Wednesday, March 27, 2013

US Citizens: Be Suspicious of Socialized Medicine

Today, I briefly read an article about potential cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. This prompted me to issue this warning for all voting citizens in the US. You should avoid socialized medicine at all expense. This is what I experienced recently in Hungary, where socialized medicine is the norm.

If you work, generally you have health insurance through your job. Ron is officially retired, but we purchase his health insurance through our business. It costs us an outrageous $30 a month. Those with health insurance are assigned a ‘house doctor’. Our house doctor is one block from our apartment. He has office hours half days Monday to Thursday, but they rotate between mornings and afternoons for those who work. Because there are multiple doctors, we are assigned to the doctor who has our particular street within his list of patients. He is young and speaks English, partly due to the medical school here is taught in English only. If we are too ill to make it to the office, a doctor will make a house call, as is customary of house doctors.

Our particular doctor wanted me to get baseline tests after being diagnosed with type II diabetes. He arranged for me to have specialized ophthalmic and cardiac exams in addition to a kidney test. Not certain about these specialists, I took our adopted ‘nephew’ Balázs with me to interpret.

The ophthalmologist only sees diabetic patients on Monday and Thursday mornings from 8 to 10 am, so I actually had to wait a few days before getting in. There were no appointments given out, so I had to wait in line with everyone else. Darn if it didn’t take me twenty minutes to get in to start the exam.  A nurse ran four different tests before putting in the drops to dilate my eyes and then sending me out to wait for my eyes to dilate and also for the doctor.

Once again, I had to wait, this time a full half hour before being called in to see the doctor. After three more tests, he gave me a clean bill of eye health and said in English, he would see me next year. My total waiting time was forty minutes, but the time I spent being examined was close to an hour. I never in my life had to waste that much time with medical staff when I went to the ophthalmologist or any other doctor for that matter, in the US. Generally, I spent over an hour in the waiting room after my appointed time came and went, giving me plenty of time to catch up on my reading.  Balázs barely had time to share what has been happening with him, before they interrupted us to come in.

Getting an appointment with the cardiologist was a bit trickier, because I was only available certain days of the week, making it difficult for the doctor to fit in my schedule. I had to wait two weeks for my appointment. Once the day came, Balázs and I sat around for a good ten minutes before getting in to have the nurse do an EKG. As luck would have it, we had to wait another ten minutes before the cardiologist could see me to read the results. She then performed a cardiac ultrasound herself, not designating it to a tech. This was really strange for me to have a doctor doing this, so I was suspicious as to why. She was happy with the results, but just to make sure she wanted me to have a fitness test in addition. It made me wonder if being healthy was worth all this aggravation. In my mind, I could see a cash register cha-chinging with massive numbers appearing.

With the fitness test two weeks into the future, again to my being difficult with my scheduling issues, the day arrived.  Wired for everything but sound, enough electrodes to make me look like an alien, the tech started the machine. Easy walking, no sweat. That thought came too soon, the elevation increased as did the speed. Tougher pace, but I could keep up. Wrong thought again, minutes later another double dose increase: speed and elevation. Still I was not sweating, but I was panting like a dog in a Turkish sauna. Although the tech kept telling me to let her know if I wanted to stop at any time, I was too stubborn to cave in. I would rather have caved in. Hell, if I had a heart attack on this machine, I was in the right place for it. Finally, it was over. She has difficulty removing the electrodes, because I had doubled over with attempts at catching my breath or anyone else’s. At that point, I would take anyone’s breath before or after breath mints.  They could have photographed me for a pictorial phrase dictionary to put under ‘gasping for air’.

Once I became ambulatory and dressed again, it was time to move down the hall. There we waited for the cardiologist to interpret the results, which in turn Balázs would have to interpret for me. This doctor was old school, having gone to medical school before they switched to an English curriculum, yet she was able to use some words and sentences. What I recognized and Balázs confirmed was that she said my heart was in perfect condition and I should continue with whatever I have been doing. Then she added, she “would be pleased to see me again next year.” I was thinking, “Doc, I will be pleased if I DON’T need to see you before next year.

After all of this run-around getting prodded, poked, stretched, yanked, and cranked, the only thing that would have made this perfect is waiting for the grand total bill for all of these tests and exams. Wait a minute, we have socialized medicine here. There is no bill. All of this was covered 100% with my medical card.  What are we missing out on here? I guess it would be the potential need to have to take a second mortgage on the house to pay for medical bills. Nope, don’t miss it at all.

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