Getting sick really sucks, no matter where you are. However, there are certain places in the world where the bill for emergency care is a killer blow that magnifies your misery 100 fold, so you better make sure your insurance is top notch.
Image credits: Kevin Bozeat
Luckily for 25-year-old American student Kevin Bozeat, Taiwan is not one of those places. With his U.S. health insurance lapsed, and not qualifying for the local national healthcare system, he feared the worst when he was rushed to ER with severe stomach pains and 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, Kevin told Bored Panda.“Rather, I ate some roast duck at a night market the night before. I think that was the culprit.”
The care itself was swift, professional and quite regulation; IV fluids, blood tests and an ultrasound to check for gallstones. He was diagnosed with a stomach virus, given some prescription medicine and sent on his way, he would be just fine.
Image credits: Kevin Bozeat
Still, in the back of his mind, he knew that back home this would set him back a couple of thousand dollars, at least. What kind of bill was waiting for him, now he was on the road to recovery? “Eighty. American. Dollars,” he wrote. “Out of pocket. Full cost. No discounts. No insurance. At one of the best hospitals in Taiwan.”
Image credits: Wikipedia
Kevin went viral again, this time for happier reasons. His post has been shared over 200k times on Facebook, and has reignited the long-running debate about the criminally inhumane healthcare system in the U.S. Predictably, there were some people who continue to vote against their own interests and live in perpetual fear of the term ‘socialized,’ so Kevin posted an update that clarified a few points and shed light on the way they do things in Taiwan.
“Some were skeptical about the price,” he wrote, “one person thought this was in Thailand, a few made excuses to bash Taiwan’s health system despite them knowing nothing about it. So I thought I would clarify a few things:
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.”
Bringing his well-reasoned rant to an end, Kevin wraps up with some points that are pretty hard to argue with. In the U.S., universal healthcare is a heavily politicized subject. One that is skewed by powerful lobbies and special interests that benefit from the status quo. As usual, it is the average person that suffers the consequences of greed and short-sightedness. I just hope that I never need emergency care in the USA.
“Taiwan is less wealthy than the US, yet it spends less and gets more out of its healthcare system,” he summarises. “We see the same story repeat itself in every other developed nation. This debate is all so tiresome because there is no debate. Universal healthcare works, it can be done here, it can be done in any country with sufficient resources. All we need is political will and an implementation plan.”
“Pardon my French but, America, get your head out of your ass, and stop making excuses.”
People had their say and shared their own experiences
Kevin’s story holds a mirror to an uncomfortable part of American society, one which baffles foreigners and leaves many Americans in a kind of patriotic denial. “I think Americans tend to live in a bubble of sorts, many don’t know how things work in the rest of the world (I think only 36% of us own passports),” he later added to Bored Panda. “Special interests exaggerate the negatives of universal healthcare and never mention the benefits, its always about taxes and wait times, never about outcomes.”
“Sadly, many Americans believe them because they have never been to exposed to different perspectives. My story is small, but I got tons of messages from other Americans who got sick abroad and were pleasantly surprised at the care they received.”
“I definitely think the conversation is changing though, people are opening their eyes. They’re fed up. Many presidential candidates are making universal healthcare part of their campaign promises.”
“However, I don’t have confidence that the political will exists to implement it, or that it can be done well.”