Saturday, August 22, 2009

After the surgery, and why we need a public option

I sort of begged on the evening of the second night to go home. I was feeling pretty chipper and didn't really see why I needed to stay. My throat didn't really hurt that much and hanging out in a hospital did not seem like a good time. When the doctor finally came around to visit me around four he at first said that I would need to stay until the next morning. Then he came back about twenty minutes later and said I could go home if I wanted to and said I could check out around 7 pm.

I managed to call home and squeak out enough communication to secure a ride home from the hospital that arrived in the form of a disheveled boy around seven. Between the two of us we managed to communicate that I was going home, and nurses came around with bags of medicine and other fun things. I was also informed that I would need to settle up the bill before I could leave.

This was totally expected and I was prepared to bite the bullet to pay for my tonsillectomy and my luxury room upgrade. I'd been told the cost was going to be somewhere between two and four million won, roughly 2,000 to 4,000 thousand dollars, which would still be a bargain deal compared to what I'd probably pay in the states for the same. Assuming of course I could even find someone to take me without having to go to an emergency room. Since I don't have health insurance in the U.S. it would be more, and trying to get insurance after being told that a tonsillectomy was at this point a life-saving necessary procedure I'd be dead. I wasn't going to complain about a couple of grand and frankly I could afford to spend it so I would never have to deal with my tonsils again.

The nurse asked if I knew where to go, and I had no idea. So with the help of the Boy we walked up and down and outside the hospital, over to the older wing of the hospital. I was feeling fairly winded and dizzy what with the first movement I'd had in days, but I followed along as we went to several doors hoping to find the one where a payment could be made.

At one of the big checkout type counters the nurse asked for directions and eventually we were shuffled down the hall to the emergency room admittance area, which was apparently the only place we could pay up. The young Korean gentleman on call there had no idea what was going on. The Korean nurse explained and finally he picked up a pen and paper and us in Korea that I'd have to pay 300,000 won (300 dollars) to leave the hospital that night.

I handed over my credit card and he just looked at me in shock, then realized he couldn't run the card at that time of night and just asked me to come back the next day to pay, which was fine with me. I waited at the car while the nurse ran the boy back to the previous hospital to grab the bags of medicine and we took off to home. My neck was sore with every bump and turn but I was happy to be going towards my own place finally.

When I got back I was greeted happily by two dogs and in less then an hour made my way to bed to sleep for what seemed like the first time in ages. I woke up roughly ever two hours on the dot but it was still better sleep than I'd felt I'd had in ages. And it was nice to wake up Friday at home. The throat didn't seem so bad and I made a tonsillectomy cozy for ice so I could keep my throat cold when it started to hurt to much.

As the day wore on I asked the Boy to go and deal with the hospital bill since A) I couldn't talk, and B) I wasn't up to driving all over town again. He agreed and I hung out with the mammals and watched TV while he disappeared. When he returned a few hours later with my bank books and handed them over I used my computer to ask just how bad the damage was.

He just laughed at me and handed me the bill.

For the surgery, three days stay in the hospital, the constant care, two rides in an ambulance, major surgery,  the insulin, and all the work and care, I paid 285,000 won. That was after they calculated the expense for my extra swanky room.

Roughly 300 dollars for a tonsillectomy.

Korea is a country with a public option. Everyone employed pretty much buys into the public option. Even migrant workers, such as myself, have the option of buying in and getting coverage. And because of this I was able to have basically life-saving surgery for less than what I spend on booze in a given month. Korea also has lots of private insurance firms and many Koreans take the public plan and supplement with a private plan as well to cover the other costs, like the extra I paid for the room. But still, at the end of the day, three hundred dollars. Without insurance I would have paid eight hundred dollars, still a downright steal. Because the cost of medical care is kept down through government regulation, sponsored medical school, and lots of freaking options.

In the U.S. the out-of-pocket cost for a tonsillectomy is around $13,000 dollars. And the procedure is considered outpatient; you go in for the surgery in the morning and go home that night. Do a search on tonsillectomy recovery in the U.S. and you will read horror story after horror story about the pain. I can't help but to think that my speedy recovery and general ease through this thing is because I was monitored carefully before and after by people that would have been happy to have me stay at the hospital for up to ten days to take care of me. That's quality health care.

Too bad I can't get it in the greatest nation on earth.

Today it is Sunday, I managed an eight hour meeting yesterday and have a busy week coming up with lots of presentations. I feel at the top of my game today. And things are looking in general.

It's good to be back.

1 comment:

Psyche Z. Ready said...

I am very, very happy for you.