Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chicken Soup For The Insured Soul

All Americans should travel more. Period. All the books in the world don't open your eyes to different ways of life like witnessing these differences firsthand. Of course, it's a two-way street. And above traveling, living in another culture will give you a crash course in life lesson 43978987: However it is that you think things Are Done, you don't know how fully you believe in that form of Done until it isn't around.

Case in point: Healthcare.

Sexy policy area, isn't it? Governors call special legislative sessions to address it. Hell, it's a policy area that literally can kill you.

Over the holiday weekend, I re-watched Michael Moore's Sicko with my parents and husband. (It was interesting to notice subtle yet potentially telling differences between the premiere version I watched in Sacramento, and what ended up on DVD, but that's for another post.)

I've been keen since I first saw the film for my husband to see it. He's English and Moore spends a chunk of the film comparing our private insurance system with the UK's National Health Service.

Given my husband's level of horror at the end of the film, we may as well have been watching "Psycho" instead of "Sicko." Not only did he surprise me by not disagreeing with the film's portrayal of the UK to extent I'd have thought, but his reaction to the depiction of OUR system made me feel bad for him having moved here. In short, the film does gloss over some of nationalized healthcare's large problems, but, for the most party, yeah, they have it pretty good. Do you have to wait for some services? Can there be a too-large gap between diagnosis and a necessary operation - yes. But if you don't feel well, you get to see a doctor. That day. Without a four hour wait.

Fortunately for us both, my employer provides good health, dental, and vision coverage. Now that we're married, my husband is insured too. I picked a doctor for him from my same medical group (mine isn't taking new clients anymore) and sent in the paperwork.

The assigned him to the wrong doctor.

To Blue Shield's credit, they remedied that problem with just a phone call (no long hold time either). We discovered the mistake, however, because I was trying to make him an appointment (he's under the weather, but fine). The doctor's office said the insurance company had to call to confirm the correction. The insurance company said usually doctors call them. The insurance company sent a confirmation fax to the doctor. The doctor said that because he's a new patient, the new patient coordinator would call within 7 to 10 days to collect more information. We said, but he wants to see a doctor. They said they'd call back. They called back and said the new patient coordinator would call within 7 to 10 days an the doctors nearest new patient appointments WERE IN MARCH.

So I'm supposed to be scared of socialized medicine and the long lines it creates because . . . .

We explained again that we appreciated that he couldn't get a new patient appointment until later, but what if he would like to see a doctor now? They said they'd call back. They called back and said that because he's only been feeling unwell for about a week, he should just wait and see if he still feels unwell a week from now.

It would, therefore, have been faster for him to have flown home, seen a doctor, received treatment and meds or whatever he needs and fly back.

Except of course he can't leave the country yet.

In short: I can see no argument against socialized medicine that can't be exemplified in our current system. So I'd rather pay the government than a private, profit-drive corporation because at least then I'll know everyone gets the same crappy coverage, which is still better than none at all.

Fortunately, my husband can maintain his NHS coverage even while he's living abroad by paying a comparatively VERY small amount of money each year. So God forbid something truly bad happen, at least he'll have another, potentially far more efficient coverage to take care of him.

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