Life in Poland

Refresh my memory

I had the opportunity to go to my 20th high school class reunion. That’s right. I’ve been out of high school twenty years and thank goodness for that.
Quite a few of my friends in Poland wanted to know if the reunion was like in American movies. I have to say yes and no. I wasn’t nervous or anything like in the movies. There wasn’t anyone I was dying to see or anyone I wanted to prove something to like in the movies. I was most worried that I wouldn’t remember somebody’s name (it happened) or somebody at all (it happened too – I was an exceptionally unobservant teenager).
Misiu was happy to go with me. He was also happy about the $2.50 bottled beer. His one comment looking around the room was, “Jeezus. That’s what 38 can look like”. In the case of some of my classmates, 38 can look pretty darn good and in the case of some others….well, better not mention it.
We circulated around the room and basically had the same conversation with 75 different people (and they had the same with us).
Quite a few of my classmates already knew  that I live in Poland (thanks Facebook) so the next obvious question was “What’s it like there?” which is exactly what I would have asked in the same situation.
One of my former classmates, not wanting to admit he had no idea where Poland was asked, “Refresh my memory. Where is Poland again?” I really do not mind this kind of question. I don’t get all in an uproar that somebody doesn’t know where Poland is…but in this case I was surprised because the question-asker is in the military, in the air force I think he said, and is trying to get transferred to the base in Germany. Don’t they have classes in military history? I told him that if he gets transferred to Germany Poland will be his closest neighbor to the East.
The stereotype says that Americans are uninformed and/or uninterested in the world around them. I found that many people were uninformed but given the opportunity to ask, were very interested in Poland. It was I who had difficulty in answering the question. What is it like in Poland? Well, I had 75 tries to fine-tune my reply.
I started with some lame comment like – “The old things are really old and the new things are brand new. And uhh, we have Mcdonald’s.” How did I win awards for public speaking? Seriously.
I basically said that Poland is a normal country. We drive on the right. We have 4 seasons. The people are nice, etc. and then I mentioned that we have socialized health care.
Please join me at my HS Class of 1992 20th Reunion.
Chris (totally cool girl from high school who for some reason lives in Poland and is married to some hot Polish guy who thinks Heineken for 2 bucks 50 cents per bottle is cheap)
Classmates (from various walks of life, all cool, most educated, ok one missing 4 front teeth on the top and 2 on the bottom but the rest pretty normal American folks)

Chris: Yeah, Poland is pretty normal. We have socialized health care.

The room goes silent.

Classmate: So how’s that work?

Chris (enjoying all eyes on her):Well, you pay a tax and you can go to the doctor and you don’t pay out of pocket.

Jaws drop. Then a wave of questions. Chris answers them all easily because they are all just different versions of the same question…starting with…

Amazed classmate: Soooo, you or your kid gets sick, what do you do?

Chris: You go to the family doctor.

Another amazed classmate who had earlier admitted to not visiting the dentist in over 20 years: And do you have to pay?

Chris: No.

Classmate: What about after hours?

Chris: You go to the after hours doctor.

Classmate: Do you have to pay?

Chris: No.

Classmate: What about at night or on holidays?

Chris: You go to the ER.

Classmate: What about when you have a baby?

Chris: There’s no additional charge.

Classmate: What about a hip replacement or something like that?

Chris: It’s not a perfect system. You have to wait but it is theoretically possible to get it under NFZ.

Classmate: What if you lose your job?

Chris: You and your children keep your coverage (and around we go…)

Classmate: Wow. That must be nice not to have to worry about your kids going to the doctor.

Chris: It is.

Classmate: But it comes at a cost.

Chris: Yeah, in taxes.

Classmate: No, you have to live under the socialist regime.

Chris: Yes, yes, the socialist regime.

So greetings to you, my red comrades out there and enjoy your life under the socialist regime.

