Leaving America Altogether When Costs Get Too High

People defect from their home countries and venture abroad for all sorts of reasons. Amanda Machado writes for Quartz that she left the US for South Africa in part because of money. The cost of health care, specifically, is her #1 reason.

For years, the US has had the most expensive yet least effective healthcare system in the world. The recent drug price scandal reminded us that unlike Canada, Australia, and many countries in Europe, our country does not regulate drug prices in the same way we regulate other basic needs, like water and electricity. Instead, we are one of the only developed nations that allows drug makers to set their own prices, regardless of whether average Americans can afford it.

As a freelancer, healthcare became one of my top priorities when deciding where to live. Individual plans in New York City can go up to a grand a month. And in my homestate of Florida, the limited access to affordable women’s healthcare — including pap smears, yearly gynecologist visits, and affordable birth control — became a large part of why I left.

Reason #2? The near impossibility of work-life balance in this country.

People work more and get paid less. Corporate profits increase, while incomes stay stagnant. The New York Times has published pieces arguing that our work world is toxic and doesn’t even leave you time to be nice. We are one of only nine countries that don’t offer paid annual leave. And workers skip vacations because they’re afraid of the workload that will stack up while they’re gone, or because they fear taking vacations will make them look lazy. Meanwhile, American presidential candidates claim the problem is Americans aren’t working long and hard enough.

Oh Amanda! I feel you. Plus, if you plan to add a kid or two into the mix, you have to worry about the total lack of paid parental leave. I spent the weekend in Philly with a nurse midwife friend who’s pregnant and plans to take 12 unpaid weeks via FMLA, because even her midwifery practice doesn’t offer anything better.

Another friend I saw for dinner is holding off on having kids in part because, though she’s got a great tenure-track job at a first-class liberal arts college, there’s no policy in place there either. Everything is ad hoc, dependent on the whims of individual department chairs.

Her wife teaches at a high school. Surely she has paid leave? I asked. Nope.

To what extent do you have to “love” America to forgive it its flaws? Its irrational obsession with a perception of safety over actual safety. Its fixed belief that we should turn to our employers, rather than our government, to take care of our most vital needs, even though our employers can and do cut us off. Its culture of choking on our bootstraps.

In stark contrast to all of that, Finland is considering a basic income of 800 euros a month for every citizen. In exchange,

Finland would scrap nearly all of its other benefits programs. In Finland, as in the U.S., people get welfare benefits according to their incomes.

In contrast, the universal basic income would go to every citizen regardless of how much money he or she makes — rich or poor. …

more Finns support the idea of a monthly check to every Finn, struggling or not. Nearly 70% of Finland’s population is in favor of a basic income, according to a September poll. In April, voters elected the country’s Centre party, which campaigned in favor of a basic income, to a controlling position in the government. The basic income is, however, popular among followers of nearly all the nation’s parties.

If you do decide to switch teams, to go Finnish and even procreate there, you too may get to enjoy one of those amazing sounding baby boxes!

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