Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tender Ankles: A snap shot of health care in Singapore

An article in the Washington Post a couple weeks ago looked at Singapore's health care system in comparison it to the US model. Among other things, it said:
Singapore spends less than 4 percent of its GDP on health care. We spend 17 percent (and Singapore's somewhat younger population doesn't begin to explain the difference). Matching Singapore's performance in our $15 trillion economy would free up $2 trillion a year for other public and private purposes.

Impressive. As the article says, adopting all of Singapore's practices would not really work for American patients -- the country's notoriously intrusive tendencies in personal matters is nothing to admire.

But here's a little anecdote, just for matters of comparison. Earlier this month, I tweaked my ankle playing basketball. I knew it was nothing serious, but a few days later it was still a bit tender . So I decided to see the doctor, just to put my mind at ease.

This is something I would never even consider doing in the US -- peace of mind is not worth the however-many-hundred dollars a 10-minute doctor visit would cost. Such exorbitant cost is not something I have to worry about here, though.

I showed up to the clinic without an appointment and had the doctor look at the ankle. As I suspected, nothing a few more days of rest wouldn't fix. He gave me some cream to rub on the muscle to make it feel better. Since I was there anyway, I asked him about a wart on my toe I've had for a while. He gave me something for that too. The grand total when I left, including all medication, was three Singapore dollars -- less than two US dollars.

In the US, I would have spent half an hour or more filling out gratuitous paperwork, waited another 20 minutes for the doctor to see me, probably gotten an X-ray "just to be safe" because the doc doesn't want to get sued, and who knows what else. One thing's for sure -- I would have felt a lot worse after I saw the bill than I did when I went in.

I doubt Singapore has the best health-care system in the world, maybe not even one of the best. But it sure beats what's on offer Stateside.

And one more thing to respect about the way things are done on this side, from the Post piece:
In Singapore, if a child is obese, they don't get Rose Garden exhortations from the first lady. They get no lunch and mandatory exercise periods during school.

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