Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Going to the doctor

Anyone who's been following the healthcare debate probably knows that the U.S. has one of the worst healthcare systems of the modern, industrialized, free world. And you've probably heard that Europeans enjoy a standard of care comparable to the U.S. which is subsidized by the state.

Well, I finally got to experience European medical care firsthand yesterday, and I hate to tell you this, but... it's just as good as you'd imagine. I actually laughed out loud when I walked out of the doctor's office because it was so ridiculously easy and affordable compared to what I'm used to, it struck me as absurd.

I needed a doctor urgently due to the sudden onset of a severe UTI, so my boss called the doctor he uses down the street and got me an appointment for two and a half hours later. No HMO, no list of approved providers, no need to ask if the doctor accepts this or that insurance. Just pick a private doctor and make an appointment--for the same day.

I went at the appointed time and arrived a few minutes early, but there was no receptionist or sign-in procedure so I just took a seat in the waiting room. At the exact time of my appointment, the doctor herself looked in and waved me into her office.

She was very pleasant, asked me what the problem was, then handed me a pan to pee in and showed me to the toilet. When I emerged, she took the sample and examined it straight away under the microscope, confirming what we both already knew: I had a bad infection. Then she sat down and wrote me a prescription.

Ten minutes after I walked into her office, I was walking out again. The cost of the office visit? 34 Euros--which, if I had an insurance card already, I would be able to get reimbursed for, except for maybe 5 Euros which would be my total cost.

I immediately walked across the street to a pharmacy, handed over the prescription and received my antibiotics without any wait. I used my coworker's insurance card and was charged less than 7 Euros. The whole process took less than half an hour.

Even with excellent private insurance in the U.S., I have never had such an easy time seeing a doctor and getting a prescription filled. For someone used to our convoluted, bureaucracy-heavy and paperwork-intensive system, it was almost unbelievable that medical care could be so simple and convenient.

I'm already feeling much better, thank you.


  1. I just discovered your blog, so I'm way late to respond. But all I can do is release an exasperated sigh.