Health Care in Korea: Y’all Come

I am watching this video clip of Keith Olbermann on Countdown embedded in a story about Bill Clinton refusing to join an Olbermann-touted health care event in behalf of free clinics in Arkansas because Olbermann has “politicized” the event. I clicked on the story in Huffington Post because it had the instantaneous whiff of crap about it. Olbermann’s anecdote about the pharmacy visit to score anti-fungal cream for hundreds of dollars that could be gotten over the counter in, say, Canada for around ten bucks, rang a bell.

My daughter started college in the US this fall, and the cost will eventually break me. Yet compared with the cost/benefit ratio of medicine, even those tied to saving life as opposed to killing a fungus or clearing a respiratory passage, is a damn worthwhile way to spend one’s money. The reference to respiratory is not apocryphal. The kid recently went to a pharmacy to get the inhaler she has needed periodically since she was a small child, when she gets over-stressed or fatigued by the rigors of a kid’s life these days. Here in Korea, the inhaler was five bucks. In Philadelphia, the prescription was $295. I’m not making it up.

My best pal, a gifted painter, is growing cataracts on both eyes. He expects to need surgery before too many more years are out. His vague perception, at present, is that the surgery alone will cost on the order of 8 grand. Eight thousand dollars will be the cost to hang on to his vision. It almost seems like a bargain, and the medical authorities carry that proclamation around on a shingle hanging from their neck in lights that flash when the patient gets close enough to trigger the heat detector built into it.

I asked a doctor friend here in Seoul if he could find out what the same expense would be for a foreigner without the Korean health insurance that covers about half the cost for every man, woman and child in this small, densely populated and public welfare-conscious nation. He informs me that the cost of the surgery would be around $1500 per eye. I jumped on the news as predictive that I might get a prolonged visit from my friend, but it probably won’t happen. I had to agree with him when we discussed it that it was difficult to see him doing it, because he has passed up many chances to travel in his life, for reasons never entirely clear to the large number of friends who would be waiting expectantly at the other end of the flight.

Okay, I can accept that, but I see a much bigger picture here, and this is it: I am willing to discover and pass along the estimates of medical procedures in Korean hospital and clinic facilities, performed by well-trained and educated practitioners of their respective specialties, and for those opting to follow up on the information and undergo the procedure, I will help you with the arrangements in Korea.

Americans will have to take a lot of different steps to bring the American health care ship about and set it on a course that doesn’t include robust health care for insurance and pharmaceutical corporations while millions of Americans get sick and die, even those who succumb as a result of mind-numbingly stupid behaviours. Medical tourism is one way to accomplish that.

If the reader thinks this is something they want to explore, they may contact me by responding to this post.


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