Best Health Care in the World

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).

7 Responses to Best Health Care in the World

  1. SLC says:

    The US has the best health care system in the world if you can afford it, not if you’re insured. If Mr. Levy paid for it out of his own pocket, he would have been treated immediately with no problem.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    Hardly anyone can afford it, and no, even in that case you have to deal with onerous bureaucracy. For example, in Germany, insurance isn’t mandatory, provided you have enough money to pay for medical expenses out of pocket; but only a tiny proportion of the population doesn’t purchase insurance. If I had a few hundred thousand dollars in emergency funds, I’d pay for medical expenses out of pocket without a problem.

  3. Kian says:

    if you come here i can steal ryan’s health card – which doesn’t have his picture on it, and you can just get it done here in a snap! 😀
    thats how we used to get all the americans that worked at camp with us free heath care. …most of us don’t have cards with pictures on it yet – so its no problem to get other people stealing our health care. it works out really well. I’ve used my sisters more than once just so I didn’t have to get a physical… although they do get sort of confused as to why my sister needs so much birth control.
    you should probably look into starting an emergency fund with a few hundred thousand dollars in it alon. shame on you for not having one.

  4. SLC says:

    As I said, the best health care in the world if you can afford it. Mr. Levy can’t afford it. Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

  5. Alon Levy says:

    People who are rich enough to afford every treatment generally get the same level of treatment everywhere in the world. There are specialized doctors who charge exorbitant fees in the US, France, Japan, and Switzerland.

  6. Bushbaptist says:

    I’m sorry to hear of your condition Alon and I hope it gets fixed very soon.
    There is a general myth amongst all of the developed nations that they have the best (insert whatever you like in here) system in the world. But, in reality, they are all varing shades of grey not black and white.

  7. Alon Levy says:

    Sorry for just getting around to you now. Thanks for the sentiments, Bushbaptist – it means a lot.

    And you’re right – this “We’re number 1” pathology is universal. Though Americans tend to be more prone to it than others. At least, they do when they recognize that other countries exist…

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