17 Jul My Indian Dentist
While I’m here in India, I’ve been watching the U.S. Health Care bill start and stop its way through the Senate. Whether you love Obamacare or Trumpcare, I can’t help but think…our whole idea of health care in America is backwards.
Rather than create a system that truly serves the citizens in our country…we’ve placed profits ahead of people in this one vital area. We all know this is true. We’ve even been raised to believe this is normal. Hospitals and doctors and insurance companies and drug manufacturers are in this business, first and foremost, to make money. And because health care is a business…providers can charge whatever the market will bear. As the cynics might say: If health care is too expensive for you…don’t buy it. Sorry, but not everyone can buy a sports car either. For iPods and software and MRIs, America is a capitalist country and we do not apologize for making money. This is the American way. Cue the anthem.
Before anyone starts to rant about our “envy of the world” health care system or casts any “love it or leave it” aspersions on my patriotism, let me give you just a single example that happened to me recently. A tale of two cities, if you will.
When I was back in the States, I was over at my daughter Jackson’s apartment, biting into a piece of leftover Easter candy when I chipped a tooth. It was one of my back teeth that had a filling drilled into it when I was a boy, and one corner of the tooth crumbled into tiny chips.
Worried that the tooth would completely fall apart, I called a local Aspen Dental office the next day. Aspen Dental is a dentistry chain that takes walk-ins and advertises low rates. Not wanting to break the bank over my broken tooth (and without dental insurance), I called and hoped for the best. I explained the chipped tooth to the nice woman who answered the phone and asked how much it would cost to fix.
“This type of procedure is very common,” I was told. “The procedure starts at just $1500 but can go up substantially from there depending on the work needed. Shall I schedule an appointment?”
I declined. “You know, I can probably fly to India, round trip, and have the work done over there for half that amount,” I said.
“Then you should probably do that,” the nice woman replied before bidding me a good afternoon.
So I did.
My ticket to India was $800—which is a very good price. Then just the other day, I went to see a local doctor. I was actually going to have a skin rash looked at but saw pictures of teeth on the doctor’s office walls. “Are you a dentist?” I asked.
“Yes, sir. Dermatologist. Dentist,” the doctor said with a smile and a back-and-forth bobble of his head. And so I told him about my chipped tooth. “Come to my chair,” he offered.
With no wait or appointment, I sat in his standard-issue adjustable dentist chair and he started up some kind of machine. “What are you doing?” I asked him, worried by the whirring motor.
“I’m fixing it,” he said.
Into my mouth he placed sharp objects and a tiny round mirror. A plastic suction tube was hooked onto the corner of my mouth. It was all happening so fast. “Am I going to need any anesthesia or something?” I wondered.
“No, sir,” the dentist/dermatologist said. “We have some music though.”
As directed, an assistant switched on a radio. Elevator music began to play. Billy Joel sang “I Love You Just The Way You Are.”
After that…the doctor fixed my tooth. He cleaned it out, prepared some kind of putty, fashioned a tooth right there in the office, pressed it in place, hardened it with a UV light wand, shaped it, smoothed it, and fiddled around till it was done.
Total time: ten minutes. Total cost: just 500 rupees or roughly seven dollars and seventy-five cents. (For the record, he charged nothing for the dermatology appointment. $7.75 covered the entire visit.)
So what exactly is the point of this story? you might be asking. Am I saying India has a better health care system then the good old U.S.A.?
No. But I am saying: When you can fly half way around the world and have a routine medical procedure done for half the cost you’d pay at your local for-profit health care provider just down the street… maybe, just maybe, you’re being charged too much at home.
What do you think?