To say that the health care system here is different than in the US is a major understatement. Here is our latest story:
We had to take Simon in for abdominal pain in August. We went to the nearest emergency room where we had taken him a few months ago to get stitches. But after waiting in line a half hour, I realized everyone had the same kind of issues and were going to the same doctor. Turns out the place only serves injuries. So we bailed and went to a private clinic. Doc said it was likely an appendicitis and wanted to send us to the state hospital. We wanted to hold up a cross and curse the thought, but he assured us it was plenty safe. He ordered an ambulance, which took another half hour. I suggested we get a taxi since was taking so long. This was emergent, after all. No, the ambulance is needed to do the coordination with the hospital. Otherwise, you don’t know where to go. They have to see who is the on-call hospital.
Finally arrived at the hospital (side note, the oldest pediatric university in the world), and while I’m filling out paperwork (maybe a half dozen things they needed to know, so it was quick) doc confirms it’s for real. They asked if I had Russian health insurance, and I said no. We have an international policy that pays us back after the fact if it hits a threshold, so we almost never use it. Even the private clinics are pretty cheap compared to US costs (the visit above cost $22). Doc says no matter; they can take care of us anyway. So then he gives me the bad news: “We don’t have the equipment to do it laparoscopically today. But we do this all the time.” He was the head of the department, an older guy, so I tended to trust him. “But you could go to a private hospital. That will run you maybe $2000 for the whole experience.” I later found out that the average appendectomy (procedure alone) cost nearly $14,000 in the US.
Diana was also ok with staying put and letting them do it there. Within about an hour they were done, rolling Simon out of the O.R. up to us (Diana had arrived, and it was her birthday) wrapped up like a burrito on a cold hard lunch counter. We said hello, but he was out of it, so they rolled him into the communal room for boys about his age. There were another four or so. The room holds about 10. Diana later posted: “Guess what I’m getting for my birthday? My son’s appendix! Always wanted one. Hope it’s the right color. and size.”
He had to stay a total of 7 days. Until Monday, there was no discussion of costs, but they told us we really should get the Russian insurance, which, amazingly, will apply retroactively. So I signed the whole family up later in the day, and so the entire experience ended up costing nada. Oh, and the insurance is free too. They fed him 3 meals a day too. Care is good, but minimal. Moms come and do most of the TLC. At first he was dying to come home, but they give antibiotics twice a day, and that’s their system, so for the money, we’re not bucking it! After a few days he changed rooms and got in with some more sociable boys. They ended up having a good time together and played cards a lot.
Don’t hear me as advocating for socialized medicine. There are plenty of other issues with it that concern me, including here. But based on this and other issues here and from when we were on furlough a few years ago, I’d much rather be sick here.