Mar 12

What is the best country to get sick in?

Written by berlinf on Thursday, March 12th, 2009 at 5:24 pm
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This may start like a bar story, but it may end as a rant: one day, a Canadian colleague, an American colleague and I (Chinese) were having lunch, and we were talking about the health care problems each face in our countries.   In Canada, you pay high tax, but health care is free.  In America, you pay relatively low tax (according to the Canadian), but healthcare is ridiculously expensive.  China’s medical system is so diverse and constantly changing that I don’t know where to start.  Generally, for the civil servants, most have medical coverage for a relatively low cost.  The cost goes up for those working for businesses, which are required by the Labor Law to provide for medical coverage.  Some, though, cover common treatments, but treatment for serious illnesses such as cancer are covered only to a point, beyond which you have to purchase other types of commercial insurance.  Then there are those farmers and laid-off workers who have little, if any coverage.  They are out there basically watching out for themselves.  In any case, it is prohibitively expensive to treat major diseases, hence the saying “You may work hard for decades to build a decent life.  But it takes only one major illness to take your life to the pre-Liberation days”(辛辛苦苦几十年,一病回到解放前).  

The good part, though, is that you really don’t need to wait a few days to see a doctor.  For that you tolerate a little inconvenience of waiting in lines.  But in the US you wait too, for days to go to your appointment, and then you often have to wait in the waiting room in doctor’s office, sometimes for hours.  There is a reason why sick people are called “patients”.

Comparing these healthcare systems is a difficult task.  But what I am observing is that in China, the looming problem is the lack of specialization.  Hospitals operate pharmacies, which is a fertile soil for corruption, because doctors are then motivated to prescribe expensive drugs to boost the profit of the hospital.  Doctors can also accept “kickbacks” from medical vendors too.  All such hidden costs raised the costs for medicine.  For decades, there is talk of separating the two, but it is going nowhere.  It is frustrating.  I don’t why there are so many frivilous “proposals”  at the recent National People’s Congress sessions when issues like this deserve more attention from policy makers.

In the US, I noticed the problem is overspecialization.  Everybody is watching out for their own little niche of work that they sometimes fail to see a patient as a human being.  This is shown even in the paperwork you get after a doctoral visit.

Let’s say I get sick.  I go to the doctor’s clinic.  Doctor ordered me a test.  Then I go to the lab for a test.  Doctor prescribed some medicine.   I then leave the clinic to go to a pharmacy.  Do I have to have the tests?  Maybe not, but doctors want to make sure so that they do not get sued if their diagnosis is proved wrong.  Keeping your expenses at a minimum is not their games to play.  And there is little patients can do about it. 

Then I started to receive bills, from the hospital, from the lab or labs, and from the doctor.  Then I started to receive paperwork from the insurance company explaining “benefits” I received.  Then the doctors, clinics and labs sent second rounds of paperwork to get what I still owe after the insurance company has paid their due.  Any minor error in this process can make my life exponentially more complex in handling all the paperwork. I tried to keep track and then I gave up.  A person has to be very organized in doing this.  And there is an association that can help you to be like that, NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers). 

What bothers me really is the fact that one doctoral visit can lead to an average of seven or eight mails from various places.  Sometimes this is so stupid that you’d wonder if robots are running some operations that you get the same mail three or four times a month asking for the same thing.   I ususally paid as soon as I got the first bill to prevent these avanlaches of paperwork as much as possible. But when there is an error, you have to straighten this out. That’s when it is getting nasty. Who pays for these, the postage, the printing, the call centers that handle all inquiries?   Eventually me, through increased insurance premium, increased tax, if not directly through doctors or hospital’s charge.  Expenses have to come from somewhere, including all such unnecessary expensese.   That’s where it gets unfair for a patient.  Somehow the system is messed up somewhere.  And this is just a minor issue.  Not to mention the many holes and cracks in the system that tax dollars are going into.

I am fairly healthy now.  I cannot wait to see what this mess is going to be like when I get older, with more health problems.  That is why I am eating more and more apples now.

