Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dear National Healthcare

Dear National Healthcare,

I think you are absolutely awesome.  Let me tell you why.  In my past 11 months in Korea, I have visited the doctor more times than I probably have in my 30 years in America combined.  Why?  Because I seldom have had to wait more than 5 minutes to see a doctor.  Because no appointment necessary for most things. Because I can actually afford to take care of myself here.  Am I going for silly cold and flu type of things?  Goodness no.  I’m going for things that need(ed) to be done.  Primarily dermatology and dental concerns that would have cost me nearly ten thousand dollars at home, even with insurance.

The past few months I had been planning to get my wisdom teeth removed. I knew that I had to go to a dental hospital since one of them was impacted. Because I’m not exactly fluent in Korean, I don’t have the ability to just call and schedule an appointment so, about a month ago I just popped in. A game of charades is much easier in person than over the phone. On my (unplanned) visit they took x-rays, I had a consultation with one of the doctors, and scheduled the extraction. I was in and out within about 30 minutes.  This visit cost me $8.

I was informed that they would do two teeth at a time due to concern for my “dietary needs.”  Basically, if they took all four out at the same time I wouldn’t be able to eat.  I disagree with this, but eh, whatever. The extraction was scheduled (and rescheduled) for this past Friday, September 17. I went in at 9am, and my friend Elizabeth came with because I had no idea of what to expect afterwards. I was almost immediately sent in for a CT scan to check the location of the impacted tooth in regards to the nerves in my jaw and the level of risk for nerve damage.  About two minutes after my CT scan, I was taken back and immediately given local anesthetic.  While that was taking effect, we looked at the CT results, discussed potential side effects, I signed a waiver, and we waited a few more minutes for the doctor.  One hour, two teeth out and a few shots in the “hip” later (one for pain, one an antibiotic), I had a total bill of $61.90 waiting for me. (A far cry from the nearly $1000 a tooth in America.)

That paid and prescription in hand, Elizabeth and I headed downstairs to the pharmacy to get my meds.  Three days worth of medication for (are you ready???)  $4.60.  Awesome.  I also appreciate how Korean pharmacies sort your medicine in such a helpful way.


Each individual packet is a dose.  I take one packet with food three times a day for three days.  Easy enough.

I went back Saturday morning to have a quick check up with the doctor and the wounds washed out with saline solution.  $4.50.

My final visit will be this Friday to have the sutures removed and, based on prior experience, I think it’s safe to say that 2 wisdom teeth out, all included, cost less than $100.  Not too shabby.

I would hope that National Healthcare like this could/would be made available in every civilized country.  Basic medical care is a human right. (Sorry, I sold insurance for 5 years.  I have strong opinions about this.) It shouldn’t be made available only to those with money or those who work for companies that are able to provide adequate insurance.  I, a healthy thirty year old woman smack in the middle of her “child bearing years”, pay about $30 a month to be a included in the National Healthcare of Korea. My employer pays the other half for my coverage.  It makes zero sense to me that the same, or at least similar plan couldn’t be put in place in other countries.  Particularly the largest, most powerful country that so many others look up to.

I’m forever your fan,

Amy Kate

Editor’s Note.  This was not intended to be a political blog.  More of just appreciation for a system that seems to work quite successfully.

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