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Subject: qotd: Health care insurance lessons from Greece
Date: Thu, 25 Oct 2012 04:25:15 -0700
From: Don McCanne <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Quote-of-the-Day <email@example.com>
The New York Times
October 24, 2012
Amid Cutbacks, Greek Doctors Offer Message to Poor: You Are Not Alone
By Liz Alderman
Life in Greece has been turned on its head since the debt crisis took
hold. But in few areas has the change been more striking than in health
care. Until recently, Greece had a typical European health system, with
employers and individuals contributing to a fund that with government
assistance financed universal care. People who lost their jobs still
received unlimited benefits.
That changed in July 2011, when Greece signed a loan agreement with
international lenders to ward off financial collapse. Now, as stipulated
in the deal, Greeks who lose their jobs receive benefits for a maximum
of a year. After that, if they are unable to foot the bill, they are on
their own, paying all costs out of pocket.
About half of Greece's 1.2 million long-term unemployed lack health
insurance, a number that is expected to rise sharply in a country with
an unemployment rate of 25 percent and a moribund economy, said Savas
Robolis, director of the Labor Institute of the General Confederation of
Greek Workers. A new $17.5 billion austerity package of budget cuts and
tax increases, agreed upon Wednesday with Greece's international
lenders, will make matters only worse, most economists say.
"In Greece right now, to be unemployed means death," said Dr. Kostas
Syrigos, (the chief of oncology at Sotiria General Hospital in central
"We are moving to the same situation that the United States has been in,
where when you lose your job and you are uninsured, you aren't covered,"
Dr. Syrigos said.
Comment: Greece's austerity program has been devastating. Greece's
lenders have imposed on them the requirement that individuals lose their
health insurance after one year of unemployment. As Dr. Kostas Syrigos
states, "We are moving to the same situation that the United States has
been in, where when you lose your job and you are uninsured, you aren't
So the European nation that is suffering most from the current financial
crisis has had to drop its health care coverage standards to that of the
United States. Isn't there a lesson here for us?
But you say that the Affordable Care Act has fixed that. If you lose
your employer-sponsored coverage you can always buy insurance in the
exchanges (but not if you can't pay your share of the subsidized
premium). If you lose most or all of your income, you can always sign up
for Medicaid (but not if your state declined to participate in the
Greece is right to hold us up as the example of the worst health care
coverage standards of all industrialized nations. The irony is that we
are wealthy enough and are already spending enough money to do something
about it, but we don't. We still can, by enacting an improved Medicare
that covers everyone. Can't we learn from Greece's experience?