For many people, getting sick and having to go to the hospital is a terrifying experience—especially if you don’t have health insurance. Living in America, it’s almost impossible to get insurance that’s reasonable and covers a lot. The proof? Just look at Kevin Bozeat’s story about his experience when he was admitted into a hospital in Taiwan.
Bozeat told Bored Panda that he was nervous when he was studying in Taiwan and had insane stomach pains and began vomiting.
“The last thing I ate before getting sick was KFC, but I don’t think that was it because I got sick less than an hour after eating. The incubation period was too fast. Rather, I ate some roast duck at a night market the night before. I think that was the culprit.”
Eventually, doctors diagnosed him with a stomach virus and gave him IV fluids. However, he also needed blood tests and an ultrasound to check for gallstones. In America—this would cost anyone an arm and a leg. But, Bozeat said in Taiwan, he only paid $80. He shared his story on Facebook and said:
A few days ago my stomach began to hurt. Thinking it would pass, I went home to try and rest for the night. A bit later I vomited. I thought that was the end of it.
But for the rest of the night, I kept vomiting almost every 30-40 minutes. Even after my stomach was completely empty, I kept vomiting. Soon it was nothing but stomach fluid and bile. I tried to drink water to stay hydrated, but I kept throwing it up, no matter how hard I tried to keep it down.
By 3am I had severe stomach cramps, my body kept trying to vomit even though there was nothing left. I was dizzy and light-headed. My symptoms showed no signs of abating.
At this point I had to seek medical treatment, I knew I had to go to the hospital.
I wanted to avoid it. I had no idea how different Taiwanese hospitals would be, whether I would be able to find an English speaking doctor, or what it would cost me (my US health insurance has lapsed and I don’t qualify for Taiwanese NHI).
My Taiwanese roommate called a taxi and took me to the ER at NTU Hospital. I was immediately checked-in by an English speaking nurse. Within 20 minutes I was given IV fluids and anti-emetics. They took blood tests and did an ultrasound to ensure it wasn’t gall stones or appendicitis. From there I was given a diagnosis: a particularly severe case of Acute Viral Gastroenteritis (aka the stomach flu). After about 3 hours on an IV, I began to feel slightly better, my nausea disappeared and my stomach began to calm down. I was discharged with a prescription for anti-emetics and pain medication. Each day since I’ve gotten progressively better and am now pretty much back to normal.
The bill for the ER visit?…
Eighty. American. Dollars.
Out of pocket. Full cost. No discounts. No insurance.
At one of the best hospitals in Taiwan.
And if I had NHI, it would have been a fraction of that.
This could have easily cost me hundreds or even thousands in the US without insurance. But here in Taiwan I was able to receive speedy, quality care comparable to what I would have gotten in a US hospital for a relatively small amount of money.
Given this experience, I no longer have a reason to fear or hesitate getting care in Taiwan should I ever need it.
America, it’s time to stop making excuses.
After his story went viral, many people had shared their insights and opinions about the health care system in America and many other countries. In fear of becoming socialized and some people with a small knowledge of other countries’ health care systems, Bozeat decided to clarify some details.
1: Yes, Taiwan has a noticeably cheaper cost of living than the US, healthcare included. However, Taiwan isn’t that cheap. There are places in Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe that are significantly cheaper than Taiwan.”
“2: Taiwan is not a poor country by any measure. Its GDP per capita is higher than Denmark, Austria and Canada.”
“3: Yes, doctors make less here, but it’s still considered a respected middle-class profession. And there seems to be no shortage of them.”
“4: Some people argued that exchange rates mean US$80 is a fortune for a Taiwanese person. No, you just have a poor understanding of numismatics. The exchange rate has nothing to do with the overall cost. Just because $1 Taiwan dollar is US 3¢ doesn’t mean I can live large here. $50 Taiwan dollars won’t even buy you a Big Mac.”
When confronted with the common argument about sky-high taxes needed to fund such a system (whereas spending trillions on military ‘defense’ missions all over the world is somehow justified), Kevin did some calculations to show the reality in Taiwan
“5: Yes, taxes pay for the healthcare here. No, they are not high. Try for yourself: The formula for the NHI monthly premium contribution for a single employed adult is: [your monthly income] x 0.0469 (4.69%) x 0.3 (30%) = Your monthly out-of-pocket healthcare premium.”
“6: It’s not perfect. Not everything is 100% covered. I had a good experience, but I’m sure many people have had [non-financial] medical horror stories here.
“7: This system exists because the Taiwanese government believes that healthcare is a right for all of its citizens, rather than a privilege for those who can afford it. Those aren’t my words, that’s what the Ministry of Health said in its English language brochure. Every Taiwanese citizen and foreign permanent resident is entitled to, and required to enroll in the National Health Insurance Program (NHI). Everyone is covered, regardless of employment status, no one is uninsured, no one ever goes bankrupt due to medical bills. I have yet to meet a Taiwanese person who wasn’t satisfied with, or even outright proud of their healthcare system. My expat friends praise it, even those from countries with universal healthcare systems of their own.”
After seeing his post on Facebook, many people decided to share their own experiences with international health care systems in other countries.
Obviously, Bozeat’s story opens up the conversation to a bigger, global issue. Many people in America are unaware of how things work in other countries around the world—especially those with universal health care. While spending hundreds to thousands of dollars for treatment is the norm here, other countries handle their citizen’s health in different ways.
Maybe it’s time for America to wake up and learn.
h/t: Bored Panda.