In addition, the healthcare plans do not cover dental and vision problems.  This may have been taken for granted. But it is weird if you really think about it. Aren’t teeth and eyes body parts?  In all countries there are specialists treating dental or vision problems, but I am wondering why insurance has to make exceptions to these two.  Again, I call this overspecialization. But that is a presenting cause, deep down, the root causes are the quirks of human nature that even Obama cannot do anything about (such as greed.) He may help to make things worse, for instance, by creating an entitlement mentality that future generations will not be able to undo.

Naturally the ideal answer to the title question is that you’d better not to get sick anywhere.  But that does not seem to help much.   It is a condition that we all eventually face and we expect the systems to be more efficient in taking care of the problems, yet both the US and the Chinese healthcare systems are deeply flawed.  I am wondering what other countries do to keep healthcare less of a pain?

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32 Responses to “What is the best country to get sick in?”

  1. Raj Says:

    The NHS has got a lot better, despite the popular past-time of knocking it. That’s according to patient surveys – I guess people assume they were lucky, or something when they got treatment.

  2. berlinf Says:

    There sure are a lot of optimists in the world!

  3. TonyP4 Says:

    I know some one from USA got full treatment free from Hong Kong when he got sick there.

    China could be the worst place to get sick in. You need to show them money in Chinese currency before the doctor would see you while you’re crying in pain. One tourist from our group from US had to wait for the bank to open to get some Chinese currency. The whole tour waited for this incident. It is real.

    I heard many other horrible stories I cannot verify. One guy from a big US company had emergency operation for his appendix. After several months, the US doctor told him he got only one kidney now.

    In big cities, you can have up-to-date facilities, but not so in Tier 2 cities. Some drugs in China are copycats from the west. However, some may not be as effective as they do not use full portion.

    I do not blame China as she is still poor and developing. Hope in 10 years, we do not have similar incident. Enough China bashing for the day.

  4. berlinf Says:

    Tony, I felt bad that these happened to your friend. Chinese hospitals, especially those in smaller cities, require you to deposit cash first before treatment. China does not have a credit sytem. Few people use checks. Few people have credid cards. These hospitals are not as well equipped either. What happened to your friends happens to our own citizens too. And probably worse.

    Chinese medical resources are overconcentrated in the big cities (other resources too). So often when people get more serious diseases they get transferred to some bigger cities, then biggest cities (全国人民上协和)。 I’d hope in the future China does not pile its money in a few cities. Let those in smaller cities and the vast number of people in the countryside share some of that.

    It certainly will take time. After all, China has 1.3 people.

    As things now stand, I think it is better to get treatment for minor diseases in China (such as colds, minor bruise, etc) because doctors are not as expensive, therefore many treatments are affordable.

    In the US we just suffer through these minor things and hope it will go away. My daughter fell on the floor once and have a crack on her chin and she had to get treatment immediately. So we went to the ER, and we waited hours and hours there. When we talked to the doctor, the doctor even said that we are lucky “you guys waited only for these few hours, some waited the better parts of a whole day”. What kind of ER is that? We were thinking. And we ended up getting almost a thousand-dollar bill from the doctor, the ER places, etc. Fortunately, the doctor said, “taking off the stitches is free.”

    Also I dislike the fact that the doctors send you a bill for simply showing up and saying hello to you. And then ask you to go home and drink lots of water. They are getting more and more expensive because their malpractice insurance is going up too. It’s a kind of a vicious cycle.

    My friend got involved in a traffic accident, he did not got hurt, but he was sent to the hospital and checked thoroughly, and now he is wondering what to do with the 9000+ dollars in bills he is geting.

  5. miaka9383 Says:

    Ahh.. the topic of healthcare….
    The Healthcare system in U.S is extremely inefficient and expensive at its best…

    I am an University Student who is above 25. I was under my dad’s medical insurance up until 25 and then I am SOL. But if I had wanted to continue with the same plan as my dad, I would have to pay 500 dollars out of pocket a month to keep my benefits. Just keep in mind that Intel provides part of the insurance and with the whole family, my dad still had to pay 500 dollars out of pocket each month (now that is considered decent benefits for a company). The health insurance companies are so corrupted here in U.S that they make so much money from us common folks that most of us who doesn’t work for a big company cannot afford it. Along with the corrupted health insurance companies, we have expensive healthcare that without insurance, we simply cannot afford. I rather have the Canadian system in place…. *sigh* I want affordable healthcare… is that so much to ask?

