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Italy's Health Care System Is Much Better than Ours!

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Following our arrival in Tuscany on the first leg of our journey toward a long stay in India, our extended family had some medical problems, one of them serious.

Less seriously, I ran out of a medication I've been taking. More seriously, my wife, Peggy, contracted a virulent case of poison ivy. Most serious of all, Carla, my daughter's au pair from Mexico, came down with appendicitis. Each of these incidents highlighted the superiority of the Italian medical system to what we have in the United States, and the direction we must take to improve our healthcare procedures.

Begin with my running out of pills.... I tried to get my prescription filled before leaving the States. Since we'd be gone for nearly five months, and I need to take one pill each day, I decided that I'd buy 180 pills from my local Rite Aid. My doctor gave me the "script" without any trouble. However, my pharmacist informed me that I needed my insurance company's O.K. to cover the cost. That would be about $100 for 30 pills, with my co-pay being $8.00.

So, one month before leaving home, I phoned my insurance company. After three phone calls by me and a couple by my pharmacist--all preceded by lengthy and repetitious "conversations" with an automated responder-- permission was granted.

However, when I actually tried to obtain the pills just before departure, neither I nor my pharmacist was able to do so. There was no record of the previously granted permission. So the process had to start all over again, and I had no time to spare.

More phone calls.... More conversations with machines.... Lengthy arguments with "representatives" and their supervisors.... More than an hour wasted.... In the end, permission refused.

By contrast, when I arrived in Tuscany, I had no trouble getting the prescription filled at the local pharmacy. After complimenting my Italian, the pharmacist simply asked, "How many boxes do you want?"
"How much will they cost?"  I asked.

"Six dollars a box," came the reply.

"I'll take two for now," I answered.

I gave the pharmacist the money. She gave me my two boxes of pills. She never asked to see a prescription. I went on my way wondering about the $102 dollars I had somehow "saved" in that transaction.

And then there's the case of my wife's poison ivy. She came down with that after doing some yard work just before we left our home in Berea, Kentucky. It was pretty severe--so much so, in fact, that her arms swelled and the rash that covered both of them had spread to her face, neck and torso.

So, there in Tuscany, off to the pharmacy she went. She obtained some anti-rash skin cream there. When that proved ineffective, she visited the walk-in clinic attached to the pharmacy. She joined the line of about ten people waiting to see the doctor about their various ailments.
When her turn came, Peggy was examined, and the doctor prescribed some pills--two different kinds. They were purchased at the neighboring pharmacy for a total of about $20.00.

Problem solved. No cost for the doctor's visit. No insurance cards or discussion of money. No phone calls to the insurance company, its machines, "representatives," and supervisors. No paper work. Hmm....

Carla came down with appendicitis just before we arrived in Panzano, the small town in the Chianti region of Tuscany where we were staying.
After experiencing severe stomach pains, she went to the pharmacy's walk-in clinic, was quickly diagnosed and whisked off to the hospital in Firenze by ambulance.

They operated immediately. Before admitting her to the operating theater, the administration asked only to see Carla's passport, for identification purposes. Afterwards, she was hospitalized for three full days. She was released with a simple "arrivederci" and an appointment to return in a week's time to remove her stitches. Once again, there was no discussion of money or payment. And, according to Carla, her treatment was top-notch.

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Mike Rivage-Seul is a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest. Recently retired, he taught at Berea College in Kentucky for 36 years where he directed Berea's Peace and Social Justice Studies Program.Mike blogs (more...)

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To cure what ails the U.S. health care fiasco, we'... by Mike Rivage-Seul on Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013 at 1:29:54 PM
Middle Man, hmm?Wal Mart cut middle men and we hav... by BFalcon on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 9:44:47 AM
When I wrote of the "middle man" I was referring t... by Mike Rivage-Seul on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 11:47:09 AM
I know what you meant, but you are wrong and Clint... by BFalcon on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 1:01:47 PM
Both Republicans and Democrats administer Medicare... by Mike Rivage-Seul on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 9:06:03 PM
I appreciated your experience and it was a valuabl... by BFalcon on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 9:26:05 PM
So, B, are you suggesting that we are better off w... by Mike Rivage-Seul on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 11:49:12 PM
I suggest that some aspects of our system are bett... by BFalcon on Friday, Sep 20, 2013 at 7:47:59 AM
Of course Italy is great and I love them. There is... by BFalcon on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 9:40:01 AM
I am a U.S. retiree. And my co-pay for those meds ... by Mike Rivage-Seul on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 12:02:35 PM
Yes, and everybody loves a free lunch.We all compl... by BFalcon on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 1:59:21 PM
Are you referring to the "free lunches" the presen... by Mike Rivage-Seul on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 9:12:01 PM
No, I already explained above about the meds. Exor... by BFalcon on Friday, Sep 20, 2013 at 7:37:40 AM
Health care is one of the very few things for wh... by Lance Brofman on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 10:45:43 AM
Valuable information about Japan's system. Thanks.... by Mike Rivage-Seul on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 12:06:52 PM
"as Japanese doctors work much longer hours for th... by BFalcon on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 2:02:39 PM
Is it our "best and brightest" that go to medical ... by Mike Rivage-Seul on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 9:15:02 PM
Well, they used to and these are the ones who trea... by BFalcon on Friday, Sep 20, 2013 at 7:25:48 AM
Comparing apples and oranges is not a wise thing t... by Doc McCoy on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 10:11:39 PM
I'm completely surprised that in these pages, I fi... by Mike Rivage-Seul on Thursday, Sep 19, 2013 at 11:56:42 PM
Fortunately, on these pages there is no requiremen... by Doc McCoy on Friday, Sep 20, 2013 at 2:00:13 AM
Dear Old Codger:You write: "the entire economy of ... by Mike Rivage-Seul on Friday, Sep 20, 2013 at 2:30:51 AM
From my observations, the VA Hospital system is in... by Doc McCoy on Friday, Sep 20, 2013 at 4:06:53 AM
Doc has answered many of your questions very well.... by BFalcon on Friday, Sep 20, 2013 at 7:17:05 AM