Friday, September 17, 2010

Medical Mystery

When we first came to Korea, we were advised by many people to get Health Insurance. It was 'totally worth it', we were told. So we figured, OK, might as well get it, it's only 50 000 Won a month (about ZAR 300, or US$ 50), so really not much. OK. So we got the insurance. Nice one. Now what? Well, we were told that should we have any sort of ailments or illness, to go to a doctor. Coming from South Africa, the first thing we thought is, yeah right. Like I'm gonna go to a doctor for a simple flu or headache...that's just gonna be too expensive, I'll just ride it out....

So here we are a few months later, and we have both seemed to develop some minor medical issues that we thought needed some clearing up. Claudia has been getting migraine type headaches, and I have a rash on my back that won't go away. Persistent bugger! So I got on to Facebook, and asked if anyone knew a doctor in Wonju (our city) that speaks English. One was recommended immediately. Awesome we thought, let's go. Let me just clarify here, that this being Korea, it's not as easy as just going to a doctor whenever you want; there are certain issues, certain language barriers. But with this recommended doctor that won't be an issue.

So this morning we headed off to the Wonju Medical Centre, and paid Dr. Soohan Kim a visit. After giving the receptionist our Alien Registration Cards (our IDs basically), and a short wait, we were in the doctors rooms. Wow. What an awesome doctor. Dr Kim is a guy in his late 20s (maybe early 30s, Koreans seem to age better than us westerners), with excellent English. So he sat us down, and talked us through our issues, and finally gave us some prescription medication. Easy enough.

Just before we left, he asked us about medical insurance in South Africa, and we told him that it's all private and really expensive. We broke it down as follows: If you want any sort of decent medical treatment, you have to fork out a decent amount of cash. Simple. And off we went.

Outside we had to walk over to another counter to pick up our scripts and to pay for the consultation. OK...let's see how 'worth it' this medical insurance is. Any guesses as to how much we paid for both of us, for about 30 minutes of the doctors time (yes, it was a long consultation)...? Any guesses....? Yes....? No....? OK, I'll tell you. 500. Yes, we paid 500 each for half an hour. Now you're wondering...500 what. Again, I'll tell you. 500 Won!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, I meant to put that many exclamation marks there. 500Won!!!!! If my high school maths serves me correctly, that means we jointly paid 1000 Won together. And if my online currency converter is not lying, that breaks down to ZAR 6.14 each. Yes, 6 Rand and 14 Cents, or 84 US Cents. Holy Wowy.

It truly blew my mind. We had just paid 500 Won each for our consultation. Insane. OK fine, we do pay our monthly premium for the medical insurance, but if you were to pay that much in SA for medical insurance, it wouldn't even cover doctors appointments, let alone any medication. For R300 of medical insurance in South Africa you might as well not have it, it's that bad, and you have to pay that much on top every time you visit a doctor.

This just opened my eyes to a proper 1st world health care system that really takes care of its patients. It's no wonder then that Koreans feel the need to run to a doctor for every minor bump, scrape, bruise or ailment! For R 6.14 a pop I might also do the same!

Post by Oliver


Anonymous said...

In the UK we don't pay anything, not even insurance.

Claudia and Oliver said...

Wow, that's something. So everyone gets unlimited healthcare and you don't pay a cent? That really is special.
Trust me, it sucks having to pay for every small ailment or issue!

Anonymous said...

I thought only America had such expensive healthcare! Our income tax pays for our healthcare. The only thing we pay for is the medicine, thats a flat-fee of £7.40, but that's just england, wales pay nothing for the medicine, scotland pay £3.50. I think it's mad you have to pay when your ill. only the other day i was involved in a heated conversation about this with some americans!

Bathhouse Ballads said...

Yea, but in Scumland UK you often have to wait a couple of days to see a doctor and seeing a consultant can take months on the NHS. British health care is crap which is why I fork out to be with BUPA. My Korean doctor has ultrasound, x ray and endoscopy and all of these in the UK require visiting a hospital. I'm suprised you don't have to visit a consultant or hospital to be tested with a stethoscope! However, unless we are not as bad as the USA.

And are you sure its a flat fee! I think the fee is for one prescription per month. Several years ago I needed three or four prescriptions a month and it cost me a fortune.

And don't be fooled by the Korea system - the type of health care most waygukin have, and which your boss is supposed to provide by law (with you paying half - mine costs c30.000 Won)only covers you for medicines and the like. Should you need hospitalization you will pay a lot more. A friend of mine, who has the typical health insurance, recently had a hear attack - he almost had another when he was presented a bill for 7 million won. The standard insurance does not include hospital stays, operations, and certain tests. Last time I looked at taking out comprehensive health care, it was around 100.000 won a month.

Claudia and Oliver said...

Wow, I am sorry to hear about your friend's heart attack.

Our trips to the general practitioner have been cheap but I have been surprised that GPs do no hands on inspection, they seem toeither give you a cocktail of drugs or refer you to a specialist.

I had to see a specialist which was about 30,000Won, a little more than I anticipated but much much less than I would pay in SA. So far I would say the health insurance has been worth it.

I am also always surprised at how cheap the medication is.... I am not sure if it is always cheap or cheap because I am on insurance but I always pay a minute fee.

Thanks for the comments, it is so interesting to hear how other medical systems operate!


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