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Spain's prime minister confounded by U.S. health-care system

Is Spain’s prime minister perturbed that the U.S.-European summit he was planning for Madrid in May had to be cancelled, due to President Obama’s refusal to attend?

“It’s not a problem,” Jose Luis Zapatero insisted in a meeting with The Washington Post editorial board today.

That, of course, is not what much of the Spanish or European press is saying. (“Obama turns his back on Europe,” was the headline in Madrid’s El Pais). But Zapatero, who arrived in Washington for a two-day visit shortly after the White House announced the decision, professed to be understanding of Obama’s need “to leave more space between his visits to Europe,” where he travelled six times last year.

“Obama has an open door in Europe,” Zapatero said. “There is a very positive attitude. We shouldn’t be thinking about what Obama can do for us, but what we can do for Obama.”

Zapatero himself clearly would like to help Obama reform U.S. health care. He professed to be baffled by the debate in Washington. In Spain, he noted, “our health-care system is public, universal and free,” including for undocumented immigrants. “What I don’t understand” about the U.S. system, he said, “is why the cost of health care is so high in relation to the GDP and you have such limited coverage.” He concluded: “There is a basic problem in the system.”

Zapatero is also confounded by U.S. politics. He acknowledged that “from the outside it may be difficult to understand” the European Union’s leadership, since “we have four presidents.” But, he added, “I don’t think that is any more difficult than here with the Senate filibustering. I know many Democrats are now suffering from this.”

The Spanish prime minister argued that “a renovation of the trans-Atlantic agenda” is necessary to prevent Europe and the United States from being displaced as global leaders by China, India and other emerging powers. “It’s really a matter of agenda, of having a systematic agenda with concrete issues,” he said.

The absence of such an agenda at previous U.S.-EU summits, including the last one in Washington, reportedly contributed to the White House’s decision to skip the one Zapatero was planning. Nor did the Spanish leader get presidential face time during his visit to Washington, other than at the annual prayer breakfast Thursday morning.

But Zapatero says he understands. “In this first year of Obama we had a very intensive relationship,” he said. Will the Spanish public, which has been adoring of the U.S. president, be as accepting? If not, Obama’s prolonged honeymoon with Western Europe may be about to end.

By Jackson Diehl  | February 4, 2010; 12:54 PM ET
Categories:  Diehl  | Tags:  Jackson Diehl  
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Comments

I still remember after Bush's re-election in 2004 a European headline that read: "How could 59,000,000 people be so stupid?" The Europeans and many others in the world countinue to be astonished at the bad behaviour deplayed here on our shores. I live here and I can tell you that I am not astonished. As a whole the American population is uninformed and selfish. Everyone is looking for someone else to make a sacrifice for the future of the country. I listen regularly to several talk shows including C-span and NPR. I have not heard one American citizen volunteer to sacrifice a single thing. I am willing to give up my Mortgage Interest deduction. How about you?

Posted by: RoyFan | February 4, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

The Prime Minster has is right. The problem in the system is that its not about health care, its about who can make the most profit at the expense of the sick. The United States in not a civilized country. It is dominated by the ignorant, bible thumping, low class that is control by the corporations with race baiting, fear, gay bashing, and any phony issue the hayseeds will fall for. Go south and feel the stupidity oozing from every pore of these sorry excuses for humans.

Posted by: fare777 | February 4, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

"'What I don’t understand' about the U.S. system, he said, 'is why the cost of health care is so high in relation to the GDP and you have such limited coverage.' He concluded: 'There is a basic problem in the system.'"

Bingo. All thoughtful Americans should be asking this question.

Posted by: simpleton1 | February 4, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

I hope the Prime Minister does not get sick because he will look pretty rediculus when he has to hop a jet and come to the U.S. to get the proper life saving care, just like the Canadian Minister from New Foundland and Labador who had to come to the U.S. to get help this week.

Yep, lived in Spain's health care and it is wonderful, as long as you aren't sick.

Posted by: staterighter | February 4, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Having lived all over the world, and received great care in emergencie rooms of more than a few of them

I say what the bloody F IS WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY?

And the stupid lies such as " Canadian Minister from New Foundland and Labador who had to come to the U.S. to get help this week."
The Minister voluntarily came to the US and the Canadian Government will pay the bill. HE CHOSE TO COME TO THE STATES. It is not because he NEEDED to come because they DO HAVE HIGH QUALITY HEALTHCARE in Canada.
You all are idiots.

Posted by: kare1 | February 4, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

just one thing...it was not the Spanish Prime Minister....he is the President (it is not the same...). I do not agree with most of the things he said, he is not doing a good job in Spain, but I do think that the health care system here has a problem, but I think is the same problem that education has. And just another point, I don't think that Obama has refused to meet with the president of the EU, I really think it was with the President of Spain...and sadly I do really get it.

