Thursday, April 15, 2010
Taiwan's Awesome Health Care System
We are grateful beyond words for Taiwan's incredible health care system. Here in Taiwan the cost of this complex care for my wife appears unlikely to exceed several hundred US dollars for surgery, pre-surgery tests, and ten days of post-surgical care. A third of that charge is a $6000 NT charge for the morphine drip (I got the expensive version) which the patient must pay for. Heaven knows what would have happened had we faced this problem in the crapshoot that Americans call a health insurance system.
I can't say enough good things about everyone involved -- the nurses were great, the doc totally professional and talented -- and caring, he works 14 hour days yet still spends the time to talk with each patient. We did spend months prior with misdiagnoses, but that occurs in all systems. I don't really think it is a doctor issue so much as a specialist issue; misdiagnoses are common in all professions. The difference is that when a car mechanic or a computer repairman misdiagnoses your car or computer, it doesn't scream at you in pain or wake up in the middle of the night bleeding all over the sheets.
An interesting wrinkle we discovered is that when you have a serious illness the government gives you a special health insurance card, the Serious illness Card, which means that you get lower health fees forever after. Shouldn't we have to pay slightly more, to help amortize system costs? No wonder the system is suffering funding problems.
In Taiwan patients' families must stay with them in the hospital to help out with the care. This saves the NHI a bundle of money on patient care, since fewer nurses, assistants, and volunteers are required as a result. A whole system has evolved for this. In the hospital we stayed at the chairs in each ward folded out to become beds for family members, and the nurses are used to cooperating. If the patient has no family available, there are people who hang out around the hospital and hire themselves out as patient caregivers. So my kids and I took turns sleeping at the hospital to care for my wife.
I was here in Taiwan before this system was implemented. After using it for more than a decade, all I can say is that single payer is the only rational choice.
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