Author David Sedaris shares a personal anecdote about healthcare

David Sedaris:

I had my second kidney stone seven years later, in Paris. It was ten o’clock in the morning, and after looking at my options in the phone book, I took the metro to a hospital in the 15th. Two minutes after walking through the door, I was in a private room. Delicious, mind-numbing drugs were delivered to my blood stream by way of a tube and life was beautiful. I was in the hospital for four hours, and as I was leaving, I asked the receptionist how I was supposed to pay.

“Oh,” she said, “We’ll send you a statement.”

“But you never even asked me my name.”


A few weeks later I got a bill for the equivalent of seventy dollars, this because I’m not a French citizen, and am therefore not entitled to free care.

I got my third kidney stone a few months ago, while on a lecture tour of the United States. The hospital I went to was in Westchester county and the service was outstanding. Maybe I arrived at the slowest time, but, like in France, I was waited on immediately, and the doctor and nurses could not have been more pleasant. Again I was there for four hours, though this time the bill came to $5,800. Not including medicine.

Coming from Europe myself, The Netherlands to be precise, what strikes me as most bizarre about the U.S.A. is that so many people in this country seem to believe their healthcare systems here are any good at all. They’re an absolute disaster and the lack of proper competition is keeping it disastrously bad.

Comparing the U.S.A.’s healthcare to a third-world country’s is, sad to say, much more apt than considering it as belonging to the world’s most powerful nation.