Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chile: 1, US: 0... Thoughts on Healthcare...

Although I tend to prefer my "vida santiagüina" to life in the US (tend, my friends, tennnd), I usually feel that there are many aspects of Chilean life that have kept one foot very strongly planted in the 80s.  Lavender tie-dyed skinny jeans (on men...) and shoulder supported boom boxes aside, there are several quirks of Chilean society that have a complete leg up on our American counterparts who have their foot firmly planted in bureaucracy.  And having read another recent blog post, I thought I'd elaborate on my personal experiences in the field of (drum-roll) Chilean health services. Sounds dry, but read ahead and I guarantee that you gringo readers out there will be stricken with a tad pang of jealousy....

Now, with respect to the US health system, I'm the first to admit that I lack a surprising amount of knowledge-- somewhat shameful seeing as my pops is a doctor with his own practice who's getting absolutely slaughtered by the insurance companies and the government (nice work Barak!), and is having to accept patients who can't pay him due to their inability to afford insurance or their already downtrodden economic state (unemployment, reduced wages, increasing costs... again, thanks O-bomb-a...). 

Leaving the political follies to the political follies, it's obvious that the US healthcare system is not working.  And while it sounds "nice," I'm not sure that universal healthcare is the right answer......

ANYWAY!!  -->

The system that these crazy lil Chileans have concocted actually seems to be working quite well.  Now-- I'm peering at this from the view of an "extranjera," of someone who's pops is a doc, and someone who does not like to pay a lot of money for things (necklaces, electronics, kidney transplants, etc).  And someone who essentially only visits the doctor if I'm feeling an imminent death.  Not for a cough, not for a tummy ache, none of that baby bullshit.  (Kind of a lie because the one time that I went running to a doctor here in Chile has been due to a 4 month long "tummy ache"-- otra cosa).  But I'm a fan of toughing it out.  And tough it out I do...

But on the occasion that my body gets the best of me, my teeth need a shinin', or I need to buy some pillz of a non-baby-making sort, I suck it up and make a trip. 

For example: my mama had been bugging me to go to the dentist (every 6 months... ugh!) so I finally gave in to her fancies and can you imagine my delighted surprise when my bill for: 1 cavity (oops), 1 cleaning, and 6 sealants cost me around $160??  Elated!!  Bring it on cavities cuz in the states its like $200 to fix just one of those bitches!!  Oh- and my complimentary work insurance is covering about $70 of it.  CA- CHING!!!

So- yes- I have one of the highest ranking private insurance plans for which I pay about $80 a month (which doesn't even get taken out of my salary, it is factored in in-place of the state run insurance (think Medicaid) so it's like I'm not even paying for it at all!), PLUS my job provides a complimentary, FREE, insurance that covers the left overs (usually 50%) of what my private insurance does not reimburse.  When I went to the doc for my prolonged and wildly unpleasant "tummy ache" it was FREE!!  Freeeee! 

Not to mention (unabashedly), that my BC pills stateside were costing me a tad more than $50 a month, 50 frakkin bucks-- and that was including a "discount" from my insurance.  But here, they cost me FIVE DOLLARS.  Not kidding.  I've seriously thought of just going to, like, every pharmacy in the Región Metropolitana and purchasing said pills to sell for a profit in the states (unnervingly unethical?? who knows, but a killer business plan, yes).  And did I need a prescription??  No!!  This is somewhat questionable but all I did was bring a box of my US pills to the Chilean pharmacy and say, "I need something that resembles this, porfis."  And they were like, "sí mi niña, en seguida.." and didn't bat an eyelash!!  Over the moon.  

It is exactly for these reasons that many elderly Americans are choosing to retire abroad rather than in the states.  If you have medical problems and require constant medication and treatments, and are drowning in the economic climate in which we find ourselves, it should be of no surprise that grams and gramps are heading south, east, or west to both be able to afford healthcare and maintain a decent quality of life. 

If you don't believe me, read this New York Times article which states: "Offshore medical care is usually significantly less expensive than in the United States, and the wait times are often shorter. A heart operation that might cost $130,000 in this country could cost $18,500 in Singapore or $10,000 in India."

So, amigos, some food for thought for this Wednesday the 14th of July.  Would love to hear your thoughts/personal experiences.....



  1. "A heart operation that might cost $130,000 in this country could cost $18,500 in Singapore or $10,000 in India."

    OMG!! that's too much

  2. I am going to go ahead and be the devils advocate here, but just remember that for a lot of people who only make 200-400 lukas here, private health care is still WAY out of reach.

    And as someone who went to a public hospital when she got ran over because she was unconscious and therefore couldn't tell them that she's rich and had private health insurance, let me just say that a public hospital here is not something ANY foreigner wants to experience. I was bleeding heavily out of my head, babbling unconsciously and screaming at the top of my lungs, with no one having any idea whether or not I had broken anything, for over an hour before my husband finally got there and starting freaking out for them to do something, when they then put me in a room with someone with swine flu and continued to ignore me, until Seba freaked out again and then finally got them to approve the transfer to a private hospital. Where I was then attended as most gringas in Chile have been attended anytime they've been to a doctor.

    I'm not saying that the U.S. system is in ANY way better. I am only saying that the reality of most gringas in this country is not necessarily the reality of all Chileans. We think that health care here is great. We are among the privileged who can afford private health care.

  3. Nice job there, B! My BC costs $5 a month, too, but here in the States. I'm just sayin' :)