  6. TonyP4 Says:

    miaka, I do not call the health insurance company corrupt. It is a free market. If there is more money to be made, there will be more insurance companies. There are many, many factors. Malpractice lawsuit is very high. When we know some one got millions in a lawsuit, we do not know it is from our pocket eventually.

    Same for drug company. The cost to create a new drug is just too high due to all the regulations and again lawsuits too. Hospitals cannot turn off patients who are not going to pay…. I’ve written one on universal health care at FM that has its benefits/problems.

  7. berlinf Says:

    Lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits. Looks like lawyers and doctors, two of the highest paid professions, are messing things up?

    I heard of a joke about a small town with only one lawyer. The guy almost starved due to the lack of business. Then another lawyer came. Both quickly become millionaires.

    I wonder why these professionals make so much money when they make the rest take the burden? Are doctors necessarily smarter and more hard-working than the rest of us? I have seen English professors who are 10 times as smart as a garden variety doctor, but he can hardly make ends meet. Why? Because the pill is mightier than the pen?

    I may end up in the hands of a doctor one day, but I don’t like them in general. I used to live with a bunch of medical school students in the same apartment complex. They partied a lot, drank beer on the balcony and talked loudly and sprinkled their dialogues with a lot of four-letter words, as well as curses about their professions (surgeons committing suicide, getting divorced, etc.) It’s surreal. I wonder what’s wrong with these people. I complained several times to the landlady about the noise they make, but nothing changed much. I guess I should have sued them instead.

    I do not see them as smarter and more respectable people than the average joes. But I do see that they have richer parents.

  8. TonyP4 Says:

    Allen, Cheung, I like to hear your side of the argument. 🙂

    When you sue someone, you’re making some one richer. 🙂

  9. Steve Says:

    From what I’ve seen…

    If you have great insurance at work, the best country to get sick in is the USA.

    If you have no insurance at work, the best country to get sick in is Canada.

    If you want the best healthcare while spending the least amount of money, pay cash at the ultra modern hospital in Pudong, providing the procedure isn’t too complex. Their doctors are mostly trained in US medical schools and very good. But if you live 100 km from Pudong, your local hospital might not be good at all. China doesn’t have consistent quality throughout the nation.

    National healthcare, from what I’ve heard, works but at a lower service level than other places.

    The American insurance system is unwieldy and involves endless paperwork, so doctors have to hire full time people just to handle it. That adds to the cost. Malpractice insurance is a killer, which adds to the cost. But doctors can make huge amounts of money. My wife’s cousin’s son is doing mostly kidney stones in Arizona and I believe he gets $5K per operation. Kidney stones are very common in the desert so he has an endless supply of business and makes great money. Should a doctor get so much for a relatively simple operation? Probably not, but no doctor is going to turn down the money.

    Taiwan has national medical insurance but when I was there, they were also having problems controlling costs. In their system, the person and not the company pays for their insurance but the monthly fee isn’t that bad. At this time the system seems to be working well.

    Japan also have national health insurance. A close friend of mine had breast cancer a few years ago and the insurance covered virtually all of it, so the system seems to work well. Her husband is an engineer for Mazda and I believe the company covers the insurance. I’m not sure if they pay a monthly fee like in the US.

    I agree with miaka in that US healthcare is no longer affordable. It might not be corrupt but it is certainly not competitive, so there is no incentive to control costs.

  10. Steve Says:

    @ TonyP4 #8: Allen can’t answer you right now, he’s busy chasing an ambulance. 😉

  11. miaka9383 Says:

    Maybe they are not corrupt. But like Steve said, there is no incentive to control costs. So, we as lowly poor person that lives in a place that gets her car stolen, I have to deal with no insurance and try not to get sick. Unless I can live in Canada. And why should I suffer for someone’s potential lawsuit? I know universal healthcare have its problems, but could it be worse than we (as in those people who can’t afford to get sick) have it now? I am one of those people who is sick and tired of this horrible system. Somethings need to change.
    So, I think I rather get sick in Canada.

