My girlfriend and I took a trip to London recently. Fantastic city and you’ll be hearing about it more in my shows this year. Because I can’t take a vacation without getting 5 new minutes of comedy out it. 🙂
While I was there I managed to get Pink Eye. The lesson is to wash your hands after riding the Tube. Also good dating advice.
Hoping to avoid doctors and medication all together I did a little research into which kinds of pink eye heal themselves and which need antibiotics. Yes, there are different kinds. And they’re all gross. Used to get it all the time as a kid which is why I have the vision of a 102 year old in my right eye.
Viral pink eye doesn’t need medication and will heal itself in a week or so. You can tell if the runoff from your eyeballs is clear. Bacterial pink eye has the gooey runoff that sticks your eyelids together in the morning. Even more gross and exactly what I had. Medication needed.
Not the help I needed…
My first time sick in a foreign country, but I’d heard great things about the English medical system. So I got on the phone to start getting some info. Phone trees, on hold, verify my identity a thousand different ways. I had a hard time understanding the lady I talked to and she didn’t really know anything anyway.
I was talking to my American health insurance company, Blue Cross, of course. This was the international help line they told me to call if anything happened.
Me: Do I have medical coverage over here?
Her: I don’t know, sir. I don’t have access to your account.
Me: Why am I talking to you then?
She said she could email me a list of doctors in the area that would help me out, but had no idea if it would cost me money or not. But if it did I could collect 100 different pieces of paper from the doctor and make a claim on my insurance.
Off to the Gynecologist to fix my eye…
The email was a 3 page list of doctors in London. 3 pages. Easily close to 100 doctors. As if I’d just googled “doctor in London”. There were pediatricians and plastic surgeons on the list. Pretty sure I saw a veterinarian. Absolutely useless.
I was also instructed to call Blue Cross customer service to see if I had coverage. But, of course, the 8 hour time difference meant they weren’t even open.
90 minutes into this ridiculousness I gave up. There was a hospital attached to a medical school about 6 blocks from our flat. We walked over to the ER there. I told the guy at the counter what was up and he gave me a 1 page form to fill out. 1 easy page.
I said, “Will I have to pay anything to see the doctor?” and he looked at me liked I’d asked “Will the moon crash land in France tonight?”
“No, you probably won’t,” he said looking at me like “Dumb American…”
I saw an ER nurse who confirmed my self diagnosis. She sent me to an eye doctor in Urgent Care. We followed the plethora of signs to find our way there. (The signage all over London is fantastic…)
The eye doctor also confirmed and wrote me a prescription for antibiotics and told me to pay for it at the machine in the waiting room then go pick it up at the pharmacy.
I paid £8.40 for the prescription. That’s about $10 US. Look at that again. It didn’t matter what kind of medicine I was getting. They only charged you based on how many different ones you got. Eyeball goo or Cancer meds… £8.40
Just in case you didn’t want to stab Martin Shrekli enough already…
We went to the pharmacy and picked the thing up and continued merrily on our vacation. All I paid for was the meds. And they were cheap. You can be damned sure I’m not going to bother claiming it on my US insurance. The cheapest thing I did in London was see a doctor. Amazing.
An easier pill to swallow…
Now of course the system has its problems. It’s apparently financially delicate. And they pay a lot in taxes over there. Sales tax alone is 20%. But it’s already included in the price, not added on at the register. So it’s easier to deal with.
But to not have to be worried about going broke AND being sick? Fantastic. Next time your doctor wants to charge you $700 for a little procedure, Get yourself a flight to London and do it there instead.