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I suggest comparing infrastructures and services provided by different countries. I would like to know how different countries compare to each other regarding taxation, public health services, retirement plans, the way justice is organised, prisons, the way people see mariage and family, the way people see love and relashionships. There are people reading Winston Wu's novels and writings from all over the world. So it would be easy to get the opinion of people living in different parts of the world.
I am French. Here we believe that salaries are about 4 times higher in the USA than in France. We also believe that when you need medical treatment, you have to pay everything yourself or with a private medical insurance. Is this true? How much do you pay for medical insurance (I tried to find the answer through reading US medical insurance web sites, but it seemed very complicated to understand for a foreign personn)?
When you get a salary in the US, how much (percentage?) do you have to pay to the state for taxes, compulsory retirement plans, compulsory medical insurance?
I suggest that everyone interested write something about his or her country. I'll prepare such a document for France. Several people can have different opinion about the same country, so it would be interesting to hear from several sources.
I would say that we do have to pay medical bills ourselves or personally pay for medical insurance from private corporations which can be $200 per month on the low end. Usually it is much more. Most people get medical insurance through their job. Some jobs cover all costs, some cover half, which may ammount to $20 US per week or more.
IN general, you can expect to see 1/3 or more of your salary go to taxes, retirement plans and other services. If you're self employed it can be as much as 1/2.
Salaries may be high, but I suspect people work twice as much or more too. Many companies have foudn ways around paying overtime and so people working 12-15 hours per day is becoming more and more common. IN certain industries, like IT, games, film and related fields, even longer hours are common. Some places are good about it and pay overtime, allowing workers to make huge 6 figure salaries, but what's the point if you're never out of the office to enjoy it?
“b***y is so strong that there are dudes willing to blow themselves up for the highly unlikely possibility of b***y in another dimension." -- Joe Rogan
In Canada, the salary of a typical IT employee varies between $50K to $80K per annum for junior employees to senior employees respectively. Income taxe for employee in that middle class range is about 32% to 43% for federal tax and provincial tax combined. On top of taxes, employers will also automatically deduct CCP and EI (Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance) which will be another $2500. The CPP program is projected to collapse by the time I retire so most people contribute to RRSPs (Registered Retirement Savings Plans). You basically put money in any type of investment you want and that amount will not count towards your taxable income for that year. There's also a limit on how much of your annual income you can put in your RRSP; some percentage I don't remember.
Health care is free, but you may have to be a citizen or have resident status. Well, not really free because you're paying for it indirectly through taxes. I never had to use the health care system but from what I hear in the news, it's pretty messed up.
In the IT field, it's common to start your own "corporation" and work for yourself as a contractor where you can gross 50K to 120k per annum depending on your specialization and skills. You can form a sole proprietorship where tax brackets are the same as personal tax brackets. You may also be forced to incorporate so the tax police don't classify you as an employee of your client. If you incorporate, any corporate income (revenue - employee pay - other expenses) is taxed at 20%.
In the US, the salary for IT employees and IT contractors are comparable to the situation in Canada. The federal income tax rate is about 25% for that middle class range and the state income tax varies from 0% to 10%. On top of income tax, employers deduct FICA (Social Security and Medicare).
Social Security tax 12.4% of income with a maximum of $11,680.80
Medicare tax 2.9% of all income (no maximum ceiling)
I believe if you're an employee, your employer pays half of that, but if you're self employed, you're on the hook for the full amount of FICA.
If you incoporate, the corporate tax rate depends on which state you're in. Those rules vary considerably from state to state so I won't go into those. It's not a big deal here to work as a contractor without incorporating. So if you have a choice, push to operate as a sole proprietor not as a coporation nor as a LLC.
If you want to learn more about the American health care system, check out a documentary called "Sico" by Michael Moore.
I'll try to answer your questions.
1) The US is a Federal Union of 50 states, 14 territories, and some 300 native Indian reservations. Each state, territory, or reservation has limited sovereignty and laws may vary. The socio-economic & demographic situation can also vary widely from place to place in this country of 300+ million people.
