As you may know, I was diagnosed as hypothyroid, which means I have to consult with an endocrinologist, take meds every day, and go get my blood checked once every few months. I have done all this here in Buenos Aires, so I thought I would give a little summary of what the experience has been like.
Argentina has a national health system, which is free for its citizens. I have heard two things about this: 1) It's free for everybody and isn't that great, and 2) Don't use it if you can avoid it, especially the hospitals. They also have a private health system, which can be paid for with insurance, or by cash.
Since the cost is low enough for me, I pay cash. It's simple. No forms, no hassles, and you know how much everything costs. No one turns you down for anything. I get the tests I want. (Libertarian rant: Does anyone who is in favor of national health care consider that if health care is nationalized it will go the way of eduction--crappy? That seems to be the case here. The private system is superior.)
I got diagnosed with Hashimoto's when I went to an OB/GYN for a regular yearly exam. He asked me how I was feeling generally, and when I said fatigued, he sent me for some blood tests. He has a small office in a high-rise building run by just him and his secretary. I never wait more than two minutes past my appointment time. He never has more than one patient at a time in the waiting room. It's quiet, comfortable, and I pay around $200 pesos per consultation (about $55 bucks). This is pricey. He is very exclusive. His office is five blocks from my apartment. But he is wonderful, and he practiced for years in Chicago.
I go for the blood tests at a lab 1 1/2 blocks from my apartment, taken by a little old man who has been doing it for years. There is no one else in the lab. I am in and out in ten minutes. I pick up the blood tests MYSELF a couple days later. I bring them to the doctor. I think my thyroid tests cost me $50 pesos ($14 dollars).
This is a major difference here. With a few exceptions, I have picked up my lab results for a mammogram, thyroid ultrasound, and blood tests myself. I keep them myself. They are owned by me. It is a little more work on my part to get them and keep track of them, but I can take them to a different doctor if I want, or research the numbers myself online. My thyroid biopsy was done at a hospital, and they kept the results because it is the hospital where the endocrinologist practices.
My endocrinologist is a $20 peso taxi ride out to another neighborhood. She is excellent. Like the OB/GYN, she spends time talking to me, writing all my information down by hand on an index card. She speaks English (just got back from a conference in the U.S.) She charges $70 pesos per consultation (about $20 dollars). She gives me the change out of her pocket. She writes me a prescription for some medicine, and I go to the pharmacy down the block for it. I don't even have to show them the scrip. I just tell them what I want and they give me a box of bubble-wrapped capsules. $14 pesos (about $4 dollars-- granted, this medicine is cheap in the States, too.)
I need to go through the blood test/endo appointment thing about every three or four months, and go back to the OB/GYN each year.
So this is my experience-- good health care, low cost (at least for me. I know my financial situation here makes me very lucky), extremely efficient. I feel more in control of my health here than I did in the States.
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