Posted by: lahabitacionazul | February 4, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

The Minister voluntarily came to the US and the Canadian Government will pay the bill. HE CHOSE TO COME TO THE STATES. It is not because he NEEDED to come because they DO HAVE HIGH QUALITY HEALTHCARE in Canada.
You all are idiots.
_______________________
Hope he doesn't get trampled by all the US folks going to Canada for medical care.

Yes, they do have quality medical care in Canada; just not very much of it, and the wait for it is lengthy.

As for the idiots comment, we did elect Obama, so you may be right.

Posted by: amazd | February 4, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

The President of Spain, Zapatero JLRodriguez, denied that any financial crisis, said it would reach the 4 million unemployed. When the data were either assumed to whether the successes, but errors are the fault of others. The Spanish began to see it now. So he needs to find positive images, such as meetings with Obama ("Yes, We Can"). Sell meetings with Obama as if he were to do something himself, though the White House denied there was any planned reunión.The communication secretary of the PSOE (Party Chairman) Leire Pajin said he was giving a "Confluence planetary to be both Zapatero as President of Europe and Obama as President of the United States of America. " So moving Spain, astrology, meetings. We still hope that the facts do not contradict continue.

Posted by: rafulgut | February 5, 2010 2:51 AM | Report abuse

"Spain's prime minister confounded by U.S. health-care system"

I'm confounded in English. I don't speak any Spanish.

Or is there exotic point I'm missing here ?

Posted by: gannon_dick | February 5, 2010 3:09 AM | Report abuse

I hope the Prime Minister does not get sick because he will look pretty rediculus when he has to hop a jet and come to the U.S. to get the proper life saving care, just like the Canadian Minister from New Foundland and Labador who had to come to the U.S. to get help this week.

Yep, lived in Spain's health care and it is wonderful, as long as you aren't sick.
Posted by: staterighter
----------------------------
Spain leads the US in every indicator of health care quality. Life expectancy at all ages. Infant mortality. Death or injury due to medical error or hospital infection. Etc.

I've lived here experienced our system. IT IS LOUSY.

------------------------------

Posted by: mnjam | February 5, 2010 3:41 AM | Report abuse

Spanish health system is dual, we have good private hospitals, some of the best in Europe in terms of investigation and treatmens, but the best of the spanish system is that the public system is even better than the private. The only problem you can find is that sometimes you have to wait some weeks for an operation, but no one dies on the street, enfront of a hospital, because of not having money enough to get operated.

Posted by: albertferre2001 | February 5, 2010 4:34 AM | Report abuse

"“What I don’t understand” about the U.S. system, he said, “is why the cost of health care is so high in relation to the GDP and you have such limited coverage.” He concluded: “There is a basic problem in the system.”"
-----------------------------------------
Anyone who has lived in Europe knows first-hand that medical care there is both excellent and dirt-cheap. The reason? People pay higher taxes, hence get better services (the same is true for education and social services). As long as Americans refuse to pay for services, they'll keep getting what they are getting. There is no free lunch.

Posted by: Gatsby10 | February 5, 2010 6:23 AM | Report abuse

Heathcare is free in Spain? Nobody pays anything? Are they all volunteers? Are all the supplies donated by someone?

Posted by: vr21164 | February 5, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Zapatero notes that Spain's "health-care system is public, universal and free." Interesting that global markets plunged yesterday on fears that Spain, along with the other PIGS countries, may not be able to finance its budget deficits going forward. I don't know that "free" health care is mostly to blame, but the timing makes me less inclined to pay attention to any lectures on the virtues of Spain's approach.

Posted by: AbuHaq | February 5, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Thanks to AbuHak for mentioning that Zapatero has his own problems. Spain is in serious financial trouble, with alarming unemployment, and Zapatero is worrying about health care in the USA.

Posted by: Roytex | February 5, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

That's the style Zapatero, talk and criticize the problems of others, to divert public opinion from their own mistakes. But we already know. Each country has its own problems and we must respect, while not meddling in our affairs. Another blunder Zapatero. Apologies from Spain.

Posted by: rafulgut | February 5, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Health care is FREE??? in Spain. You mean, there are no taxes collected to pay for medical care or for doctors???? You mean the hospitals can operate their utilities without collecting any money?????

Perhaps the Spanish Prime Minister is confounded on the costs of FREE (sic) health care. THere are some good courses in economics given at our local community colleges which can help him understand the true costs of his budget...

Posted by: Paladin7b | February 5, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Jackson, it's not surprising that the PM of Spain doesn't understand our health care system, none of us here do either!

But I suspect that rather than have a European Socialist offering assistance with health care reform, President Obama would prefer Zapatero to provide a bit more help in Afghanistan. Troops, maybe, or if that is too difficult, some Guardia Civil trainers?

Posted by: CraigCharney | February 5, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

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