American v. Brazilian Healthcare, a Continuing Series

by Mike Kimel

American v. Brazilian Healthcare, a Continuing Series

I spoke to my sister on Skype last night. She’s been in Natal, in Northeastern Brazil, for the past few months. Last week, she noticed a couple small warts growing on her leg. So she wandered down to a government run hospital and and had them removed. The hospital was low on supplies, and the doctor asked her to contribute a box of Q-tips (since Q-tips would be needed in the procedure). The total cost of the whole thing: 12 reais, or about $6.60 American, plus a box of Q-tips.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a post that dealt with my sister and the Brazilian health care system. A few years ago I wrote about the time she had emergency open heart surgery in Brazil, and how it compared very favorably with her experience with (planned) open heart surgery in the US.

Now, on the subject of the US, my wife also has an interesting healthcare story to relate. She got a letter from Aetna, her insurance provider, indicating they didn’t know why they were being asked to pay for services when she doesn’t have health insurance through them. Interestingly enough, money is withdrawn from our bank account each month to pay for her health insurance, and a call to Aetna indicated that she did, in fact, have health insurance. A number of phone calls back and forth between my wife, Aetna, and her doctor resolved the issue (I think) – the doctor is being paid, etc. But it isn’t the first time this has happened, and it serves to follow up our family’s earlier experience with health insurance. All told, I would estimate my wife and I have spent about 40 hours – that would be a workweek – dealing with health insurance since July.

Brazil is a poor country, and I don’t think anyone has ever suggested that the Brazilian health system is the best in the world. On the other hand, we often hear precisely that about the American system from certain circles, despite the astounding cost (which doesn’t seem to include the waste of time dealing with the paperwork or fighting with health insurance companies) and ho-hum outcomes. I’m starting to think a lot of Americans are absolutely insane. Lord knows it would explain a lot.