Yesterday I went to see my primary care physician for the first time. He is part of a group practice. The office is less than a 3-minute walk from our home.

There were 4 assistants (all women) who managed the practice with a relaxed but professional demeanor. I had gone earlier with Petra (because she had an appointment) to do the paperwork. The paperwork that normally takes between 5 to 7 minutes (though it always feels longer) to fill out in a Doctor’s office in the USA, took me less than 2 at the Doctor’s office here.

I did not have to sign my soul away to Beelzebub.
I did not have to write about any pre-existing conditions, though I have none.
They did not ask me to relieve them from any possible wrongdoing.
No questions about protecting my privacy. No living-will forms either.
Only one sheet of paper had to be completed! I filled it out and went home.

I returned at 2PM for my appointment. I have learned in the 3 months that I have lived here that being on time is better than being early. If you are early, you wait. If you are on time, they take care of you. However, don’t be late or you’ll miss the boat. I did not have to pay before seeing the doctor. I did not have to pay after seeing him either. My plan has no co-payment. I pay CH324/monthly for my health insurance. More on this later.

In the waiting room there was no TV playing, no Muzak, and no Golf, Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Yacht, Travel or People’s magazines. Just two coffee-table books. One immediately caught my attention. It was about Andy Goldsworthy‘s art. I really like and admire his work. In less than 7 minutes I had to put down the book because the Dr. came to greet me. He called me by my last name and asked me in German about my language preference. I said Spanish or English. He speaks German, English, Portuñol, Italian and French, ah, and Swiss German, of course. We spoke mostly in English.

He spent about 50 minutes with me asking questions about my medical, personal and social history. I must say that I prefer this method than the one I am used to, where you fill out a form detailing your medical history. In my experience, most doctors in the US would not read or reference such documents, and I would have to remind them or tell them about the information in them. This always made me feel that the paperwork was a useless exercise, but a legally important one (for them). My new Swiss doctor asked about my parents, myself, my reasons for being here, whether or not I have a network of people I work with, my wife, my lactose intolerance, and many more aspects of my life. The one thing that I did not like was that he was interrupted 5 times (maybe more) by short telephone calls that he answered. He was very apologetic about this. At one point he walked out to talk to a colleague in the practice about a patient he had seen while the other Doctor was on vacation. He explained this to me. I understood.

After the interview, he asked me to come next week for a couple of exams (including the routine one), that he determined were necessary based on the interview. That was it, there was no heart pressure reading, no pulse checking, no weighing, and no height measuring. At first I was a bit perplexed, and then I actually thought it was fine this way, especially because I was not sick and in a week I would see him again. In the end, one hour at the doctor’s office is enough time spent, I felt.

All in all, I have a good feeling about him, the office and the care.

When I went home my friend Roberto who lives in Hollywood, Florida came on SKYPE to talk to me about a couple of important-looking pieces of mail that I had received. They were from COBRA.

COBRA is a law passed by the U.S. Congress on a reconciliation basis and signed by President Ronald Reagan that, among other things, mandates an insurance program giving some employees the ability to continue health insurance coverage after leaving employment.

If I were in the US and wanted to continue the same health coverage provided and partially paid by my employer, which covered my two kids and myself,  I would have to pay $1146.05 monthly! For myself alone, I would have to pay $664.75 monthly; more than double of what I pay here. Obviously COBRA is not an option for me because I no longer live in the States, but it goes to show how expensive medical insurance is in the USA. I do not know how COBRA will change, once the new Health Care Act goes into effect, but it seems to me that it will have to. So now, for my kids, I’ve had to purchase individual health and dental insurances for each, because Sara lives in New York and Daniel in Florida, and health insurance companies have different plans, rules and prices in different states. It’s complicated, for sure.

Doctor’s office


  1. fifty minutes! most people would need 10 visits here to get 50 mins.
    So, regarding time… you must have given up PR time. … do you stand in front of doors, looking at your watch until the appointed time to knock?
    BTW blood pressure tells you stuff that you would not ordinarily notice… the fact he did not request BP isn’t necessarily a good time. High BP isn’t called the “silent killer” for nothing.
    Thanks for the link to Portuñol, now i know…
    So, if no living will, what happens when you are incapacitated, can’t make medical decisions, and there is a question of tubes and plugs and comas and such?

    1. Author

      My BP (blood pressure not batting practice) is normal. You can do your own BP reading. Regarding the living will… it’s in my to do list.

  2. I wonder if the same health system applies in all of the European Union. I could legally live and work in Europe if my husband and I decided to move….aunque con la boca es un mamey decirlo que hacerlo… But if we move it is comforting to know that I’ll be able to get medical insurance and be able to live…and not the other way around.

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