After six months as an Auxiliar, and coincidentally six months dealing with a very weird thumb infection (I’ll spare the details), I finally plucked up the courage to give socialist medicine a try. I put it off for so long because a) everything in Spain seems frustratingly slow, so why would health care be any different? and b) I really didn’t want to talk in Spanish over the phone with the insurance company. In-person fluency and phone-fluency are two different things. The thumb could wait.
But when a 7-year-old student who hasn’t yet been trained to keep things to himself asks you outright, “Why is your thumb so ugly?” (limited English), it’s time to call the doctor.
For all the present and future Auxiliars out there, here is the rundown on how to use your Auxiliar health care provided by the program. It varies a bit from region to region, but this is how it works in Basque Country.
- The coordinator of Basque Country emails you a .pdf at the beginning of the year with a xeroxed copy of a health card. (You carry this with you instead of a real card—gotta cut costs where you can, I guess!) You call the number on this “card” and the insurance operator asks you what’s wrong. (They say the coverage is only for emergencies, but a weird thumb is hardly an emergency, and they didn’t ask twice.) He then calls you back momentarily with the name of the closest clinic that can treat said ailment, and available appointment times. I called Tuesday afternoon and got an appointment for Tuesday night, at a clinic 25 minutes walking distance from my house.
I waited 15 minutes at the clinic for the doctor to see me. In Basque Country the Auxiliar health care is with a private insurer, so I can’t vouch for all clinics in Spain, but this one was really nice. Exactly what you would expect from a small, private clinic in the U.S., minus People magazine in English.
The doctor was very nice, shook my hand (braving my bizarre thumb), and asked me some questions which he wrote down on a LARGE INDEX CARD. No computers, people, like it or leave it. I for one loved this detail. Sure, all my information may get misplaced or even burn quite easily, but it just felt so interpersonal. I’m sure at larger hospitals they would use computers, but at this mom and pop clinic, a piece of paper was all they needed.
After taking a quick look at my thumb, he explained some technical maladies in Spanish that I gathered was some sort of skin affection. No idea really, but he wrote down what I needed to pick up at the pharmacy and how long I should wait to see results before coming in again. (I’m still waiting to see if the medicine will work. . . .) Quick, easy, great service—sort of a first for Spain, really.
Insurance covered the whole visit, and if I need a follow-up, the clinic merely sends an invoice to the company and they cover that too. They even reimburse me for the cream and gauze I picked up at the pharmacy. All you have to do is scan the receipts, fill out a quick form, and email them over to insurance. However, prescriptions are generally much cheaper in Spain than in the U.S, so it’s hardly even worth the added effort.
Sometimes this country just comes out of the woodwork and shocks you with its efficiency. It blows my mind that people complain about socialized medicine in the States, or that people are putting up such a fight against Obama’s plan to make health care more accessible. So Auxiliars, take heart: You’re in good hands here, and a weird cracked thumb, if not curable, is at least free to get checked out!