  12. S.K. Cheung Says:

    I’m relatively young, and relatively healthy. So I haven’t had to access the Canadian health care system all that much…yet (touch wood). But you definitely hear about people waiting months for a specialist, then more months for surgery. In an ideal world, that wait would be much shorter. But here, you receive treatment based on need, and not based on the health of your bank account. Personally, and philosophically, that’s a trade-off I’m willing to make. Of course, the next time I’m at the bottom of an interminable wait list, my priorities might change. Having said that, whatever care we need and get can be obtained simply by flashing our provincial medical insurance card…no bills in the mail, no paperwork, no collection agencies. I can’t imagine being sick and having to deal with that kind of paper-pushing crap.

    I have no experience with China’s system. But back in the day in HK, I remember there were no such things as pharmacies. You see the doctor, then his nurse hands you a baggie with pills in it. Some red ones, some green ones, some blue ones. Never knew what was in them, or what the red one was for. That certainly doesn’t seem like the best system. Wonder if anything’s changed.

  13. Steve Says:

    @ SKC #12: You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

    Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. 😉

  14. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve:
    LOL, that’s funny. Didn’t even realize what I was writing. Part 1 was amazing; Part 2 was alright; Part 3, sadly, was quite a letdown.

  15. Ted Says:

    I had gall stones while living in a mid-sized town in China and, despite being in the best hospital in the area, I have to say there were some disappointments.

    Ambulances. Where are the ambulances? I had to ride a public bus in crippling pain with a 104+ temperature and argue with my friend about the best Hospital to go to. I got off at the brand new ultra-modern hospital about 2 stops from our school. Lesson: scout out your town and find the best place, I hear Army Hospitals generally provide the best care and that’s where we went from then on.

    Negotiating the price of my room from a gurney while my gall bladder was spasming was also pretty inconvenient. They wanted to put me in a “special room for foreigners” which, of course, cost about 10 times the normal price. Also I was unprepared to foot the bill up front as I had called in an emergency and hadn’t thought to visit the ATM. –Take 5,000 minimum– My friends from school were absolutely wonderful and put up the cash I needed until I was able to walk to an ATM.

    I spent three days on the Chinese version of a Roche anti-inflamatory that did absolutely nothing and 6 months after the fact found that the drug I had been taking was one of those approved by the former head of the Chinese FDA (RIP) and was linked to 16 deaths around China. –Insist on foreign medication and ask for the packaging—

    Tell the doctors that one check-up is enough. I became a test subject for what seemed like half the senior medical team. It only takes one test to determine if someone is in pain and if the others watch they can determine where the first person applied pressure that caused the pain.

    After I got the hang of things it wasn’t so bad but in the end I elected to fly home for surgery and a fight with my insurance company.

    Also, no complaints about the nurses, about five or six would come in for a visit every morning. I would gladly go through all that again if it meant I could wake up to six beautiful ladies attending to my every need… maybe one of my kidneys will fail 🙂

  16. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To TonyP4:
    how’s the universal health care system in Massachusetts working out? When I lived there, that was as close to reality as the completion of the Big Dig.

  17. TonyP4 Says:

    @ Cheung. #14 & #16.

    If the two pills did not work, your ma would give you the black pill that she hid and the doctor told her only for last resort. It will stop the pain, but most likely little Cheung will die after taking this pill. In either case, he is cured and the doctor’s job is done. 🙂

    Hong Kong’s health delivery has gone a long way. Actually it could be the model I like to propose, even I do not know the current status. It is a safety net for everyone with the basics, like 12 patients in one big room. It encourages folks to get better health coverage by working hard and getting a better job to have two or four patients per room. If you’re really rich (via hard work of course), you can afford a single room by yourself.

    Mass. is heaven for the poor (just make sure you do not have over $1,000 in your bank account and not paying any taxes last year). Basically it is free for the poor. When you’re semi poor (or know how to hide your income), the state of Mass. helps you out on insurance.

    Our unemployment pay is $625 per week (plus $5 per dependent). It is better than FL’s $250 and make all Indians jealous (sorry about the India blashing). They can collect a year or even more if you know how to work on the system (like taking some dumb courses for the ‘next’ employment before the collection is expired). Who pay for all these niceties? You guess it right. That is why some good jobs go to Carolina even we have the best minds graduated.

