I’ve had foot drop for over a month now, which I’m finally trying to get treated. Last week I had a family friend who’s a doctor send me to a neurologist, who confirmed I have foot drop and sent me to another neurologist. Today I was supposed to see the other neurologist in order to do an EMG, which would confirm what exactly is wrong with my foot.
I made my way to the hospital and produced my insurance card. Only my insurance card is a Columbia student health plan, and the neurologists in question are at NYU.
Now, the single-payer health care systems of Britain and Canada have something called gatekeeping. That means that to see a specialist, you need to get a referral from a GP first, which is supposed to make people go to specialists less. The US officially doesn’t have that, but whoever wrote my insurance policy didn’t get the memo; it turned out I have to have a referral from a Columbia primary care physician.
Not wanting to also get acquainted with the American bankruptcy system, I asked the administrator if she could try getting a referral over the phone. She said it was unlikely considering that I’d never set foot at Columbia’s health center, but she’d try. Only Columbia is closed on account of election day, so she couldn’t get an answer, and I couldn’t get my EMG.
The administrator then rescheduled my appointment for next week, which means that the best case scenario is that I’ll get my EMG two weeks after I initially scheduled my appointment. The American health care system managed to produce that wait without any rationing, and despite having a per capita health spending higher than this of Canada and Britain combined.
There’s a myth around the US that it has the best health care system in the world. How the best health care system in the world has a 6.5 infant mortality rate and 0.7% HIV prevalence rate I’m not sure.
More sophisticated supporters of the status quo say that the US has the best health care in the world if you’re insured. This is again false; I’m insured, and the number of bureaucratic hoops I have to jump through to get health care is amazing. Less anecdotally, Americans visit doctors less than Frenchmen, and have longer waits for life-saving procedures than Canadians (link).