Before going to the US, I heard that ‘the American medical system is not good, Korea’s medical system is the best’, and ‘the medical cost in the US is too expensive’, but it didn’t touch my skin in fact. But after living in the US, it was true. First of all, if you are unemployed, you cannot go to the hospital because you do not have health insurance. I can go, but the amount is truly astronomical. A friend was in the emergency room for one day due to acute enteritis and received an abdominal CT and treatment, and the amount before applying medical insurance came out to 20 million won.. After applying for medical insurance, he said, of course, he paid much less. The thing I was most afraid of when I didn’t have a job in the US was that I would get sick and go to the hospital.
Even considering that there is no national medical insurance in the United States, it is difficult to go to the hospital immediately unless it is really an emergency, even if you have a good health insurance plan in the United States. For urgent illness, you can go to a type of emergency clinic called Urgent Care, but it must be considered an emergency because of the cost. It is slightly better if you decide on a primary care doctor. You can request a prescription from your doctor through the app. But I waited three months before seeing my primary care doctor. In Korea, if you think, “I have a little fever today, but I need to go to the hospital,” in most cases, you can go to a nearby hospital. In other words, access to medical institutions is different.
Given this situation, in the United States (as far as I know), a comprehensive health inspection program like Korea is not universal. There is not even a health examination for employment in the workplace. I had a comprehensive health checkup that wasn’t covered once every 2-3 years in Korea, but I decided to do it when I returned home.
A program performed by a specialist health screening agency usually has basic tests as above, and expensive tests are added as the price increases. Brain MRI, spine CT, colonoscopy, echocardiography, etc. can be selected and added.
My American boyfriend, Jay, is in his second year of residency in the Department of Radiology in the United States. Although not yet an expert, it can be said that he knows more about the American medical system than the general public, especially the imaging system. I showed this ticket to Jay and discussed his choice together. Jay is “Doctors don’t choose tests, but ordinary patients who know nothing about medicine choose tests like they choose a meal menu? Nonsense!” He responded with a confused expression. Hmm… After hearing it, it seems like the right thing to say. When I was considering a brain MRI, I was like, “Why on earth are you? What are you curious about?” He was very skeptical, and when I was worried about the cervical disc, he said that a CT of the cervical spine could be performed. He finally got angry.
I talked about how there was such a screening program in Korea but not in the US, and the main factor, of course, was price. He was surprised again when he heard that the basic check program I was going to do was 500,000 won. The reason is that it is too cheap.
Half listening to Jay’s opinion, half ignoring it, I made an online order at a general health screening agency in Seoul from the United States. And when I returned home, I went for a health check. The examination institutions were mainly exam factories. Upon entry, you will be given an identification bracelet. When I tag my wristband at each screening booth, my name appears and my chart appears on the screening staff’s monitors. That way, each check is rotated once. Workers and doctors are factory workers in a health inspection factory. I circled the conveyor belt. There were people behind me and in front of me, both on the conveyor belt.
The last one was an upper endoscopy, and there were 50 people waiting in front of me. I called Jay while waiting for my upper endoscopy. My name was called before I knew it and I finished the endoscopy in 5 minutes without sleep. And then I called Jay again saying ‘it’s over’. Jay is “You just called and it’s already over in less than five minutes? Nonsense!” He was shocked once more. It is said that there is no sleep-free endoscopy in the United States. Jay was shocked that the difficult test was done without anesthesia. Apparently, since the incidence of gastric cancer is high in Korea, gastric endoscopy is very common and common, so there may be an option called no sleep.
After all the tests, I was exhausted, but I had a dental appointment. When I went to my regular dentist for the first time in a while, they said two of my teeth were rotten. When I told Jay about the final payment for the treatment, I fainted again. If I had been treated like this in the United States, I don’t know, but I would have paid 2 million won. Jay recently received an amalgam cavity treatment that was aesthetically worse than resin, and he paid about 900,000 won in Korean currency. In Korea, health insurance covers amalgam treatment, so he probably won around 10,000.. If you look inside Jay’s mouth, everything is covered with silver amalgam, but my teeth are all covered with resin the same color as my teeth, so I don’t even know if he has a cavity or not.
Korea focuses on preventive medicine, such as early screening and early treatment, based on national health insurance. In addition, Korea’s medical market is a very red ocean, and medical treatment without insurance is very cheap compared to other countries regardless of national health insurance. After coming to Korea for the first time in a while, I understand why foreigners come to Korea for medical tourism. Even if you receive medical treatment without health insurance, it is much cheaper than in other countries, and the level of medical care is very high. However, in Korea, there is a moral hazard called hospital shopping, and health insurance funding is said to be at risk.
On the other hand, the United States is a system of dying without money. If you don’t have private health insurance and can’t pay your deductible, you won’t be able to see a doctor. Maybe that’s why, American pharmacies have thousands of different types of medicines, along with a little bit of exaggeration. In addition, drugs that can be purchased with a prescription in Korea are sold as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in the United States. Personally, I believe that our country’s medical system is better from a medical consumer’s point of view. How wonderful it is that there is a social web around the basic human right to health.
(* For information, I am a Korean citizen with Korean nationality and resident in Korea, and I would like to clarify that I did not return to Korea to receive medical benefits. Under the National Health Insurance Act, when a Korean national left abroad for a long period of time of time returning to Korea, he or she is healthy from the day of return. Insurance is said to apply.)