Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Health Care in Other Countries

I was reading the comments to an article in the New York Times (please don't go out of business,) about getting sick on vacation and I was struck by the people who travel abroad and need to access emergency health care. There were 92 comments from readers about their vacations and what happened when they got sick.

The people who got sick in the USA talked about the expense of "out of network" fees or how long they waited in urgent care or emergency departments. About 90% of the comments were about getting sick in countries that have a single payer health system and how great it was.

Several comments had experience with Denmark health care; "Yes, in Denmark there are doctors on call who come to see the ill. He prescribed an antibiotic, said that if I didn’t improve he would hospitalize me, and left. No charge! I improved, my daughter took the ferry to Denmark, and we spent time visiting relatives. I was 65 at the time and never felt so sick before or after."

In Canada: "All of this with little wait time and not a penny cost except for parking in the hospital parking lot. Travel mileage and parking is tax deductible if you have to travel out of your own community. My prescription drugs are free as I am over 65 now. There is a $100 deductible charge annually for drugs.

There is never a wait time if your condition requires immediate attention.I would be happy to explain the above to any non- believer in the USA"

In Spain;" While traveling in Spain last year my 10 year old son had an asthma attack. Our state side medication gone, we walked into a local pharmacia which promptly supplied us with the medication for $3.

The same meds in NY would have required a doctor visit, a prescription and cost $40."

If you believe these experiences, you want to get sick in France, the UK, even Cairo, rather than the United States. There were a few horror stories about missed diagnosis and even a dirty hospital in Rome but overall the consensus was that it is easier, cheaper and quicker to access care abroad than in the U.S.

One comment; "As a physician, I would MUCH prefer to be a traveler in Canada or France than an uninsured -or underinsured - American."


Jonathan said...

While traveling in Spain my mother became ill, required hospitalization, three surgeries, and ultimately passed away, all while still in Spain. Inasmuch as Medicare doesn’t cover the costs of overseas care, and that my parents were traveling without supplemental insurance, my father ended up, after negotiations with the Spanish hospital, with a bill of $35K, which the Spanish government insisted he pay before they let him leave the country. Lesson learned: if you’re a Medicare patient traveling overseas be sure to carry supplemental insurance. Also, evacuation insurance would be nice, and lastly don’t confuse trip cancellation insurance with either of the former.

KM said...

Last year in Amsterdam my boyfriend was sick and it cost about $250 to go to the ER but he wss billed 6 months later no fee at the time of service. He was seen for a respiratory infection, and was given a prescription to take to the phamacy. Everyone spoke english and it was a newly remodled ER (making more use of space) It was painted and decorated in cheery lime green and white.

Two days later I got sick in Paris and called late morning for an afternoon appointment and was seen very close to the scheduled time it was also for a respiratory problem. The doctor took me to the exam room, (no nurse or medical assistant). After the exam she took me into her office worte the perscroption and asked me to pay what is equal to $50 in the US. At the pharmacy in Paris it was $20 for an inhaler and Paracetamol. All together for the doctor visit and medication it was $70 and less waiting time at the pharmacy. The only difficulty was the doctor not knowing much english. I don't know any where in the area where I live in the US that you can see a doctor and get medication for $70.

Both of us had Insurance but had high deductiables that were not met so it was out of pocket, but so much less then here in the US.