  18. TonyP4 Says:


    Same as Cheung, when I was at his age, I thought hospitals and doctors are a waste of time/money until my same bone was broken 2 times (not because I could not repay my loan to the shark) and I had to stay in the hospital for one night. I could be the most handsome patient in the hospital (my average competition is 4 times my age, haha).

    I got the same experience Ted had, surrounded by beautiful nurses a little older than me. They came to talk to me during their breaks and even after work. Now I remember all of them made themselves beautiful before they came to see me. They talked to me seductively – I was too young to notice. All of them fought to volunteer to help me to piss while lying down.

    It is not OK with me. I should have sued the hospital for sexual harassment. I would make $1 million myself and my lawyer $1 million. The hospital next year would need to raise the patient cost by 10% because of the lawsuit and all the young, beautiful nurses have to be sent to re-education camp in China.

    It has been a long time, so it may not be totally true. However, I hope I succeed in explaining the cycle of lawsuits and hospital cost and the only reason young men would go to hospital.

  19. berlinf Says:

    TonyP4, recently two American middle school women were arrested for having sex with a 13-year old. In this case, the kid was seen as a victim. Read also the Notes of a Scandal, which says the same thing. So yes, you probably could have sued this hospital if many nurses want to help you piss. But being a victim of sexual harassment is nothing to brag about.

  20. TonyP4 Says:

    berlinf, sorry it is supposed to be a joke. 🙂

    Now on the serious side on the professions of lawyer and doctors.

    It is all supply and demand. Most doctors I know really dedicate to the profession and helping people. Their profession requires them to study and work hard, so their lives could be miserable contrary to popular belief.

    In a developed country like US, lawyers are important. However, sometimes the society makes them to go to the extreme. It would be better to set up some limit in lawsuit compensation like 500,000. The lawyers will always argue it is not enough money for them to set up the cases (the real reason is it would lower 2 or 3 tax brackets).

    The English professor could be smarter than most professionals. However, they either choose a profession that the society/corporation do not need, or they do it for their own fun/interest.

    Those financial folks making 200K (with bonus) on the first two years could be history. It is good to encourage our best minds to some professions that would benefit the society.

    Bill Gates and his likes still would argue to have more H1 visas. Their aim is to lower their research expenses.

    We need to take out ‘geek’ from our vocabulary to encourage the next generation to be in science, so we can continue to lead the world in this field. The stem cell research is a good start although we lose about 6-8 years already.

    The government should tell our high school studentss which jobs will be demanding in next 5-10 years.

    I started looking for jobs during a recession. I got one as a programmer even I only took one specific course and I could not speak English. While most my peers were pumping gas or Xeroxing stuff for me, I’ve a professional job for my entire career without a layoff – no bragging but just demonstrating a point). If the students like to select something interesting but not needed from the society, it is his/her choice.

    In China, having sex with one below 14 is death penalty. Effective but inhuman by US’s yardstick. I do not know whether it applies if the aggressor is a female.

  21. berlinf Says:

    Tony, sorry if I took your joke too seriously, but I don’t like the suggestion that Americans automatically become sexually attractive to women of other countries by just being Americans. That’s a fantasy. These nurses may just try to be nice and helpful for the premium prices you paid. So there may not be a need to read too much into it.

    The talk about useful professions that society needs is an interesting topic. Last year I read a book called “University, Inc” saying that university is getting increasingly tailored to the needs of its “customers”, not necessary students as future employees, but also donors. I believe this is also part of the argument by the German professor who protest against cutting German departments to have Chinese programs or Japanese programs because the latter are more useful than German now. Schools are not factories, producing nuts and bolts to keep the society machine running. They are also in the business of making a better person. That’s why English professors are of no less value than lawyers who make much more.

    Yeah, it is a choice for any individual, but it is also a choice to respect the value they bring to the society at large.

  22. TonyP4 Says:

    Again, sorry to inform and ‘disappoint’ you that I was born in Hong Kong with yellow skin and a US citizen now. May be we have to ask the Admin to have a profile of the poster? A racist joke from a black is acceptable, but not from a white guy.