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  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Yeah, Americans are not too bright:)) But you motivated me to write about communist regime:)) Maybe tomorrow…

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Oh, bloody hell, so I'm also living under socialist regime! In Scotland! I have all the eye-tests for free and most prescription drugs, including contraceptives, and mostly free dental service…

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    ha ha ha The most I liked Poland is a normal country 🙂 yeah and even more under socialist regime lolHave a look at nice American girl who lives in Poland too.Greetings .Aga Poznan

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I would conclude with: \”And all that is going to kick us (Polish people) in the bottom pretty soon and then we will be without any health care at all, but we enjoy it while it lasts\” 😉

  • Reply
    October 5, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    What a load of bullshit.Sales tax is about 9-10%. VAT is 23%. Gasoline costs twice. That is the price. Family doctor? Well, OK. A specialist? 6 months line. That's the Polish bullshit.Don't forget the smoke in the air that comes from burning coal and trash. And shit on sidewalks that comes from dogs. Welcome in the catholic republic of Poland.

  • Reply
    October 6, 2012 at 2:06 am

    @Przemo- come to USA- I bet that you escape sooner that you think. 40% of americans don't have health insurance not because thay don;t want to. They are not allowed to join this private \”club\”, ot they don;t have money to buy it. Try to pay for a doctor visit or a medicine out of pocket…almost impossible unless you are Mitt Romney. Cost of medicine in USA is out of reason. That is why my mom sends me medicines from Poland. That is why i am going to vote for Obama. It is insane here. You have no idea that you are wrong. iwona

  • Reply
    October 6, 2012 at 2:52 am

    Przemo, do you have any idea of the prices of medical care in the US?Case in point: my cut finger, needing stitches; half an hour and 8 stitches later – $800 out of my pocket. And it was a very small bill since it was small cut and all was done at the doctor's office. Trip to ER would cost me at least couple of thousands. I don't have insurance currently and can't afford it at a price of $1200 per month for my family of 4. Many self employed people and small business owners are in the same situation. Not just lazy and poor as some may think.Another example: my neighbor had a heart attack recently. He stayed in a hospital for about a week only. The bill: well over $200 000. Thankfully he was insured and was responsible only for a small percentage of that amount (which still run is thousands). Because here, even with insurance, you don't go to the doctor for free.I miss socialized health care, even with bigger taxes, and dog shit and all.

  • Reply
    October 6, 2012 at 6:41 am

    Good morning – I'm not saying Poland is a paradise of free health care or that the system works smoothly. I have written about my adventures giving birth in Poland but I have yet to write about a very sensitive subject for me (yes, such a subject does exist). I became very seriously ill prior to having children. My treatment was carried out in Poland, in Germany and in the US. It lasted almost 4 years, so I got to know the Polish health care system from its dark side too.My point was more about my classmate's understanding that socialized (or universal) health care is synonymous with a socialist government or \”regime\” as he said. I thought it was an interesting point with the US election coming up and all.We are considering a move back to the US and one of the factors holding us back is the health care. On vacation in the USA WITH INSURANCE we could not be seen by a doctor, not today, not tomorrow, not the next day either. We were refused service everywhere (even in the doctor's office where my sister is an administrator) within a 50 mile radius. We were refused service even when we offered to pay in cash. This was for a throat infection of a 4 year old child who had a high temperature and was vomiting. Our only option was the ER. We got a prescription for the same anti-biotic she got the last time she was ill in Poland except it cost 3 times more in the US. And let's just say, the ER is not the same as a doctor's office. However, we drove to the ER on cheap gasoline and there wasn't a single piece of dog shit in sight.The last bit of info…we priced private insurance for our family in the US with a $5000. deductible 80/20 co-pay. For a family of 4, the lowest we found was for $2800. a month. Na zdrowie!

  • Reply
    October 6, 2012 at 7:56 am

    Yeah Chris has a point !She is American so she knows better than average person in Poland.I met in August some Polish friend, she is living in the US for 13 years , and we were talking about health care compare to the UK ( where I lived for 7 years ) and to Poland and the US.I was shocked how much she has to pay even she is lucky to have a good job as nurse in NY in a Cancer Hospital and her employer covers so much her insurance.And like Iwona said my friend also buys medicine in Poland as they very cheap.I never thought about it living in the UK and now in Poland, so like Chris said na zdrowie :)Aga Poznan

  • Reply
    October 6, 2012 at 8:53 am

    The whole Europe has been a socialist regime for a while with it's state healthcare, pensions, etc. Americans know that, in comparison to Europeans.A regime which has already started falling – so the sooner you realise the only option is to have children and be nice to them (as that'd be them choosing your nursing home;) the better.Or play lotto.

