Expat Dribble

Andrea Avery Jackley: An expat with lots of dribble to write about.

6.22.09

I just have to chime in on the latest in America’s health care nonsense. As the debate rages on, with lefties throwing around idiotic terms like “uniquely American” to appease socialism-phobic righties about the President’s health care reform plan, the public responds with a less-apprehensive form of… agreement.

According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, 72 percent of those questioned support a government-run plan as an alternate choice to private insurers; and most people are even willing to pay higher taxes to achieve this. Huh! Astonishing. 

With improved national health care being the self-declared cause of my lifetime, the headlines – no matter where I reside – stick out like an enormous emergency room bill.  In my daily Korea Herald e-mail yesterday, an obscure title caught my eye: “More foreigners visit hospitals”. 

It turns out that a novel group calling itself the “Council for Korea Medicine Overseas Promotion”, or CKMOP, is – as the name suggests – actually promoting Korean medical services to potential patients abroad. 

And yes, this is coming from a democratic nation boasting a universal, national health care system that is (despite what our American common sense might tell us) quite efficient. Among other talking points, CKMOP lists on its website the following selling points:

– The quality of care provided in Korea is managed by the government through hospital accreditation and strict evaluation program

– All hospitals in Korea are not-for-profit organizations. Therefore, patient safety and satisfaction comes first instead of profitability

– The overall price is 20~30% of the cost in the U.S.

– Waiting time is no longer than 2 weeks (WHAT?!)

(Clarification: I wrote the amazed sentiment “WHAT?!” following the short wait time claimed by the Council; a reaction to my politically-ingrained idea that all countries with nationalized health care are completely disorganized and won’t allow you to see a doctor for months at a time.)

All of this AND a catchy slogan: “Korea The Most delightful Medical Tour That brings you A BIG SMILE!” reads CKMOP’s website, oddball Capitalization and all. In fact, CKMOP’s goal for 2009 is 50,000 patients; one they are well on-pace to achieve, and potentially surpass, thanks to the cooperation of many Korean medical institutions’ cooperation. Outside of the need for a native English speaker to copyedit their online materials, the program seems quite healthy.

So, at a time when economists are musing about the “decoupling” of Asian economies from the U.S. amidst the worldwide financial crisis – particularly the Chinese powerhouse of over 1 billion emerging consumers  – this kind of propaganda could gain some serious steam. After all, health care spending in America still comprises over 15% of the GDP, and any form of return on investment is a considerable concern. 

Meanwhile, health care reformists in America have continued opposition from the distinguished likes of Todd Keister, a New York Conservative “Examiner” for examiner.com, insisting that: “Everywhere government-run healthcare has been tried, it has been an abysmal failure. Patients from England, Canada, France and other countries with socialized medicine all come to the United States for treatment – if they can afford to.

“Long waits for life-saving treatment, agonizing bureaucratic red tape, and denial of care – that is what government interference means. …The only solution to the problems of healthcare costs in the United States is to drastically reduce government meddling and allow more free market forces to shape the way healthcare is delivered and paid for.” 

Wait a sec… haven’t we tried that before?

As a chronically clumsy individual, I am particularly grateful to be living in a country with nationalized health care (at the moment). In fact, after finally purchasing a bike this past Sunday, I couldn’t even make it home from the shop before running down a poor little boy – who was unfortunate enough to peddle through my wake of unintentional destruction. Not to mention my mumps-like reaction to the mosquitos in Korea.

Perhaps, in the face of such well-documented knowledge about the effectiveness of national health care systems, broad support at home, and possible competition from abroad, it’s time we Americans pull our heads out of our “Keisters” and take a real step toward health care reform.

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