All the Way to the Azores, the Health Insurance Myths Prevail

We asked many people we met  about the health insurance system here in the Azores. This topic has come up more than a few times, as the locals here quizzed us about what is going on the US with health insurance.  “Is it true that people are allowed to die in the US if they don’t pay for insurance?” asked one wide-eyed man.

“No, we replied, ” no one is denied care in the US, but they often will get huge bills as a result.”

One guide told us he had just bought a house, and was proud of that. “But when I got my mortgage, the company insisted that I buy life insurance and private health insurance.”  That means that the mortgage people don’t trust the national health care

Elderly citizen in Ponta Delgada.

enough, and figure that without a private plan, they might not get back their money.  Another man told us that the system here is basically like the US; people have to pay for their own private insurance, and sometimes what they do get reimbursed for after a doctor’s appointment comes down to one euro. “I got this check for one euro,” after I took half a day off to visit the doctor,” he said.

In Santa Maria, our guide Marta said that the media has blasted her with a warped view of the US system, that it’s draconian and bad, and that we are all in peril. “I saw that on Oprah,” she said.

One of the major illnesses here is arthritis, because it is so humid. We saw many people walking with canes and walkers, and heard that this constant humdity that makes the place so green makes it a nightmare for the very old.