  • Reply
    October 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    I can appreciate that Americans do not know about, and doubt quality of the health care in Poland. But as a Canadian, I would give the same replies as Chris did. So it is the most puzzling to me, that in general Americans are not aware how the Canadian system works. Even in Pennsylvania (?), which is a stone throw from Canada. Why Democrats do not talk about it at all? On the other hand, Republicans have as their Canadian spokesperson against the Canadian system a disgruntled lady from Vancouver, who either has fallen through the cracks or is a hypochondriac. Nobody bothers to check the facts.Chris, have you considered Canada? Yes, we do have 13% sales tax (VAT included, in Ontario), and the gas is $1.30/l these days. But the rest, not much different if you live in Ontario.

  • Reply
    October 7, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I play the lotto. That's my Plan A.I am nice to my children (most of the time). That is my Plan B.And I have to admit, Anon from Canada, that Canada is my Plan C.The really weird thing is that we, Misiu and I, were just talking about Canada as a possible new home for us. I don't know how that'd work. I don't know anything about the immigration laws of Canada.And as far as Pennsylvanians not knowing how the system works in Canada…My friends came back from a hunting trip in Canada and when asked how it was, replied, \”It was so cool – like being in a foreign country or something.\”

  • Reply
    October 8, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    hi Chris,I follow your blog with great interest – it's very informative!And I agree with your point of view 100% & love your sense of humor, so reading your posts is an absolute pleasure.I live in Canada (Toronto) and I'm planning to move back to Poland in 3-4 years. After 22 years already spent in Canada it feels like I'm emigrating again – so much has changed in Poland since 1990…Kasia

  • Reply
    October 9, 2012 at 6:25 am

    Hi Kasia – Thank you for the very nice compliments. I am pleased to hear that you enjoy my blog. I can completely identify with you in that you feel like you are emigrating all over again. I would feel the same, moving back to the US.If there are any topics you'd like to read about before making your move, just ask and I'll get to writing 🙂

  • Reply
    Tomek Cejner
    October 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Good to read your, kind of \”independent\” opinion about social healthcare. It's far from perfect, but usually they won't let you die :-)It is interesting to hear my friend ranting about socialist regime in Poland and repeating words of wisdom like: \”give me back my taxes, I will pay doctors out of my pocket\”. And if anyone is without health insurance then it is only his/her fault.

  • Reply
    October 11, 2012 at 11:10 am

    It is far from perfect, true. And you are right, my view is kind of independent. I have lived under the US health care system and under the Polish one. It is obvious that I prefer a system in which people have greater access to health care. I wish everyone, everywhere could afford to go to the doctor…and I'd also like to end hunger and I'd like to see world peace 😉 I guess if I moved to the US today and couldn't afford the almost $3000. a month coverage for my family, it would be my fault. I mean, I could just stay in Poland, right?I have been denied care once, it was in the US at the ER. I don't remember because I was unconscious but eventually they took me. They had to because the person who brought me to the ER left me in the hall outside admissions, still unconscious. I paid for that ER visit for more than one year, and thankfully they didn't let me die. My child has been denied care once as I have already described and that too was in the US.Maybe I will write about some of the situations I encountered while I was ill in Poland for a more balanced picture. I'll give it some thought.

  • Reply
    October 11, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    THOUGHT ONE:Buahahaha! Have I written already that I adore the way you write? I have? OK, so just let me repeat myself. ;)THOUGHT TWO:I always find it funny when the readers of my blog completey miss the point of the entry I had in my head. And I don't mean this as criticism – it's just reality check. Everyone should remember that very often written texts get a life of their own, a life the author never expected.THOUGHT THREE:The prices of med care in the US are a beautiful illustarion how money is just a convention, not a way to show true value of sth.

