20 August, 2009

What has social medicine ever done for me?

I moved to Germany about 27 years ago from Canada to work as an engineer in a large international engineering company (think Seamens spelt different). Moving to Germany meant that I received immediate social medical insurance. Having spent nearly 20 of those 27 years working in the medical equipment field, in quality control and service, I’ve had the opportunity to view various medical systems all over the globe from the sidelines, as it were. Some systems work relatively well, others not at all.

Much of what I read these days in the US newspapers makes it seem as if adopting a universal health system is going to lower standards medical services. It is as if Mr. Obama is trying to flog off something inferior. It doesn’t have to be so. Having friends and family scattered all over, we’ve shared many stories about in ins-and-outs of our countries medical systems. What these discussions made me realise is that, even though many Germans complain about their social medical system (national favourite pastime), and there are many things that could be improved, and many indications that services will get worse, overall, we have it good.

I can say this because the system here tries to keep some things that traditionally were good (e.g. having the same family doctor for 20 years), as well as implement some things that are new (e.g. alternative medicines). All the while, they offer everything from preventative medicine to emergency care for everyone living in Germany.

The title of this post “What has social medicine ever done for me?” comes from a conversation I had recently with an acquaintance, who was complaining about having to pay for a selective preventative procedure at her gynaecologist. As a response to her, and hopefully of interest to you, here is a list of a handful of situations that highlight what the social medical system has done for me or my family over the years:

  • We have had the same family doctor since we moved into our present apartment for the last 15 years. If, as has occasionally been the case, one of us is too ill to come to her office, she makes house calls.
  • At all births, even in hospitals, a midwife as well as a doctor is present. Midwives are there to assist you through the labour and birth in a way that doctors can not.
  • During my second pregnancy, I experienced early labour pains as of six months. I had to say at home in bed the last trimester. The medical insurance paid my salary after the initial six weeks of being on sick leave.
  • After my children were born and after we went home, my medical insurance paid a midwife to come for a daily visit for ten days. They also paid for a friend to clean my house daily for two weeks since I had to (unfortunately) have caesareans both times.
  • They paid for both my children’s orthodontist costs when they needed braces and my son's dental surgery.
  • They paid for taxi costs when I had to come into physio therapy after some surgery.
  • When my daughter became lacto-intolerant as a young child, they paid for homeopathic therapy.
  • I’m not sure who pays for what (i.e. employer, medical insurance, and social services), but for 6 weeks before estimate date of birth, during your stay in hospital, and 3 months after your baby is born, you get 100% of your salary, (You also get partial payment for up to 1 ½ years and job security for up to 3 years maternity leave, but that has nothing to do with the medical insurance).
  • For the last 12 years, I have been a part of a preventive breast cancer program receiving mammogram and ultrasound examinations for free since my mother had breast cancer.
  • The insurance company pays for part of my glasses and hearing aids costs. There are glasses and hearing aids available at the prices they pay me, but they look somewhat gorky, so I choose to buy more modish expensive ones.
  • They pay for annual and semi-anual check ups to the gynaecologist, ERN, cardiologist, internal medicine, dermatologist, and dentist.

Well, I was hoping to come up with ten examples and I came up with eleven, so I guess I’ll stop while I am ahead.


  1. Thanks for describing your experience with German health care. It sounds so superior to what we have here in the USA!

  2. Nancy3:51 pm


    You have done a great service to the people in America who I hope have read your post.

    Thank you for taking the time to tell us your personal experience with National Health Care in Germany.

    For some reason, many people here are extremely afraid of this health program and I can only suppose it is because they listen and follow the tirades and falsehoods of people like Sarah Palin and her "Death Panel" lies.

    Thanks again...

  3. Thanks for sharing your experiences with Germany's health care system. I hope we can soon join you as a country that provides rational and universal health care to all its people.

  4. Thank you so much Lia. The more I wrote today, the more gibberish I generated......but I posted it anyway. I wish I could have made a clearer point like you did.

  5. Great points, Lia. We also use the state medical aid and have been nothing but impressed by the level and quality of care. In the last six years, two of our kids have had to be hospitalised and their care was nothing short of superb. We are completely confident that whatever health problems we may have, the German state medical system will step in.