John Stossel recently authored The Singapore Alternative, a pretty good write-up of the health care system in Singapore and a comparison between it and the deformed monstrosity that the U.S. congress is preparing to foist upon unsuspecting Americans. I’ve recently been a beneficiary of some pretty serious medical care in Singapore, so I thought I would write about my experience.
As John points out, 64% of medical spending in Singapore comes from individuals spending their own money — compared to only 13% in the U.S. The results of this, unsurprisingly, are:
- Better care
- Lower costs
I visited a local clinic in Singapore due to an unexplained pain in my abdomen. The full cost to see a doctor in Singapore is approximately the same as my insurance co-payment in the U.S. I didn’t have to make an appointment, the clinics are always open for walk-ins. When I say always, I mean always — 24×7. The prices are lower on weekdays and during daytimes, they are higher on evenings and weekends. I saw a doctor in about 15 minutes. Most notable, I was not harasses by hordes of assistants and accounting people, which is what I am used to in the U.S. Instead, I saw a doctor who talked to me, examined me, and sent me for a CAT scan immediately.
The company that provides CAT scan services was equally professional. No appointments were necessary and waiting times were extremely brief. I was in and out in slightly longer than it usually takes to get a haircut.
Unfortunately, the results of my CAT scan were not great. The next person I was to meet was the surgeon who reviewed my CAT scan results and explained that I was experiencing appendicitis and that my appendix had to come out now.
I checked into the hospital. The bellhop showed me to my room. No, I’m not kidding — the hospital was that nice. I kept waiting to be harassed by a swarm of paper-pushers demanding that I fill out forms and waivers — they never came. I was in and out of surgery by the end of the day and spent a couple of days in the hospital recovering. My surgeon stopped by to see how I was and give me pictures of my appendix and a DVD of my surgery.
On my last day, the hospital did send one non-medical staff member to my room — a customer service representative who wanted to ensure that I was happy with the services rendered. I felt like I was on another planet.
This is the difference between medical systems where the customer pays the bill and medical systems where the bill is paid by an insurance company thousands of miles away. Yes, the American medical system does need reform. It needs a lot less government regulation and a lot more free market innovation. The medical and insurance industries are some of the most regulated, and therefore least efficient, industries in the U.S. Calls for more government interference to fix the problems caused by government interference are terrifying reminders of just how divorced American politicians are from reality.