  • Reply
    October 12, 2012 at 6:31 am

    I agree with and support all three of your thoughts! Thank you very much for the compliments. I hope my big head will fit out the door. Your thought 2 reminds me of a conversation my workmate overhead. What she heard, me to my husband- \”I'm not asking you. I'm telling you.\” What she understood is the Chris is a big b…. and has her husband on a very short leash. What actually happened is that my husband was on his cell phone in the street and couldn't hear me. I was telling him something and he thought I was asking him something and kept answering a question he thought I had asked. Anyhow, my reputation as a big b….. remains 😉

  • Reply
    October 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Yeah, and here in NY it's easier to get abortion than good prenatal care. Smh

  • Reply
    October 13, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Evita – I think abortion should be regulated (it is) and it is the woman's right to choose but not because she cannot afford prenatal care. I read an article that said there are more unwanted pregnancies in some southern state (I don't remember which) than in NY state. I think we may have found out why.I have always supported Planned Parenthood because they work to educate women about their own sexual health and assist them in preventing unwanted pregnancies and STDs. They also strive to provide prenatal care to women who cannot afford it as well as regular check-ups younger and older patients. It's not all about abortions as some seem to think.Ok, I'm off my soap box 🙂

  • Reply
    October 15, 2012 at 12:56 am

    Chris- I don't have to be convinced that the right to choose is one of the basic rights and Planned Parenthood is doing great job providing ppl with all kinds of help, but prenatal care is not part of it. And it isn't their job to provide ppl with everything. Technically every pregnant woman should be covered by Medicaid but it isn't easy to get it- much harder than getting abortion. Anyway I got absolutely out of topic, sorry 🙂

  • Reply
    October 15, 2012 at 11:49 am

    No problem and my aside about Planned Parenthood wasn't directed to you, just in general.Have you heard that there are plans to make the Polish abortion laws more restrictive?

  • Reply
    October 15, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    To all Foreigners who soon invade Poland for searching a better social healthcare.This is a list of medical services that we usually don't take from public/free doctors because it's simply dengerous:- dental care- gynaecology- pediatrics- surgery like eyesight correctionInstead you go to private doctors /if you can afford/ and you pay arround 100zl/35$) per consultancy + some extra money for specific treatment. But in comaprison to 3k$ monthly insurance in US it's still OK.

  • Reply
    October 16, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Hi Rafaldo – Fortunately, for me (and probably for you) we can afford that private doctor's fee. We might not want or like to pay it, but we don't have to sell our house to do it. My uncle in America had to sell his house to pay for his hospital bills after having a heart attack. He and my aunt live in a rented studio apartment now.As for the dentist, I mix the public and private system. I can get my teeth cleaned once a year at my non-public dentist's office on NFZ so I use that. That's about the only thing covered I think. We go to the pediatrician on NFZ without a problem, also in a non-public office. One of my students had his eyesight corrected on NFZ. One downside compared to doing it privately is that they corrected both of his eyes at the same time which must have been a horror for him to be sightless in strange place. Ok, it would be difficult to find the bathroom at home without my sight, but imagine in the hospital. And as far as the OB/GYN goes, I tried to go to the public office but in fact gave up on it. When you are pregnant, you cannot wait 5 months for a visit.Now I see that I use quite a lot of non-public NFZ services which for me as a patient is nice but in the long term….Who pays for the ZUS of those doctors? Who provides that less profitable (less popular) medical services? Public hospitals on the public budget. But I digress…

  • Reply
    October 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Yes so far I can efford a private treatment in Poland for services I mentioned. (Un)fortunatelly these are the most often used services of my family :)For more serious stuff like surgery we go public of course. No other choice – it would be too expensive like house selling.Chris, this eyesight correction in private clinic is usually also both eyes at the same time. And it's simply because it's much cheaper when done at the same time + you don't take double vacation time at work. I know that because my sister is preparing for this.

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