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Thursday, March 4, 2010

But neglect their own American neighbors: Universal health care in Thailand

James Cameron Mielke's story:
I was disappointed, but not surprised, when I read the story about the couple that were obviously confident enough to be holidaying in Indonesia, but when the guy broke his ankle, they freaked out and high-tailed it all the way back to the USA - taking that long, expensive and arduous journey just to fix his broken ankle. Apparently they were not aware of the world-class health care available in nearby countries like Singapore, and in Bangkok and Hong Kong, to name a few. They would have been amazed at the stellar care available had they simply hopped over to Singapore - and while cheaper than in the USA, their insurance should have covered it anyway.

I can't tell you how depressed I get when I hear the news each day - and I'm sure most people around the world have been rolling their eyes in dismay over the pitiful health care debate in the USA. It is simply appalling that Americans don't have a universal health care system of some sort. As you know, we are the only developed nation in the world that doesn't have this - but people have been fed so much misinformation, and have been so frightened - and of course, too many of the politicians have been bought out by big business that likes the status quo. If we could only extricate ourselves from fighting so much global warfare, and trying to do nation-building everywhere except in our own country!!! Man, then perhaps we could do better with our education system, for one thing. Then America might not be looked at as such a naive, inward-looking nation that we are, like that couple in Indonesia, perhaps still thinking the only safe place to get health care is in the USA. Wake up, folks!! America is no longer the only player in the world. Asia, in particular, has taken off dramatically, as the USA decays...

My sister Jean in the USA pays 25% of her earnings on health insurance premiums that don't always cover her care. Her policy has a $5,000 deductible, so she pays for most of her care out of pocket.

She is healthy. But when she arrived in Thailand over Christmas, she had a nasty, sharp cough. She said she had just decided it wasn't too bad to live with. She had had it for over a year!! And the cost of seeing an MD was enough of a deterrent, so she just lived with it. But I insisted she see the doctor here. Without an appointment, and for a $25 doctor fee and some meds, she was diagnosed with chronic bronchitis. Within days the cough cleared up. She returned for two more days (she was only in Thailand for a week). She spent three days at the hospital because it was so convenient, pleasant, caring, and affordable, with one-stop shopping. She didn't have to be sent all over to different facilities or to see different doctors for the various procedures, e.g., X-ray, etc.

In short, the system here works, even at the most expensive private hospital in the country (Bumrungrad), 60% of the patients are Thais. It is not just a place for rich foreigners to go. And Thailand has universal health care: for 30 baht ($1), all people in the country have access to basic health care. This is one of the few good things former Prime Minister Thaksin did to help the poor here. So why can Americans pour out their hearts and give so much to places in need like Haiti and Afghanistan, but neglect their own American neighbors in the USA!!!

Read a story about medical tourism. Thanks to James Cameron Mielke for the source email message.

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