Friday, April 24, 2009

Emergency Room Visit Abroad...

Last week my family returned from a two week vacation in Israel. We had a nice time, but one night we had to rush to the emergency room with our three year old son who woke up and had difficulty breathing (all is well now, not to worry). What I want to share with you is this: although we had no local insurance, the entire visit cost us $140 and took less than two hours. Compare this to a similar trip we made about 4 years ago when my older son - two years old at the time -  fell in the bath and hit his head (again, all is wellnow). During that visit, we had full insurance coverage, and visited a well respected hospital - Stanford University Hospital, to be exact. That visit cost us hundreds of dollars out of pocket... and let me clarify, during both visits our sons received nothing more than an examination by an emergency room doctor.

I think something is very wrong here. Our health care system is plainly not working.

Israel has a national health care system, which is funded by a 5% employment tax. Health care services are provided by a number of privately owned health care groups, which compete amongst themselves for patients. Each citizen chooses one of these organizations and can then receive service only from his chosen group. Government mandates which services, drugs and treatments are covered by the national insurance and each provider must provide these as a minimum. Folks can also purchase supplementary insurance to cover items that are not covered by the main program. 

I don't know if this is a perfect system (probably not), but I think that there may be something for us to learn from this system.

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frugal zeitgeist said...

First of all, I'm glad your son recovered completely. Breathing episodes are scary.

One secondary reason I was so overjoyed to become a dual Canadian citizen was because of Canada's national health insurance. I have some risk factors for cancer; if I develop cancer, I am not at all confident that I could get treated in the US without becoming uninsurable. If that happens, I will pack up and move to Toronto or Vancouver with no hesitation. Canada's system - as well as many other universal health care systems - has its problems, but at least treating a catastrophic illness won't cause a sick person to go bankrupt.

(Let me clarify that I would in no way take advantage of Canada's health care system without living there and paying taxes. It sure is nice to have it as a backup option, though.)

Shadox said...

Isn't it sad that we need to have a "back-up" even though we are fully insured? Insurance against our insurance...