2) Salary for the same job/position can vary widely from place to place. An IT position that pays $80,000 USD/year in Los Angeles, California might only pay $40,000-50,000 in San Antonio, Texas. However your pay scale is also related to the local cost of living. In San Antoio TX you can buy a brand new 2,000 sq ft house with yard for $250,000. In Los Angeles, you cannot even buy a 1 bedroom apartment for that sum.
A good way to compare different locations is to look at the city's median household income, and its average housing price. Yes you might get paid more in south Orange County CA than France, but a 1 bedroom condo here cost $400,000 USD. So getting paid more doesn't always translate to better standard of living.
3) In the US, about 27% of the population receive government health insurance, and 60% have private health insurance (typically through their employer). There is some over-lap and the total % of people with health insurance is rated at 84%, versus 16% uninsured.
As I mentioned in #1, the US is a complicated union of many states and territories. Our government health insurance scheme is just as complicated. Many of the 16% uninsured Americans actually qualify for some form of government-subsidized health care, but have no idea that that they're covered or even how to apply for it.
US government funded health insurance include Medicare for elderly & disabled, Medicaid for the poor, assorted State health insurance programs, Veterans/Military health care, Indian health service for Indian reservations, and so on.
Some states in the US has taken steps toward universal health care, but like everything else here it's overly complicated. Here's California's proposal:
http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/a ... floor.html
4) U.S. health insurance typically falls into 2 categories, HMO and PPO. With HMO you're required to use doctors and hospitals within its "network", though emergency services at any hospital is acceptable. With HMO you usually pay a small co-pay amount ($10?) to visit your doctor, but you don't have a lot of freedom to choose between hospitals and treatment.
With PPO, you have a lot more freedom in choosing hospitals, doctors, and treatment methods. The down-side is that PPO usually only pay up to 80%, so if your treatment cost $1,000, under HMO you might have only paid $10, but under PPO you'd have to pay $200.
I choose PPO health plan because I visit my acupuncture doctor regularly for tension headache treatment. HMO usually won't pay for acupuncture. Most health insurance have a co-pay and maximum payout limit, which varies from plan to plan.
As for cost of health insurance, it varies from location to location, your age, type of insurance plan, and level of coverage. (There is no simple answer for this question). Many health insurance networks offer discounts for low income families. But if you want some examples, a 20 year old person in Southern California who is not in low-income category, will pay about $150/month for health insurance from Kaiser Permante. But if you were 40 years old, you'd pay double at $300/month, if you paid for it yourself.
If you received health coverage through your work, usually your work would pay 50%-80% of the cost. 10 years ago it wasn't uncommon to find companies paying 100% for employee health insurance, but due to rising health care costs most companies have reduced benefits.
5) As for taxes, the US use a progressive income tax rate, the more you make the more taxes you pay. There's federal income tax, state income tax, city sales tax, and your local county levy property tax from you twice annually. Tax rate vary a lot, in Texas there is no state income tax. In California the state income tax is up to 9.3%.
In addition, we also have social security/welfare tax, which is quite complicated. See here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Sec ... ted_States)#Taxation <--- copy and paste this whole link into your browser
Because US is a large country with many... autonomous fiefdoms, we have a lot of competing interest and anything that has to do with taxes is complicated to hell. Smaller countries have the luxury of using a simple, flat tax rate plan, we don't.
I wish they'd join the forum and not just "lurk" around.
No, but it depends on the hospital. There are some "nice" hospitals that have financial assistance cards for local poor people and will pay from 50 to 100% of the cost depending on the seriousness of the person's health problem and their ability to pay. And some colleges have their own health clinics that students can visit. A health fee is part of the student's tuition but usually it is cheaper than traditional private insurance.
Note: The year after I graduated, my university mandated that every student have health insurance--and they increased tuition a great deal, so I was lucky to finish when I did.
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