Stories from my 14-month study abroad in Buenos Aires, my 16-month post-college move to Miami, and my get-me-the-hell-out-of-Miami move to Denver

Monday, March 23, 2009

Free College? Healthcare too?

I just recently watched Sicko, the Michael Moore documentary on the US health care system(and our society of debt), and I realized that I never wrote about one of the first, and most surprising, incidents I had when I came to Argentina.

The UBA(University of Buenos Aires), where 14 Argentine presidents have graduated from and four Nobel Peace Prize winners have taught at, is the most famous university in Argentina, and arguably in South America.

Oh yeah, it´s free too.

I don´t remember the first time I heard that the UBA was free. I believe I was talking to a group of friends down here and I asked them how much it cost to attend the UBA, a public school. I attend a public school, the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, and still pay between $10,000 and $15,000 per year. They couldn´t believe what they were hearing.

"A public university that isn´t free? Isn´t that completely against the point of being a PUBLIC school?"

I, growing up in the US, equally couldn´t believe what I was hearing. A free University? How could such a thing could ever exist. Everyone(in the US) knows and expects that after college,
you´re going to have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars in loan debt.

Another thing that surprised me was about the quality of education. The majority of the top professors in the country teach/research at the UBA, despite a large number being paid less than what they could make teaching in a private university. These professors want to give back to the UBA, the university which taught them, despite the money.

On this similar subject, Anabel is a medical student at UBA, the top medical school in Argentina. Everyone will agree that the doctors that come out of UBA are the best in the country, without a doubt. The majority of the internationally published doctors from Argentina graduated from the UBA. And, like the other 12 faculties, it´s free!

Beyond that, quality public healthcare is free too. Talking to Anabel about my envisioned return to Argentina in 2011, I told her I was worried about not having insurance. Here is the summed up conversation.
Patrick: I´m hoping to come back to Argentina after I graduate. The thing is, right now, I have insurance through my dad´s employer. However, after I graduate, I won´t have insurance.

Anabel: And...

Patrick: Well, what if something happens and I need to go to the hospital?

Anabel: You, um, well, go to the hospital.

*enter "I was raised in the USA for 21 years" mindset*

Patrick. Yeah, but you don´t understand Anabel, I won´t have insurance.

Anabel: No, I understand completely, but it´s free!

Patrick: Free, I don´t believe it?

Anabel: What do you mean, you don´t believe it.

Patrick: A hospital can´t be free, it´s impossible.

Anabel: What do you mean, public hospitals aren´t free in the USA?

Patrick: (Laughing at the outrageous thought of a free public hospital existing in the US)

An expat english-teacher friend of mine recently had to go to the hospital after a few nights of painful vomiting. I went with him, hoping to see how the hospital was. We waited no more than 25 minutes to go see a doctor. After the examination, they said he probably had a intestional something-or-other and gave him some medication. We left the hospital without paying a dime with a prescription in hand. At the farmacy, the 30 pill prescription cost US$4! No insurance necessary.

Pretty impressive isn´t it. Maybe we should think about a makeover of our system.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina


isma said...

I was surprised when I went to the US for the first time and had to purchase insurance! plus I had to pay for college 11 times more than a regular 'californian' (by law) because i'm a 'foreign student'

is that how a 1st world country should be?

Steph said...

Few months ago you had hernia surgery. how much did it cost you ?
In the US it's like 8K.

Patrick Jones said...

My hernia surgery cost me around $2,000 US dollars, but it was completely covered by the insurance that our study abroad program has. This was in a private hospital too, which is the hospital that has an agreement with IES, my program. However, right now, if I had to get this same surgery, I would go, without the slightest bit of fear, to the public hospital in town, and get it almost completely free. I hear they charge yanquis some fees.