A Travellerspoint blog

Medical Emergency?

sunny 37 °C

Today I had planned to visit a number of the Smithsonian museums (they are all free), but I was only able to get to one, the National Museum of American History and its exhibits on the Presidency. The reason why I had to cut my day short was because I had some sort of a medical emergency. It was whilst I was walking around the museum that I noticed I had lost almost all the flexibility in my right foot and ankle. The reason was because my foot had swollen quite significantly – at some point I had been bitten by something. I knew I would encounter the US healthcare system at some point and I was fortunate it was for a relatively trivial matter, but nonetheless off to George Washington Hospital I went (other notable patients have included Ronald Reagan after he was shot and Dick Cheney after some of his many heart attacks).

The experience of being a customer in the US healthcare system would no doubt have passed me by were it not for the fact that, upon being asked for the $420 payment (an outrageous sum of money for simply sitting around, having a nurse look at my foot and a doctor sign a prescription), I was not able to produce the money. As I did not have my credit card with me and I had insufficient cash I was faced with the prospect of not being treated and of simply getting up and walking out. I was extended credit and my ailments were minor so I could easily have walked out, but there are millions of people who are faced with the exact problem I was across America; do I just get up and walk out because I can’t afford to be treated?

Whilst I was waiting to be treated I was left with the inevitable questions that arise when being treated in a different country, how does this healthcare system compare to my experiences at home? Was I seen any faster? No not really. Were the staff more attentive to my needs and care? No, in fact, now that I was paying for the treatment I felt entitled to considerably more attention than I received. At home my bite would have been cleaned, my feet washed and I would have been sent on my way with a smile which really wished me well, not one that looked forward to the next time I’m seen so the pay cheque can be cashed and dividends paid out. At least all of those things happened when I was treated for a similar incident in Seriba. Did I feel freeer being able to choose my healthcare provider, an argument of stalwalts who propose this system? Absolutely not. You see people with illnesses don’t have freedom or choices; they can’t choose whether or not they need treatment, more often than not it is a necessity. So if healthcare is a necessity, how is heathcare best delivered? To be frank, I’m not sure I know yet. What I do know is that the momentary prospect of me not being treated because I could not stump up the considerable fee for very little treatment is not sustainable. Ideas on a postcard ....

All this from an insect bite.

M

Posted by MattOGrady 17:19 Archived in USA

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