and the very nice woman at the check out line was older than my grandmother. Seriously, she could have easily been 68 (the German guessed 72).

As we left, I turned to my husband and said, "What is she doing here?! Shouldn't she be at home playing with her grand kids or drinking tea with friends. Isn't that what you do in retirement? Hasn't she worked enough?" It really upset me.

But the best was yet to come . . .

The Dude got sick on Monday. A small cough got worse and worse, and even though he did not have a fever, he was clearly not feeling well. On Thursday I decided to call a few pediatricians to get him an appointment.

The first place turned me away. They informed me that they could not see us because we do not live in the area.

"I am still a Michigan resident. I have a driver's license and bank account. Besides WE HAVE INSURANCE."

"Will you insurance cover you here?"

"Yes! We can go to any doctor in the world and we are covered. I pay enough for it."

"Sorry, you will have to go to an emergency room or free clinic. We cannot run the risk of the bill not being paid."

OH MY GOD. Are you kidding me? In the greatest country in the world, a sick child with insurance cannot get a doctor's appointment?!?

So, I called the next doctor on the list. "Sure, we can take you. Could you we send the bill to your dad's house?"

"You know what, can I just pay cash? I can get reimbursed by my insurance company later."

"Come on down!" (For my readers, future reference, "cash" is the magic word in the US health insurance system.)

The doctor was actually quite nice and the nurse was fabulous. She was so good with the Dude. Turns out that the baby was not just being fussy. He has an upper respiratory infection and an ear infection. Nice. They called in a prescription.

When I got to the pharmacy, I was told, "We cannot fill this. You do not have insurance on file." "Can't I just pay cash?" "Sure!" (There's that magic word again.)

The entire cost of a doctor's visit and antibiotic in the US: $190.

This entire experience has left me absolutely dumbfounded. It proves that in the US it is difficult to get access to affordable care, even for those with insurance. The costs are outrageous; the same bill in Germany would be less than half that in the US. How can anyone look at this system and think that it does not need to be fixed? What is wrong in the US?

I posted this on my Facebook page and naturally one of my more to the right friends (I am trying to be nice) said, "I love the US. Always have. Always will." What does that have to do with anything? I love the US, too. I actually believe that it is one of the best countries in the world. But health care is a problem. My friend also said that being ranked 14th in the world is "okay," what are people complaining about? This is also the problem. Those that have not had any of these experiences and have not gotten sick do not understand what millions of Americans go through everyday.

Satisfaction with mediocrity is not an option; maybe on Mars but not in the US.