No, not a rant about Thailand. This one is about the good ole US of A.
I ended up getting a ridiculous sinus infection this past Friday, possibly as a result of not really sleeping for the last two weeks. But no matter. Let's think of a typical experience in the motherland. I get one of these infections about once a year, and it's always the same story in the U.S. First, be miserable enough to want to go to the emergency room in a hospital, but resist the urge due to the $200 co-pay with my fairly good insurance.
I'm going to switch to third-person now, just for kicks.
Then, finally, get someone to help you make an appointment at some doctor's office first thing in the morning. The office will usually act as though they're doing you a huge favor by "squeezing you in," just as you feel like you're on death's doorstep. You'll then have to wait for hours that day (unless, of course, you can't be "squeezed in" until tomorrow), then drive or get driven to wherever the oh-so-kind office is. You'll wait in a freezing waiting room full of screaming kids while your head counts down on its implosion clock until the receptionist finally calls you to make sure they take our insurance. Because if they don't, you can forget it.
Next doctor. So make sure you check beforehand in your wretched condition.
Finally, you'll get called into the back, where you'll wait for another eternity before a doctor actually comes in. She or he will then tell you exactly what you already know, write you a prescription for some antibiotics and whatever else may cost some money.
After this, services rendered, lots of waiting for a few short minutes diagnosing, you'll be cheerily escorted to the cashier, pay, and be on your merry way.
Next stop: pharmacy. Drive again, drop off your prescription, wait an hour for someone in a white coat to pour some pills in a bottle, hope your insurance covers most of whatever it is, pay the co-pay.
Then, home. Phew. This is quite the process!
Now let me run-down what I experienced here in Thailand.
Struck with a sinus infection. Know exactly what it is because I get it every year. Suffer through the night, miserable enough to want to go to the emergency room, but unable to move.
Miss school. Get hate letters from the agency talking about how you're in breach of contract by being sick without notifying them.
Finally, able to move, walk to large 7/11 convenience store, about ten minutes. Go to in-store pharmacy. Tell them the antibiotic you need, the same one you must get prescribed each time at home.
Within 30 seconds, antibiotic needed is ready at cash register. Pay about $12 without any insurance whatsoever. Go home. Take drugs. Get better.
... now, let's compare these two stories. I'd have to say that, aside from the hate letters from the agency, Thailand's process for a known illness is a tad bit easier to handle. And, in my case versus my experience in America, about $100 cheaper. Remember, in the US I had great insurance. Just IMAGINE what it would have cost if I didn't.
I can completely understand the reasoning behind the US system of over-carefulness; drugs should be administered safely and correctly, and you should always know what's actually wrong with you. But, even if I wasn't positive of my illness (based on multiple past experiences), I can find a doctor here, no appointment needed, and pay about 1000 baht ($30) on-the-spot, no insurance needed.
Chances are, whatever she/he tells me I need, I won't need a prescription for. Why? Because, in general, people here aren't dumb enough to go buy a box of antibiotics unless they need them. Sure, the "dangerous" drugs are still kept under lock and key, permission needed, but the petty little things (such as buying contact lenses, which you can even buy in metro stations here-WITHOUT a prescription) aren't worried about.
These things being said, I humbly suggest that the healthcare system theory in Thailand, a third world country, trumps that of what is often called the most powerful nation on Earth. Why?
1) People aren't forced into thinking they must go to the doctor for the slightest sniffle, so that doctors only must deal with serious issues.
2) Doctors and pharmacies don't have a monopoly over an individual's health, thereby disallowing them to have total control over treatments and treatment methods.
3) Costs are kept down because people aren't suing doctors for petty mistakes after being forced to use them in the first place. Pharmacies can't charge as much money because people aren't forced into their hands with prescriptions from doctors.
4) People are generally less displeased with their government, are forced to use their own brains from time to time, and create a happier society.
Ok, so I pushed the last point there a little bit. But you get my point. I can't speak for other nationalities, but for my fellow Americans, my suggestion is this: call up your local congressperson and politely ask that she or he resigns.