*Average Read Time: 4 minutes
I was scrolling through IG the other day and noticed one of my fav personalities, comedians, podcast hosts and content creators @bryanrussellsmith had posted another one of his hysterical videos (truly if you do not follow him you absolutely must) regarding Americans, healthcare and healthcare abroad and it took me back to an identical situation I experienced 14 years ago…
In 2007 I took a brief hiatus from fashion school to live in Italy and work for a bridal house along the southern bank of the Arno in Florence. I was 19 and it was an experience that would change the entire course of my career forever (#worthit). During my late teens and throughout my mid-late 20’s I survived solely on pure adrenaline and caffeine. I worked far more than I played (still a problem) and traveled as often as I physically could (still the same). This lifestyle typically caused me to be very sick, very often. My time living in Florence was no different.
Within the first month I suffered from an allergic reaction to mosquito bites. After they became infected, I eventually landed in the hospital with a staph infection. I remember calling my parents crying; I had no idea how I would ever afford the hospital bill and knew for certain I would undoubtedly have to come home, cutting my time abroad very, very short. I was hysterical, inconsolable, scared. After a couple of very nurturing days, being cared for better than I ever had been in an American hospital, I came to terms with this, accepted my fate, and glumly made my way to the checkout counter to ask for the bill.
The nurse handed me a small handwritten note that read “70 Euro” and I could not have been more puzzled. I stared at her blankly and asked, “what is this for exactly?” Politely she replied, “For the steroids and creams and antibiotics you will need to get well.” I shook my head and mustered the courage one more time, “oh ok but can you give me the bill for my stay here?” She looked at me in a very confused manner and motioned to one of the doctors. Seeking some type of clarity, she quietly explained my inquiry to him. He quickly nodded, smiled in my direction and exclaimed, “Ahhh si si si! Bella ragazza Americana! You are not in America any more! Your care here is free. You are free to go home. Please pay for your medicines and you can pick them up at the pharmacia as you leave.” And with that, he promptly spun around, muttered under his breath, “L’America…Quanto è ridicolo,” and disappeared down the hallway.
As I walked back to my apartment down cobblestone streets, I passed the duomo I’d come to know and love and felt gratitude wash over me. Had I just been me, as myself, an American citizen, living and working in Philadelphia, this could have financially devastated me. But here, in Italy, as a non-citizen with a temporary work visa, my healthcare was free. I realized in that moment – Dr. Italy was right… America is ridiculous. Our healthcare system is 100% absolutely ridiculous.
As sad as it is, here we are in 2021 and not much has changed. I still have medical debt from May of 2019 after suffering a terrible concussion, purely accidental, that left me debilitated for over a week. I had great health insurance at the time but we all know that really doesn’t matter. I’m one of millions of Americans strapped with medical debt despite having had “great health insurance”. As a result, my greatest fear during these highly unprecedented times is illness. Could I financially survive a COVID related hospital stay? I’m still paying for my COVID induced emergency room visit and residual healthcare costs accrued during November and December of 2019.
Watching the news every night, you see thousands of people being admitted to hospitals all across the country. Some will live to talk about it, while others won’t be so lucky. Regardless of the outcome, you can guarantee in 30-60 days after they leave the hospital, they will receive, or worse, their surviving family members will receive, a grossly expensive bill that they may or may not be able to afford. With this thought forever at the forefront of my mind; I quarantine, I socially distance, I make time to exercise as often as possible, I eat as healthy as I can and when I leave the house – I wear a mask. Not only is life simply too fragile not to but financially, in a country like this, who can really afford to get sick?
Stay safe, stay stylish, stay humble.
Founder & CEO, Love Saves Apparel PBC