Health care in the Philippines, moderate lack of sanitation notwithstanding, is superior to America's commercialized industry. (I'm sure when Obama's plan kicks in, I'll have to eat my words...[sarcasm])
In the Philippines, a magical thing happens when you get sick. You go to the drug store and buy a pill and you're cured. My sister in law came down with something (symptoms showed up, she obviously had it before she came to the Philippines) that in America would have cost several hundred dollars (less whatever insurance paid), a trip to the doctors and to the pharmacy and the several hours associated with such. In the Philippines, it was a matter of a 5 minute trip to the drug store and something like 3 US dollars. Within a few hours, she felt much better and consuming the remainder over the next few days, she was completely cured.
At one point, I complained of a stuffy nose (couldn't breathe through it at all). One of my bystanding relatives walked to the drug store and came back with a solitary pill (wrapped). About 15 minutes later, I noticed that my nose was completely unstuffed never to be stuffed again for the remainder of my trip. What the heck?! In America, if you have a stuffy nose, they have some crap that costs a fortune and will make you feel really weird but it sure as hell ain't gonna do anything about your nose.
I'm also fond of their anti-bacterial lozenges called Strepsil which contain Vitamin C. These things do wonders for colds, sore throats, and bronchitis. On my last trip to the Philippines, the day before I left to go there I fell miserably ill with a severe cold and bought Strepsil on arrival. This trip, they helped me abuse cigarettes. :| Not a good thing. No, I don't smoke. Except when I feel like it.
Anyhow, I contracted a bug while I was there (I think it was something I ate) and though I didn't feel too bad, we decided to go to the doctor just to make sure it was ok before I got on the plane. It was Sunday so the emergency room was the only option. We had to drive about 10 or 15 minutes through dense city streets to get there (which means that there are relatively few hospitals per capita) and there was a single doctor on staff and maybe 3 or 4 nurses. 10 minutes of wait. That's right, 10 minutes. Bill? $12 (including medication). I've had 3 emergency room visits here in America over the last 2 years (wife & kid - they have a knack for getting sick on weekends) and all three have been at least 2 hours of waiting and something like a month's wage. In America they have a half dozen doctors, 2 dozen nurses, a hospital on every corner and you can stop in on Sunday night 2 AM and you'll have to wait for 2 hours to be seen. Many Americans don't realize that runny noses are not medical emergencies. American test for allergic reaction to drugs: "Are you allergic to any drugs?" In the Philippines, they do a skin test to prevent an allergic reaction.
So, what can be done to fix the problems in America? Stop with the prescription drug scam for starters. Let people self medicate. I can't even get medicine for my dog without shelling out money to the vet. In 95% of cases where I didn't already know exactly what was wrong with me and exactly what medicine I needed, the doctor has proved useless. Certain things could remain controlled substances (addictive pain killers for example) but anti-biotics? Come on...
Something seriously needs to be done about emergency rooms but I think giving people the ability to purchase drugs that work without going to a doctor first would dramatically help this problem.
Another thing: let medical insurance go back to being insurance and not pre-payment for unneeded service. The reduction in unnecessary trips to the doctors which self medication would allow would itself lower the insurance premiums but if we actually paid for only major coverage and not for trivial things, this would lower the cost further. Companies paying for employee insurance also adds to the problem. Legislation forcing insurance to cover more types of treatment also makes it more expensive. (Someone needs to let President Obama know this. His plan for reduction of health care costs consists of raising taxes and forcing insurance companies to cover more. Sheer genius.)
My company's health plan is ridiculously bad. To cover my family (of 3) costs something like $850 per month with a $3,000 deductible reimbursable by the company down to $1,000. So that means, I need to have ($850 x 12) + $1,000 worth of medical costs each year just to break even with my expenses. That's $11,200. Seriously. If something happens that's going to cost me $12,000, I'll pay $1,000 for a plane ticket to the Philippines and get the treatment for $50.