Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Suddenly, I don't feel good...

The report that Britons are healthier than Americans (see May 4 below) prompted much rationalizing among US health advocates. Their conclusions:

The question of which country is healthier, Dr. Hadler and others say, turns out to be a perfect illustration of an issue that has plagued American medicine: the more health problems you look for, the more you find. And Americans, medical researchers say, are avid about looking.

The practice of "medicalization" may occur simply because "there's gold in them thar ills". Our third party payer system makes every symptom a way to get somebody else to pay for something for you. Not so in Britain, so there is less of an urge to cure every little ache and pain.

One day, as Dr. Meador tells it, a doctor-in-training was asked by his professor to define a well person. The resident thought for a moment. A well person, he said, is "someone who has not been completely worked up."

So, if you are feeling good right now - that's the first symptom.

The good news is if you can't afford those super-expensive medical procedures like bypass surgery because you have no insurance, low cost care is now available.

In India.

Whiplash was just the first agony that Kevin Miller, 45, suffered in a car accident last July. The second was sticker shock. The self-employed and uninsured chiropractor from Eunice, La., learned that it would cost $90,000 to get the herniated disk in his neck repaired. So, over the objections of his doctors, he turned to the Internet and made an appointment with Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, the marble-floored mecca of the medical trade that--with its liveried bellhops, fountains and restaurants--resembles a grand hotel more than a clinic. There a U.S.-trained surgeon fixed Miller's injured disk for less than $10,000. "I wouldn't hesitate to come back for another procedure," says Miller, who was recovering last week at the Westin Grande in Bangkok.

This may sound far-fetched, but the cost of medical care in the US can provoke some pretty strong economic actions by individuals. While we all say "you can't put a price on good health" when you are paying for it, you do every day.

And more and more of us will be paying for it.

Especially if we are smart.

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