Is your country’s health care system an egregious scam that bilks patients out of their money?

Mine is.

I didn’t have a blog post topic planned for today, but a bill that showed up in my mailbox changed that in a hurry.

I’ve been talking about this anecdotally to friends for years, so let’s get into it. I’ll start with my story about visiting an emergency room in Bangkok, Thailand.

 

What’s the Opposite of Sticker Shock?

If you think a trip to the ER in a developing country will be a guaranteed nightmare, think again.

My wife is from Thailand, so I should know more than the average American about that particular country. Certain things, however, I’ve had to learn along the way.

In 2013, I was visiting my wife’s family with her, but I got sick right before I left. Nothing more exciting than taking 22 hours’ worth of consecutive flights with a developing sinus infection. Good times!

By the time I arrived in Thailand, I knew I’d need something for my sinuses. I told my wife, and she said, We have to go to the hospital.

Hospital? Oh, no, no, no. This is just a sinus infection. You can imagine my horror at the thought. I pictured a typical American ER, filled with dour patients waiting for hours on end—the whole nine yards.

Much to my surprise, within a short while I found myself seated across from a pleasant medical doctor who provided multiple prescriptions—including an allergy med in case my symptoms were from exposure to some local flora—and then, after a quick detour to the hospital pharmacy for said medications, we were out the door.

Total time: 45 minutes.

Total out-of-pocket cost: about 50 bucks.

 

Cha-Ching! Let’s Get Money from an Insurance Company—And from that Patient.

So, back to today’s bill.

Three visits to an orthopedic doctor’s office. Two cortisone shots, one physical therapy appointment.

Guess how much. Go ahead.

Five hundred? A thousand?

Try $2,600.

I know I’m getting old, because I’ve bought cars that cost less than that. But really? Two—actually, closer to three—grand?

I called them up because there was an error on the bill, though not one that would change the total by much. And, of course, my out-of-pocket cost is still several hundred bucks, even with insurance. The nice lady had a conversation with me about “adjustments” they made after I commented about the egregious amount the doctor charges for a consultation.

Let’s see: he charges a $600 office fee to the insurance company for that glorious 45 seconds he spent with me. But then, the nice lady says, it was adjusted by a whole $475!

Right, so really, he “only” charged $125 for the office visit, if you look at it that way.

I don’t look at it that way.

As I see it, he charged $125 for a 45-second consultation. Let’s be generous: call it a full minute.

I did the math. Sixty seconds multiplied by $125 is $7,500 per hour.

Yes, I’m retiring to Thailand with my wife one day. And I cannot wait to get out of our broken, price-gouging, for-profit garbage healthcare system.

story

The Power of Story

It’s been a noisy week in Tampa… In the mid-1990s, I felt like I had a surplus of free time. A new transplant to Florida, I worked a menial job in a mortgage company, spent my evenings tightening up two out of my three Great American Novels, and trying to live a bit...
weird

And Now, Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Now that I’ve reached the latter half of my sixth decade, I increasingly hear myself begin sentences “Back in the day…” or “I remember when….” It’s weird. In our eternally youth-obsessed culture, growing old itself is just plain weird.  And the current pandemic has...
punches

Roll With The Punches, Baby!

Today is just one of those Mondays. I got a letter from the IRS that said they "believe there's a miscalculation" in my return. So that big $300 refund I was planning on receiving? Fuhgeddaboutit. But hey, at least I don't owe them anything, and they're not auditing...
asia

Adventures In Southeast Asia

“A writer never has a vacation. For a writer, life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.” ― Eugene Ionesco I first began visiting Southeast Asia over twenty years ago, so it probably comes as a surprise to readers that I haven't written about my...
announcing

Announcing The Whizzers Launch Team!

This weekend, I got my edited copy of Whizzers back from editing and sent out my monthly newsletter announcing the formation of the Whizzers Launch Team. Stuff is a-happening! As Mike Ehrmantraut once said to Jessie Pinkman, "Big doings today." Of course, that...
presidents

Presidents’ Day: Crappy Holiday Or The Crappiest Holiday?

“The buck stops here.” —Harry S. Truman “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” —John F. Kennedy “I don’t take any responsibility at all.” —That guy   I’m old—so old I remember when we celebrated George Washington’s...
authenticity

Putting Yourself Out There

I see a lot of social media posts these days about "authenticity." The idea is that clients and customers, and potential clients and customers, really appreciate your authenticity—mainly because so many fake people have tried to sell them something they didn't want to...
wrap

… Aaaaand That’s a Wrap

​How many of you will be glad to wrap up 2020? Can we have a show of hands? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Man, oh man, did anyone have a great year? I suppose a few billionaires were sheltered enough from the storm, or profited heavily from the work-at-home trend, that...
20/20

2020 Vs. 20/20: What We Saw Then, What We See Now

Grinding through the first few months of 2021, I presume nearly everyone wants to shut the door on 2020. After all, the tragic COVID-19 pandemic and—at least in the United States—chaotic election drama left millions exhausted, overwhelmed, and just plain traumatized....
Whizzers

Talking About A Metaphysical Work

On July 21st, I launched my fifth full-length work of fiction, Whizzers. I spent years working on about the first 30% of the novel, then burned through the remaining 70% from late 2018 through March 2019.So now it's the thing on the front burner. When I finished my...