Relived: A Weekend in Hospital

I was a sickly boy as a child, but I realized how far I had come when I had to rush to the hospital on Sunday. All because of medical insurance. 

It wasn’t for me, but for my wife. She caught a fever on Saturday and it wouldn’t subside by Sunday. I realized that we’d need to see a doctor, and I also realized that I did not know any doctor in Hyderabad.  So we took her to one of the hospitals that were on the approved list provided by the insurer.

My belief is that if you are a generally healthy person, your medical needs are best served by finding a decent doctor who makes his living by treating lower middle-class people and sticking to him. This is from my personal experience, having been a lower middle-class person myself in my childhood.  You are better off with this guy than with an excellent doctor who treats the rich.  The first reason is that he will have more experience. The second, more important reason is that his incentives will be aligned to yours. He will be used to treating people who cannot afford too much money for useless tests. He will be focused on volume rather than on trying to extract as much value from you as possible. So you will get treated for your disease in  a no nonsense way.

Opting for insured treatment for minor illnesses is usually a bad idea, because the hospital will find multiple ways to treat you and charge the money to the insurance company.  First, they insisted on hospitalizing my wife rather than gave her outpatient treatment, because the latter is not covered by insurance. Then they tested her for every illness imaginable. Then they put her on the drip and injected her with such a large diet of antibiotics that by the end of Monday, she was in tears from the pain and was begging me to take her home. Today morning I insisted on a discharge and got it.

I could turn this into a discussion on the various interesting ways in which the market fails when it comes to medical treatment – and how the attempts to fix it breaks it in various interesting ways – but I am too drowsy from having spent two nights in a hospital bunk.

3 thoughts on “Relived: A Weekend in Hospital

  1. I saw this last night. I wasn’t sure what would be appropriate and inappropriate in response to a personal post.

    My first reaction was that it is so much like in US. I am amazed. You are right about middle class doctors. In many places in India there have been private hospitals that cater to the middle class and those that cater to the rich. Anyway, here doctors tend to recommend a lot of tests because they want to be very sure about their diagnosis and I guess make sure that they are shielded from litigation.

    Hope your wife gets well soon.

  2. My experiences in the US were pretty similar. I think their system is designed for major illnesses [and their system treats people like cars]. If you get caught in a major accident and your car has severe damage, insurance is useful – not otherwise.

    Just that, in case of people, sometimes you don’t know for sure if something is major or not. And you are always on the defensive because a small fever could be a symptom of something big.

    And as a result, as a consumer, we lose – because we don’t get the right treatment [by right – I mean effective, including cost-effective].

Comments are closed.