Thank God I Didn’t Have Surgery in America
In 2012 I was living in the US and working at a job that didn’t include health insurance.
Instead, I had to choose and buy my own coverage.
The plan I selected gave me access to basic health and emergency services with a $1,000 deductible. I only picked this plan because at $2,500 for 12 months, it was the cheapest option that also satisfied the requirements of my work visa.
Only about a month after moving to the US, I caught the flu and decided to see a GP to get a prescription for top shelf medication that would treat the symptoms.
When I left the doctor’s office, I couldn’t believe I was walking out with a $300 bill that didn’t even include the medicine.
What made me even more shocked was that my American friends weren’t only unsurprised; they thought I should count myself lucky.
Is it a Hospital or a Company?
It’s no secret that the American health care system has become completely unaffordable in the last two decades, although there are a lot of articles out there that could explain this crisis a lot better than I could.
*The podcast ‘An Arm and a Leg’ does a great job diving into the depths of how far the health care system has plummeted.
It takes almost no searching at all to find heartbreaking stories of life or death decisions made in America every day when people have to choose between health and money.
I was at the hospital today, having my finger re-dressed for the 6th time, and I took a serious moment to recognize how lucky I was.
My Chinese friend who’d helped explain my situation to the nurse was frustrated that I was paying as much as $12 per visit to have my wound re-dressed.
I thought he was joking, but then I remembered that he’d probably spent a lot less for similar procedures in his home town.
I went home after my appointment and calculated all the costs I had accumulated since going to the emergency room two weeks ago to have the surgery performed on my finger.
In case you don’t know, my surgery was performed in Shanghai, China.
Roughly the costs have been -
- Surgery to remove the felon from my finger — $40
- A one week round of antibiotics — $30
- Follow-up visits to have my wound re-dressed — $12 x 7 = $84
Total = $154
The total cost of my recovery including surgery and follow-up visits were less than what I paid to have a doctor in Florida put a depressor on my tongue and have me say “aaaaaahhhh”.
So in the spirit of comparing Chinese health care with that of the US, I’ve decided to conduct a little experiment.
I’ve decided to try and discover what my operation might have cost if I’d had in done in the US, specifically in Florida where I would have had it done if it were still 2012.
To conduct this experiment I found FairHealthCustomer.org, a service that exists to help Americans guesstimate what their upcoming procedures might cost.
Below are the procedures I’d need, including their relevant codes in-case you’d like to investigate further. (Apologies if the codes I picked are incorrect).
- 26011 — Drainage of finger abscess — $5,632
- 97605 — Negative pressure wound therapy: less than 50 sq cm — $584 x7 = $4,088
- Antibiotics — approximately $9 — $15
Total = $9,729
This comparison doesn’t include healthcare coverage that exists in either country.
When coverage is added, some of this cost may be absorbed by the insurance provider. Although for nearly half of all Americans, the cost would fall on patient.
I haven’t written this story because I want to disparage America or Americans; instead, my goal is to carry on a dialogue that protests the ongoing decent of healthcare into business.
Business doesn’t care about peoples ailments or conditions, because business exists to make money at any cost.
It’s cold, calculating, and fails when emotion or empathy get in the way of the bottom line. In appropriate circumstances, business is a beautiful and essential part of society. However, healthcare was never meant be run this way. Healthcare exists to put people and their wellbeing above everything else.
We’re so accustomed to American healthcare being the butt of jokes that patients being turned out of hospitals for not being able to pay is literally a staple of modern sitcoms.
We’ve normalized it, but it’s destroying people’s lives.
By bringing attention to the injustice caused by an imbalance in health access, we can maybe make a difference.
Americans should look around the world and see how other people are being cared for. This is an example of when it’s good to compare your situation to others.
Take care of yourself, and don’t become accustomed to your situation just because you’ve been conditioned to. You deserve more.