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This and That

8 December, 2007

Sorry I’ve neglected to post for the past week or two. Things have been pretty busy at work, lots of overtime again as we work on finishing up Bully for the Xbox 360. But all of that is behind me now – I started my xmas holidays today. I’m taking a glorious, well-deserved 4 weeks off. I fly out to Vancouver tomorrow, and then on to Prince George the following Saturday.

I should also report that I have had my first encounters with the American medical system. I will now unfold a litany of terrors!!!

Not. Actually, I don’t have much to complain about. It all started with some pain, inflammation, discoloration and finally an obvious infection in my big toe. I will not provide photographs. Since I didn’t have a doctor yet (this is my first medical complaint since arriving here) and couldn’t arrange an appointment in short order, I took myself into a local Emergency room. Where there was no line up, no chaos, and I was seen to immediately by a nurse and then a doctor who informed me I had an ingrown toenail. But enough about the toe. What I found interesting was that the capacity to serve (with medical care) seemed to outstrip the need for it… they were able to treat me immediately and could have treated more people in the same time.

Then this week, I went to an actual doctor’s appointment. I had to wait a while for the appointment (the earliest the could book me was a week and a half after I called), but once I got there, again, I had the same impression. The doctor did not seem to be rushing between patients – instead, he spent a fair amount of time with me and chatted about random stuff like his college basketball days.

All of this is in stark contrast to my visits to doctors and Emergency rooms in Canada. There, you could always count on having to wait several hours in Emergency (my last visit, with a bleeding injury, involved a 7 hour wait). My visits to the doctor involved being shuffled into one of a battery of examining rooms through which the doctor then rotated as rapidly as possible, spending no more than a few minutes with each patient unless it was absolutely necessary.

Now, two more obvious differences. I had to pay a nominal user fee in each case. The Emergency room visit was $50, and the doctor’s appointment was $15 (with the rest being covered by my medical insurance, of course). And yes, I have medical insurance, which not all Americans do. However, it’s significant that in Massachusetts, everyone is legally required to have medical insurance, and for people with low incomes, this insurance is subsidized so as not to be a burden. So in fact, everyone here has access to the same level of care that I received (unless they’re refusing to buy insurance on principle, which apparently some are).

To be sure, there must be many other factors underlying the differences that I’ve noticed. But it’s just interesting to find, given what a sacred cow we’ve made of our universal Medicare, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth that meets any move to allow privatization, that the American medical system is actually pretty friendly, competent and more than able to meet the needs of its patients.

In other news, I’ve updated the Reading List again.

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