Example of Health Care in a Privatized Single Payer System

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We were visiting our son in South Korea when we noticed an eye infection in their newborn son. We took him to Cheju General Hospital in Jeju–without an appointment–where we found a room full of people waiting to see a doctor. At 10:57 AM, we took a number. We had #475, and looked at the board to see that #424 was currently being served. With 51 people ahead of us, we assumed this was going to be an all-day affair–after all, we were not in America.

At 11:23, our number was called. We checked-in and discovered that the newborn was not yet registered on my son’s insurance policy, so we would have to pay full price for the doctor visit. The baby’s vitals were taken and we were escorted to a hallway with about a dozen doors. A door opened, our name was called, and we immediately met with the doctor. An assistant was in the room. We assume she was there to take notes on a desktop computer. The doctor inspected the condition, prescribed medication, and wished us well.

We picked up the prescription at the hospital, paid our bill, and left the hospital at 12:46 PM. It took us 49 minutes and cost us $15 to get quality walk-in health care at a busy hospital in Korea. My son informed me that South Korea has a privatized single payer system. In this system, insurance is funded from a single insurance pool run by the state. Single payer health insurance collects all medical fees, and then pays for all services, through a “single” source.

If South Korea can provide quality health care quickly, effectively, and inexpensively, we need to learn something from their system to make ours quicker, better, and cheaper.

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