    The joke is partly true though. I remember my one hand was on cement and I was pretty helpless to protect myself. 🙂

    Should universities be factories or not? Interesting topic. When I see a lot of graduates from Art school are still Xeroxing paper, I can see the argument from the other side. Does Xeroxing paper contribute more to the society than programming?

  23. berlinf Says:

    Tony, that surprises but does not disappoint me. You do write such good English that I thought you are a native American. You’ll need to give some credit to your English professor for your English, instead of turning against him or her when it comes to the valuation of professions:-)

  24. Ted Says:

    @TonyP4: I think the nurses were actually part of a package to get me to have my surgery at the hospital though our encounters involved nothing more pillow arranging and IV’s. They were dying to operate on a foreigner and I would likely have been one of the first in the area to undergo a major operation. I was pitched the surgery several times and in the end they told me the whole thing would cost 5,000 RMB and asked that I appear in some commercials. The final bill back in the good old US… $17,000.

    For any Chinese out there hoping to cater to foreigners make sure your translators are top notch. Instead of telling me the procedure would be orthroscopic they told me something along the lines of “The doctors will not open your body. They will cut you in many places and watch TV during the operation.”

  25. TonyP4 Says:


    It is $1K instead of $17K. Young and beautiful nurses (usually opposite in US) is a big bonus. What a bargain! Hope your insurance would pick up most. I got the minimum coverage when I was in college in US.

    Hope you watched the same movie (rated X) as Stephen Chow in 007 – that really works, at least for one muscle. 🙂

    As Steve said, you should not have the same problem when you’re in Tier I cities, but it will be more expensive.

    You’re ideal target for advertising. They always need a young, handsome foreigner to advertise. You could bargain on the fees – I would start $100 US. Give them a before pose, and then a after pose if you still survive. 🙂

    The stem cell treatments seem to be successful in China. However, the web is flooded with the testimonials that are quite counter effective.

    I included some of your jokes in my blog http://tonyp4joke.blogspot.com/. Hope you do not mind.

  26. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Tony #20:
    that’s an interesting point. In 2009, what is the purpose of “university”? Is it still the bastion for higher learning and intellectual exploration? Or is it a necessary step in finding a decent job/career? And whatever the answers might be to those questions in a North American construct, would the answers be any different in China?

    I can’t speak for CHina from experience. Based on the comments of others, on the one hand it seems that much of China needs an improvement in basic education, so higher education is really a pipe-dream of no current relevance. On the other hand, some have suggested that university enrollment is on the increase at least in urban areas, and at least for those with the foundation and the means, university education is becoming increasingly sought after.

    I’m a pragmatic. So when I was in school, I often wondered what someone would do with a BA in English Lit. That such programs continue to exist, to me at least, suggests that there’s still a demand for learning just for learning’s sake. For me, however, there was no point in studying something if it didn’t provide me with applicable skills/knowledge that I could translate into a job.

    WHen I was growing up, going to university was not a question. The expectation was that I was going to university, full-stop. These days, I think it is just as practical to go to a college to learn a trade/skill/profession, as it is to get a Ph.D in basket-weaving.

  27. HJG Says:

    I am SHOCKED that no one has rambled on about the evils of the Canadian health care system? I mean, I love Canada, and I do love the universal health care system too, but it is also so inefficient despite the high input. Here follows some true personal experiences that I am willing put my hand down and swear on in any court.

    My father had kidney stones once (though we didn’t know what it was at the time) and was in so much pain that he couldn’t stand. We rushed him to the emergency in one of the largest hospitals in British Columbia (the one in New Westminster on Columbia street, the name escapes me at the moment). We got there at like 10pm ish? There he waited the whole night and saw the doctor for like fives minutes at 5 in the morning, by the time he was pretty much fine (no more pain). And that was the end of the story. One nurse suggested painkillers, though couldn’t provide any for policy reasons? So I had begged for aspirin/tylenol from fellow patients in the emergency room.

    My dad again. He has chronic Hep B and once some of his tests were funny. Our family doctor tried to find him a liver specialist, that took like a few months. He finally got to see the specialist, who suspect that he may have developed liver cirrhosis, so gave him more tests. By the time he got all his tests and get to see the specialist again, it was half a year later. And yes, it’s really because of the specialist is so “booked”. My dad kind of jokingly said that it’s enough time for him to die and wrap up funeral costs.

