Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Curious Case of American Health Care System

Well for the last one week I am in United States of America, traveling from Washington DC to Newyork. This happened when I was in DC. On the first day of the conference I was mighty thrilled during the registration when they gave us a medical insurance card for 4 days and I casually commented to a fellow participant 'wow this is a good motivation to fall sick'.
Little did I realize God the almighty has tuned all his/her ears only to my pleas. My first encounter with the American Health System was quick enough when a fellow participant an Indian Judge had watering in her eyes which later turned into blurred vision in one of the eye. Armed with our medical insurance card we rushed to the minute clinic of a CVS pharmacy. The doctor there was very sweet and kind... put a of lot eyes drops,checked the eye inside out with all possible devices and than gallantly declared that he cannot treat it and we need to go to a eye specialist.So we humbly asked is there anything that we could do in the meantime.
And lo and behold the doctor opens his book and also the Google search engine...searches desperately for temporary solutions and then finally reads out that we may try hot compress on the eyes.
In the 20 minutes we spend with him, 10 mins was for documentation( which he said he has to complete), 6 mins to read from his books and 4 mins for the eyes. And after all that he says the insurance does't work. The Honb'le judge paid 62$ just to be told she has to go to a eye specialist !
12 hours later I developed severe pain on my knees...I just could not lift my knee...panic set in when I could not walk even after taking 2 pain killers. Well the wonderful organizers were worried and they rushed me and also the judge to the emergency care in a big hospital nearby. There again I was treated with some amount of compassion when a male nurse took my vitals etc...wrote on several papers my history etc. And after half an hour of waiting they took to the ward. In the ward they promptly put a identification mark on my wrist and then they left promising that the doctor will come soon to check.
Litlle did I know here in America "in a moment" could mean anything from 5mins to 2hrs. I waited and waited for some wonderful doctor to come. In the meantime I see a lot of doctors and nurses seemingly busy running around...not sure where( there were not too many patients anyway)
Finally losing patience after 2hrs I called a nurse and asked her when a doctor will come and check me. She in a very important tone told me that they had many other 'sick' people and they will attend to me only after some of those priorities are cleared.
Finally a doctor came,checked my kneed from all angles gave me some very serious looks and told me that there is a need to take an X ray under a scan as he suspects a blood clot. Since I did not look very impressed he continued and said this is a dangerous situation as the clot may got to my heart( Oh my gosh I may have hear attack) and then he said he will be back 'in a moment'
Again the moment streched to an half an I had lost any interest in getting my knees better I rather had an heart attack than while away my time in a Amercian Hospital.
I called for the doctor and I told him I want to leave...he was very upset and wrote in his notes that if I had a chest pain or breathlessness I should rush back to the emergency care...I was now just desperate to leave...I came out of the ward and who do I see still sitting in the reception 'the Indian Judge'.Even after 3 and a half hours they did not think her eye problem was a priority!
What did I learn? Never fall sick in USA,and if by bad luck you fall sick make sure you have a insurance that works otherwise you will pay through your nose just for a thoroughly useless check up. I wonder the fate of millions of migrants in America who do not have health insurance.
And finally I will never ever complain about Indian Hospitals not even a Indian Government Hospital...


  1. Welcome to America Sunitha!!! This is it what u experience here about the hospitals... and the insurance! No words regarding the wait too... Hospitals in India are anytime the BEST. Your knees will be fine in a few days. Its because of the long journey. Hope your judge friends eyes are good. Have a "healthy" visit here and all the best for the conference!

  2. Sunitha sorry to hear about your troubles; I personally feel its of bad luck/wrong timing. I know for a fact if you dont have insurance you can still be taken care of in public hospitals for sure; granted it may take time but you will def receive the best care that they can provide you even if you have no income; personally its the best thing that you can get by with basic necessities here. I know your experience wasnt great but i hope the sway you away from the US health system... take care and enjoy your time here!

  3. Well,I only hope, we don't end up with a similar set of problems in Bharat as Insurance sector opens up & doctors start treating us all on the basis of the type of Health Insurance cover we have paid for.

    As I said in my blog post @,opting for health insurance is the best & perhaps the only motivation to remain in the pink of health !

  4. sunitha ,

    I would say , its one of a incident , and cannot be made as sweeping generalization , you may have bad or even terrible experiences even in India or US or any where , but generalizing it might send some wrong signal .

