Tuesday, March 23, 2010

healthcare...and then some!

The U.S finally pulled through a landmark bill that addresses its much pressing healthcare issues. I don’t understand the minute details of the bill but what I do glean from reports and news bytes is that the bill would place the government as a decisive guarantor and executor of basic health care. The bill itself has a long and polarizing history; previous attempts on reform were scuttled still-born by crafty maneuvers from healthcare industry lobbyist. But a determined President finally came through on his promise of change!

And change, one hopes, it will be.

One cannot help compare.

Out here, other than over-the-counter generic types, all meds are purchased only with a valid prescription signed off by registered doctor. To acquire the prescription, one needs to be evaluated by the doctor; the appointment itself could easily cost a cool $50. The only way to offset this cost would be to have health insurance for which one pays an annual premium. Even with this insurance, one would still pay something like $20 and the agency would cover the rest. Now this one is for the most basic check-up and prescription facility. Multiply the dynamics if one needed hospitalization or even surgery. For reference, a friend's son was hospitalized for a night and the charges rounded off to about $13000.00. Insurance kicked in to offset the cost.

Back home, an average family can, more or less, have access to these facilities. Quality may be abegging, waiting lines at the OPD may be long, but the basic healthcare needs are accessible. Doctors are integral components of the wider community (I still hope) rather than line-personnel in a healthcare industrial factory. Margins, I hope again, are determined by accessible and effective health services rather than corporate profits.

While not to suggest easy stereotypes in my comparison, I remember once when I fell short on my attendance in college. The only way I could enroll for the examinations that year was if I produced a medical report to validate the 30+ days I was absent. A very resourceful friend, in the same situation as I was in, took me to a rundown kiosk (!!!) near SRCC. On entering, we noticed the only thing without dust on it was the old doctor himself. Aged to a shriveled grey, he seemed to not have plied his trade for the better part of the last few decades.

“Ha beta, kya chahiye?” he asked.

“We need a medical report to make up for our attendance.”

“Achha, how much money do you have?”

We dug into our pockets and took out a few crumpled notes. “Sir, we have eighty rupees.”

“Achha, what sickness shall I give you?”

Both my friend and I did make it through the examinations that year!!