Living abroad in a culture that is not familiar and trying to function in a language that is not my mother tongue can be stressful. After living in Spain for three + years I speak Spanish grammatically as well as any local 4 year old! I will say that my accompanying nonverbal communication is must more advanced. However, despite the occasional frustrations and cultural disconnects, there are things in this laid back land of 'manaña' that work quite efficiently. Earlier this week Ian and I registered with the provincial socialized healthcare named Cat Salut (Cat = Catalunya and Salut = is Catalan for health). Because we are local residents within the province of Catalunya we are eligible. We had carried private medical and dental insurance, but because we're going to spend more time in the States we decided to cancel that and register for the free stuff. Oh, yes, I meant to say Cat Salut is FREE and it covers everything --- medical, dental, glasses, prescriptions, hospitalization, treatment (shrinks, drug dependencies). Basically, it is publicly funded health insurance.
To register we had to bring a form from city hall that shows we are local residents. Regardless of citizenship, all you do anywhere in Spain is walk in to your nearest city hall and ask to be registered as a local resident. You provide a copy of a rental contract or deed and, voila, you're registered and therefore entitled to the provincial coverage. I'm not sure of the ins and outs of how it works yet (all information is in Catalan) but my understanding is Cat Salut gives us free access to all healthcare-related services throughout Catalunya. Our local Cat Salut facility where we registered is in La Cava, which is 8 km or 15 minutes drive from the house here in Riumar.
The process to register took us 15 minutes, which was basically "firme aqui, por favor" ("sign here, please"), plus the receptionist filled in the forms for us and patiently answered questions. We came away with temporary cards with plastic ones to follow in the mail. As we returned to the car I asked Ian, "Why can't we have something like this in the US?" For Ian, being British, this coverage is normal. For us to have basic medical/dental coverage in the States WriTech will pay at least $10,000/year in premiums and that will not eliminate co-pays, deductibles, and other related costs.
I suppose I could begin to find the answer to my hypothetical question in someone's doctoral dissertation, as no doubt it's not just flipping a switch, waving a wand or following a "Make it so" directive. Too bad, really.