    My mom’s best friend, she married a Canadian and moved to BC like in the late eighties/early nineties. She got pregnant and on her due date she went to her doctor. Though it was the due date, but she didn’t seem to be in labor, so the doctor just told her to go home and wait. I don’t know too much details, other than the babies were born too late and suffered oxygen deficiency. One was born dead, the other was kept in those intensive care unit (in a glass box to be blunt) and died after a fortnight. Twin boys. When I told this story to my Chinese friend (whose father is a doctor and simply DESPISES the Chinese health system), she was shocked that no legal actions were pursued. In her words, “in China you would see family with coffins sitting outside of hospitals”.

    My strategy for dealing with Canadian health care system? Don’t ever give yourself the need. I try not to get sick and I take down flu, fever, etc with herbal medicine bought in China. I visited the doctors like three times in the span of 8 years—-to tests for Hep B and get extra doses of vaccine since I am exposed to the disease. Now I’m in US, but haven’t tested the system yet. I am in a uni, so I hear it’s generally good…

    So. Honestly, there is no perfect system. You only realize the pains of the system when you are in it.

  28. TonyP4 Says:

    HJG, I did two times recently at FM.

    Universal health care is good and bad as most systems are. Usually Canadians adopt what works in US, but not this time. Some die because the system does not allow them certain treatments or they’re in the waiting list too long.

    US has a lot of holes in the current system. When you go to emergency, you’re automatically covered in most states, even you’re illegal aliens. Not so as a regular doctor’s visit for the same health problem. The poor in Mass is pretty much covered except dental for adults.

    My proposal, ideal but not practical or too many politicians/purists twisting my arm… A safety net for basic treatment for all. The better coverage is paid for by individual. My point is to encourage folks to work hard, make more money and pay their own health coverage. Nothing special, noble – just common sense.

    The Federal government did have a work program requiring the able poor to work, but it fails miserably. If it is not enforced, it is only good for politicians to get votes.

  29. Ted Says:

    @Tonyp4: Insurance covered it only after about 6 months of haggling so in the end each system lived up to its stereotype.

  30. Leo Says:

    I am in Germany. I can tell you my experience. Here it is supposely a social democracy, supported by a high tax rate, high technology, and world-famous pharmaceutical firms, hence a model for the rest of the world. When I was first time seriously ill here, I had a traveller’s insurance, so I was registered as a “private” patient. The doctors immediately suggested to me all kinds of expensive treatments. I had to persuade them that my insurance was not that “private”. Then I could not believe my eyes, they checked every page of my insurance booklet next to my operation table. Then they informed me, when I was lying on the table, that all the expensive treatments were cancelled. It was virtually a caricature of capitalism.

    If you have a public insurance here in Germany, they basically always tell you you are healthy until you are gonna immediately die. Two of my German acquaintences were killed in medical accidents. A very close Chinese friend fell ill during a business trip here and the doctors kept telling her she was OK. She suffered seriously on the return trip. When back home, the Chinese doctors told her that she was lucky that she had not been killed during the return flight.

    Yes, here the medical institutions are well-staffed, modern, friendly, and clean of corruption, but somehow I have to turn from time to time back to the crowded, dirty, backward, brutal, corrupt, Chinese system, to save my life.

  31. txema Says:

    El mejor seguro medico esta en Espa

  32. Jim Says:

    I’ve got to ask this: As a Canadian, I keep hearing “In Canada, you pay high tax, but health care is free.” over and over. So, I did the math. I chose Maine, US and New Brunswick, Canada. The state and the province are about the same size, physically and socioeconomically. I looked up the various federal and state/provincial income tax rates (gotta love Maine – a flat rate!) and used a fairly affluent single person making $75,000 in local funds. Here are the totals:

    Mr Maine: $21,312 (State $6,375 + Federal $14,937)
    Mr Canuck: $22,845 (Provincial $9,196 + Federal $13,649)

    Granted, these are raw numbers – I guess “zero deductions” would be a good name for them.

    But still – if we pay more tax than the Americans, is there some magic that the average Joe uses to turn $21,000 into a lot less? (And, if so, how much of that is chewed up by personal health coverage costs?)

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