Bratislava is a very nice city which is the new capital of Slovakia. Slovakia was previously part of several countries. Hungary, Austria, and Czechoslovakia all contained parts of present-day Slovakia until 1989. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the Wall in Berlin, Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The people here called it the Velvet Revolution. There was no bloodshed, the people protested the Soviet rule, the Soviet leaders left office, and the people took over the government. This was being done in other areas like Berlin, but it was not as easy for the Communists to give up control without a fight.
1992, Bratislava became the capital of the independent Republic of Slovakia, and now has a population of around 500,000 people. There are over 5,000,000 in Slovakia. Bratislava reminds me very much of Budapest with lots of open walking areas downtown, and it is very safe and clean. I liked the feel of it.
Bratislava also has a “White House” which serves as the U.S. Embassy. It looks like an imitation of the White House in Washington. The locals laugh and say ours is the imitation. George W. Bush met Russian President Vladimir Putin there when Bush was President.
The domination of the Soviet Union after World War II is still very much on the mind of the people of Eastern Europe. Sometimes we fail to remember that Russia fought on the side of the United States in WWII against Germany, Hitler, and the Nazis. After the war, Russia took over all of these small European countries and the Cold War began between Russia and the U.S. This did not end until 1989. Sometimes I forget that it was only a short time ago when it all changed. Only 29 years. Most of these cities and countries seem to live on tourism and they do an excellent job of promoting their home as idyllic destinations for travelers.
There are two large castles in Bratislava, built by the Hapsburgs, who ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Hapsburgs ruled all of Europe, except for Rome and the United Kingdom (England), from 1867 until 1918 when it was defeated in WWI. Slovakia has more castles per capita than any country.
After leaving the city on the river to go to Austria, we have passed several ruins of old castles on the river. This entire area is rich with history that is not as well-known in the United States. Being here helped me to realize that there are people all over the world who are going about their daily lives and not glued to the television waiting to see what is going to happen next in the U.S. Many of them like and appreciate the U. S. because they are now free from Soviet domination.
The countries all have government-run healthcare and are basically not opposed to it. They don’t necessarily like the longs wait time for surgery, but it is all they have. The forms differ somewhat from country to country, but they all have a system. The hospitals look old and it appears some are not taken care of very well. The cost is nothing to the individual, but the amount of money taken from the worker and the employer is in excess of 20% of each worker’s pay.
On a side note, we were talking to some Canadians who explained that in Canada’s healthcare system, prescription drugs outside of the hospital are not paid by the government. The Canadians must pay for them personally. Canadians do have access to private health insurance. Large corporations and higher paid individuals have private health insurance and access to private hospitals.
All the countries I have visited in Europe on this trip and in the past, including England, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, and now Slovakia, have government-run healthcare. All these countries have private healthcare available to people with the money to pay for coverage.
Many of you know our company, Morgan White Group, markets health insurance as well as life, disability, and dental/vision coverage in Latin America and the Caribbean. I have visited Aruba, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Chile, Argentina, and Peru. All have national healthcare. It is not as well run as in Europe, but it is there. Our whole business in these countries is built on the premise that the people who have money want to come to the U.S. to access medical technology when they have a serious illness.
The politicians who want national healthcare in the United States would have you believe that the systems in Europe are working very well. They know from those governments, and from their own research, that it is not true and each one struggles to provide basic health care to their populations. Our system has many flaws, but it is the best in the world. It is expensive and could be much more efficient, but it still better than the other systems that have been tried. The U.S. is where most of the medical innovation takes place due to the profit incentive.
We are on the way to Vienna, Austria. It has been over twenty years since I last had the opportunity to visit, and I am looking forward to seeing it again.