    ( disclaimer : i don't live in US nor advocate for their health system )

  5. I've had exactly the same experience here time and time again. My son cut his fingertip nearly off and we waited six hours for him to be seen. Finally the doctor used superglue around the outside to stick it back on. We have great insurance but the bill was still several hundred dollars. In the end when we were done we said thanks we've got to go and they were all "you can't leave until you're discharged!" I asked how much longer, and reminded them we'd been there six hours already. They said "in a while, we have sick patients to care for!" After another half hour we just left without our discharge papers. I'd say you had a typical US healthcare system experience. Do you see why we say the system is broken? Even people with excellent insurance get horrible treatment. And if you asked any of the doctors or nurses there they'd say you got excellent care, too. They have no clue.

    It's a bad idea to get sick here. I've been reading lately about Dr. Paul Farmer and the organization Partners in Health. I think I'd rather go to their clinic in central Haiti than be treated here.

  6. The other bad thing is that they have a monopoly on medicine, so if you need something like antibiotics or prescription anti-inflammatories you must go see a doctor to get them. I've seen young people get pneumonia and wait weeks before they go because they don't have insurance and it will cost two or three hundred dollars for one visit to the doctor and a round of antibiotics. And they can't afford it. It's really terrible.

  7. I think the problem was in both instances you went to the wrong place. It's totally understandable for someone new to the country, but the organizers should have perhaps guided you better.

    The person you saw at the pharmacy was most probably a pharmacist, not a doctor. Although they are knowledgeable, they are not allowed to prescribe you medicines. You should have gone to a general practitioner. It sounds to me like your friend had allergies, and had you gone to a doctor, a prescription for anti-allergens would have cleared the problem in an hour

    Also, although your problem with your knee must have been very aggravating, it's not an emergency. In the hospitals, they shuffle the order at which they see patients based on the priority of the complaint. Certainly, if you were having a heart attack, you wouldn't want your doctor to be looking at someone's knees, would you?

    Normally, if you have a complaint that can wait a few hours or maybe a day, you go to your general practitioner. In both cases, if you had made an appointment with a doctor (and many doctors do give same-day appointments), you would have to wait at the medical facility a lot less. Certainly, you won't get treated as soon as you walk-in/make a call (you won;t even get that in India), but you would have saved yourself a lot of aggravation if you had gone to the right place

    I think a big factor that contributed to the problem was that the organizers tried to give you a quick fix, not a right fix. perhaps, they were not knowledgeable. I am in DC, and I would gladly helped you. Next time, you are in the states, please do notify your fans.

  8. dont worry all because of the economic recession ... we americans are poor people...
    wee can only loot the wealthy countries like Iraq and survive :)

  9. Really your comments on Health system of America is a concern for all traveller visiting US, i was a part of all this with you all, something need to be done by them.

  10. what i feel is, it is mere a incident that can happen to anyone..anywhere, no matter whether the person is in India or in any other country...this entirely depends on how an individual taking up his/her responsibility which does not depend on the country but on the individual...
    lets hope one day people irrespective of their country will learn worshiping their work..
    @sunita: get well soon..good wishes to you :)

  11. This is how it goes in America. I totally agree with you sunitha. In my 4 year stay I just made 2 visits to the hospital no matter how serious my problem was. For the first time I broke my ankle and went to the doctor and she atleast touched my ankle and examined and then gave a prescription. But for the second time when I went with a stomach pain problem, the lady doctor searched some medicine in their directory and gave a medicine for ear infection. I went to buy this medicine and I found the drug is for ear infection, and CVS pharmacy folks did not even took it back. I should have sued her for wrong prescription. Delays apart, look at her kind of examination they carry on a pateint..simply horrible. Anyways be it in USA or any other Country its much much better to be careful regarding health.

  12. T. R. Reid's book The Healing of America convinces us that the Indian system is better. The author, after touring the whole world in search of a cure, finally gets healed in India.

    Here is an excerpt from Washington Post:

    Reid checked himself into the famous Arya Vaidya Chikitsalayam, an institution that he describes as the Mayo Clinic of traditional Indian medicine.... After weeks of this treatment, Reid lost nine pounds and became a very mellow man. He also discovered that the pain in his shoulder was gone and that he had much greater mobility in his arm. The cost of this therapy came to $42.85 per day -- far less than that of the invasive total-shoulder anthroplastic surgery recommended by Reid's American doctor, who couldn't say what replacing his shoulder might cost after the various insurance adjusters were done.

