Thailand Redux: Medical (not Medicinal) Tourism, Caveat Emptor…

IMG_0507No, this is not an article about ayahuasca tourism, all the rage for spirit-seekers and jungle-trippers of all shapes and stripes, centered mostly in the Peruvian Amazon around Iquitos, but also in nearby Brazil and Colombia, in which a self-styled ayahuasquero named Carlos or Fabio or Bill or Shakti will offer you a muddy brew that will likely make you puke then blow your little mind…

No, this is not about that. That will be another post, once I’ve had sufficient time to do proper research. This is about getting old and bald and moving parts wearing out and things that you once bragged about no longer working and the duct tape and super glue pressed to the limit, and not even talking about late-night twerking, just survival of the fattest and wearing adult diapers for the occasional wetting…

The US health care system is a joke.  It was so painful watching ex-Speaker of the House John Boehner declare that, “America has the best health-care system in the world,” that I wonder if he really meant it, or whether he was crossing his fingers in his front pants’ pocket.  In fact the US health-care system is nowhere near the top—except in cost—and tends to languish down in the 30-to-40th rankings, if lucky a notch or two above Cuba.

IMG_0523These are of course averages, so one hospital in California may indeed be more or less equal to another one in Mississippi, but that’s not necessarily so good.  Many Third-World countries—notably Thailand and Mexico, with which I have experience—are not that far behind, and specialize in international-level service to attract ‘medical tourists’ with quality above the US norm and costs FAR below.

The main difference seems to be one of antiquated systems, which in the US are positively medieval.  For the uninitiated: first you have to have a ‘primary health-care provider,’ plus insurance, before you can get beyond the Emergency Room of any hospital.  In many countries, you can simply walk in, request a colonoscopy, and probably do it that day, or soon enough.  In the US, you have to get a referral from your ‘primary…provider’, then get that approved by your insurance company, and then schedule the actual procedure.

It gets worse.  Those referrals are generally sent in the mail.  That’s right—mail.  Then the actual procedure can take weeks or months to schedule.  In fact you can often speed up that process, but not without plenty of hassle.  So the entire system revolves around the ER, patching problems but never really getting ahead of the game.  But the real kicker is the incessant runaround—between primary…provider, insurance, ER and any specialists, none of whom specialize in keeping tabs on the other, so that you health is always up for grabs.

Anyway, it’s been a pretty bad month or two, for me, to be honest.  How bad, you ask?  First, I spent much of the last two months with a catheter up my little thingie and on into my bladder to drain the spent liquid that otherwise only caused me pain—and lots of it!  The inability to urinate is not one of life’s little pleasures. That was because of a kidney stone with a mind of its own, with occasional fits and serendipitous starts—and rough ones, too!  Ever heard of the word ‘colic’?

to be continued…

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