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Greece’s New Americanized Health Care System

As Greece’s economy continues to collapse, citizens will have to say goodbye to universal healthcare and say hello to the Americanized way of staying alive.

Just when the austerity-ravaged people of Greece thought things couldn’t get any worse for them, their universal healthcare system is dismantled and turned into an American-style death system.

As the New York Times reports this week, the Greek healthcare system that ensured coverage for all of its citizens before the financial crisis hit has today been completely decimated by Conservative technocrats and austerity-pushers.

In the past, Greece provided universal care thanks to employers, individuals, and the government contributing to a fund to administer medical services to the entire population. Even those Greeks who lost their jobs still received health benefits for one year, and after those benefits expired, Greece made sure those individuals still received the healthcare they needed at no cost to them.

But then, as we all know, the banksters swept into Greece and swindled the country. And when the global financial markets went bust, Greece was left with a debt crisis and the banksters demanded ALL of their failed investments back. So the banksters decided to suck whatever money they could out of Greece’s social services, in particular, its healthcare system.

So in July of 2011, the banksters and technocrats put up their demands. They said they’d give Greece a bailout to ward off complete collapse, but in return they wanted a big chunk of the money that was being used to treat sick Greek citizens. Under pressure from the entire Eurozone, Greece agreed to the deal.

And for the first time, unemployed Greeks who had lost their health benefits now had to pay out of their own pocket for any medical care they needed. If that sounds familiar to you, it’s because that’s essentially how our healthcare system works today. If you don’t have a job, and you don’t have healthcare, you’re on your own.

And while Conservatives here tout our healthcare system as the best in the world – even though every international study disproves this claim – the Greek people are horrified with that they now have to deal with: Americanized healthcare.

As Dr. Kostas Syrigos, the head of Greece’s largest oncology department told the Times, “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.”

Today, that’s the case for roughly half of Greece’s 1.2 million long-term unemployed workers.

As reported by the Times, one of those unemployed workers is a woman named Elena who was diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago, but under the new Greek law could not receive any medical care because her benefits had expired and she had no money. Without treatment, her cancer grew to the size of an orange and broken through her skin leaving a gaping wound. At this point, any sort of medical treatment for Elena was hopeless. She was, essentially, given a death sentence by the banksters.

After seeing Elena, Dr. Syrigos told the Times, “Things like that are described in textbooks, but you never see them because until now, anybody who got sick in this country could always get help…In Greece right now, to be unemployed means death.”

The same is true in the United States right now where being unemployed and being sick is literally a death sentence in the American healthcare system. As a 2009 study by Harvard University found, 45,000 Americans die every single year because they lack health insurance.

The difference between the United States and Greece is we’ve never had a universal healthcare system that covers everyone like Greece has. So when we hear that tens of thousands of Americans die because they don’t have health insurance – plus thousands more who are condemned to death by for-profit health insurance death panels denying treatment – most Americans shrug it off as just the way things work here.

And there are those like Mitt Romney who say, “We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance…No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it’s paid for.” Unfortunately, that’s only after your cancer has grown to the size of an orange and ruptured through your skin and you’re already well into your death sentence. That’s the sort of ignorance you’d expect from a Plutocrat who resides in a different United States than the rest of us.

That’s why we should all be paying close attention to how the Greek people handle their new Americanized healthcare system, because it will give us a clue as to what we as Americans, living in the wealthiest nation on the planet, should be demanding from our government when it comes to health services.

In the face of rising unemployment, lost pensions, and skyrocketing suicide rates, we’ve seen Greek workers pour into the streets demanding an end to austerity. And now, faced with a new healthcare system like ours that doesn’t care for the nation’s most vulnerable, then expect those protests to grow even fiercer.

It’s still unclear what the endgame will be for Greece in its fight against Conservative austerity. But they certainly won’t go down without a fight. And it’s time for us in the United States to at least begin our fight for universal healthcare.

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