  13. Madam,
    I came across this news item "Sanitary napkins for poor women " @ am willing to be a partner if you start this venture for your inmates.


  14. Hi Sunita,
    It is objective and true to the point...this is the system our indian american education minister is trying to import throuhg the education bill pending in the parliament.....
    The elephant does not know it's size...the tail.....panicker s.a.

  15. Sunita,
    Our Apollos, Wockardts and the likes are in the same league. You will find the same story being repeated here.
    We have a wrong notion that healthcare is about hitech capital equipments these hospitals advertise.
    We are moving towards a big trnsformation and in the worng direction.

  16. great post..i have had very similar experience when i sparined my ankle..even with a very good NY state health insurance which covers everything i had to pay 150 dollars for physiotherapy..and i just got better on my own..i dont think the doctor did anything other thn fill forms..terrible..india is any time better as doctors have much more experience treating so many people

  17. It has become a fashion here in India to blame for anything and everything that India is bad. I have travelled to quite a number of countries and I firmly believe that India is not all that bad as we all portray it to be. There are many such examples as you have quoted in this post. It’s time we all started believing that India is good if not the best! Anything foreign need not be good!

  18. Hello ,

    I have sent you a mail. Please let me know if I can help in anyway.....

  19. Hello Sunitha

    Its been so long since you since you have written a post .....Please tell us what all is happening in your life..

    Ashutosh Singh

  20. I once had a miscarriage in the emergency waiting room of the hospital here in Canada. The moment I reached the hospital, the first question the nurse had was "Do you have enough sanitary napkins". I went through the entire ordeal in the waiting room. After 4-5 hours of going thru excruciating pain and multiple bathroom trips, I finally got summoned inside to be seen by the doctor. My miscarriage was over by then.

  21. the health system in the US is one of the most worse in the world. one friend of mine, who studied in the US, used to do all the check ups back at home during his summer vaccation.

    the health system in UK is better than in the US, but still very very bad. They dont let u see a doctor, as there is severe shortage of doctors. so they send you to a nurse. then u wait and wait, get to see a nurse who tells u need to see a doctor.

    the health system in Germany, Austria, Italy is much better. Normally u wont get ripped off.
    the doctors and the treatment usually are so and so. means often just ok and often not good.
    and sometimes u need to wait long time to even get a appointment.

    whereas in india. once u r ready u spend money (means one u have a good insurance) u will get the best doctor and treatment, without waiting. too long.

    I and many of my family members have made it to a habit that we see doctors and seek treatment in india. the doctors are better there. I dont know why, seems like they have better knowledge there. the treatment is far better. and with less money (compared to foreign countries) u get much better service, no long waitings.

    For smaller issues I treat myself. with pills I have brought from india. and tru search in the internet. thats far less dangerous than going to those doctors. I avoid doctors here.

    Only for emergencies I seek treatment here.

    My advice go to Indian doctors in India!!!

  22. 62 is comparably less in my experience, ;-) as I got a 210 dollars bill for a common cold [without hospitalization] but i didnt have to wait, also my travel health insurance from germany covered all the expenses once i was bak :-)

  23. Want to know more about Americal Health System and Insurace system?

    Check this out

    SICKo is a documentary from Michael Moore that reveals the many failures of the current American health care system.

  24. I have gone through a similar treatment in one of the american hospitals. I had been there for severe stomach ache at 2am. I was finding it difficult to stand because of severe pain.They kept me waiting for 20 mins or so.After that 4 people came in one after the other and asked me the same set of questiones, the most irriting of which was "Can you rate your pain on 1-10 scale, 1 being less pain and 10 being severe pain??"
    I dont know what made them ask this. Couldnt they see I could hardly stand.
    Now this is the sitution when I had visited in Emergency hours.

  25. i heard that many Americans that loose a job can't afford a health insurance. 50% of them want to have their personal necessities than to get a health insurance. i can't believe that some of the Americans are poor to have health insurance.

  26. Rajesh Bothra was born in Mumbai 1968, in Marwari family from a Rajaldesar village in Rajasthan. When he was aged about 16. He decided to quit his further studies, because his ambition was to become an excellent businessman. After quitting his studies he decided to start his business. In Present days his Business is popular by brand name Mercury, which is sold and uses his product Worldwide by common people.