Taiwan health care: Why it ROCs

Editorial by Trista di Genova / The Wild East

Does it get any better than this?

They based it on the Canadian health care system — and everyone knows Canada’s health care system, as far as the general population is concerned, is far better than what is thrust on the public in the United States.

In the US, health care is a huge mess — a blood-sucking, profiteering, exploitative and bankruptcy-inducing fiasco. This is why the inability to pay for skyrocketed medical costs is a top cause of bankruptcy filings in the U.S.

On the other hand, Taiwan doctors are well-known for being superb; a good many have done their residencies in America. One ear doctor who did his residency at Harvard even told me recently he ‘prayed he didn’t get sick’ while traveling abroad in the U.S. A Taiwanese nurse said she prepared a big pack of medications in advance before travelling there, just in case.

Granted, Americans don’t like their weaknesses to be pointed out. We don’t want to call medical care in America the nightmare that it is. Besides, there is a proven inability on the part of the public to secure universal health care from their ‘legislators’, as these ‘representatives’ are mostly casting their vote from the back pockets of big pharmaceutical companies. Finally, Americans sure don’t like to look at the positive examples provided by other countries, or learn something new. America, as the world’s superposer, I mean superpower, must always be right… right?

I totally disagree with this complacency. And so today, I’m extolling the virtues of Taiwan heath care. Don’t be jealous when you read the rest of this article. Get motivated and press for urgently needed change in the American system.

How does Taiwan’s system work? There are small specialized or generalized clinics, at least one, perhaps several in every neighborhood. You can use your health card at any of these, just walk in off the street if you want to.

Commonplace are Chinese doctors’ clinics, too, where you can just walk in, take a number, and they usually accept cash (my visit was 200nt, or about 8 bucks). Chinese medical practitioners would cost a FORTUNE at home. These doctors do a tremendous job, too; certain illnesses may need a combination of acupressure, acupuncture or the variety of other ancient healing practices Chinese medicine has employed for about 4,000 years – yes, they’ve been studying the healing properties of plants for that long, there’s even a book about that old on the subject.

If you have Taiwan health insurance (600nt or US$20/month) you can walk in to any of these clinics without an appointment, pay 150nt, or about US$5, maybe wait a half-hour, get a consultation with an English-speaking doctor (all medical records are filled out in English!), get a FREE X-RAY, pelvic exam, sonogram if necessary, annual pap smear… and your prescription is also INCLUDED in that price. Are you gasping with outrage yet? Maybe you should be!

Another beautiful thing about Taiwan’s health care system is dental work ISN’T considered a cosmetic need, as it is in the West. You can have an x-ray, your teeth cleaned and some other things for the five dollar visitation fee at any dentist. Pulling a tooth, or fillings (a selection between several, including porcelain) are about US$30 apiece (1500nt); a gold cap starts at about US$250-300. The savings on bridgework is substantial enough that ‘medical tourists’ buy a plane ticket here and have it done for something like half the price as elsewhere. So far Taiwan is catering mostly to Mainlanders, but expats here are obviously living a good life!

If you don’t have insurance, no biggie; your doctor’s visit will cost roughly twice as much – only 10 bucks!! Not HUNDREDS, like it usually is in America. Uncovered, emergency treatment (at night) in Taiwan costs maybe 50 bucks extra. If you take this route and get medical treatment in Taiwan without insurance, make sure they tell you when a procedure is going to cost you extra.

For more serious procedures, like operations, with an insurance card you pay ONE-TENTH of the operation’s cost. Taipei Medical University Hospital, a teaching hospital, also has one of the ‘country’s’ best OB/GYN departments, and is the only hospital that offers state-of-the-art treatments like magnetic resonance, a non-invasive treatment (although it’s a private treatment and costs around five grand US).

Operations like myectomies and hysterectomies, for example, are a fraction of what they’d cost in the United States — with insurance, about US$300.

For one woman’s hospital visit: a hemoglobin (blood) test, a pregnancy test and a blood transfusion of 4 units of blood, altogether lasting about 10 hours – including some iron tablets and a calcium injection, all this cost less than $20 dollars. In fact the $20-$30 charge seems to be the normal cost for a HOSPITAL VISIT in Taiwan.

WHAAAT???? Isn’t that impossible??

Feel free to add your own knowledge of Taiwan’s amazing health services, and insanely cheap operation costs in the comment section below!

One thought on “Taiwan health care: Why it ROCs

  • July 5, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Thanks for the great post. Not only are Americans unaware of just how bad the US health care INDUSTRY is, Taiwanese are often unaware of how good the Taiwan system is. We have it really, really good here in Taiwan with regards to health care.

    When will Americans wake up and smell the coffee? I’m going to forward your post and make some US-based people seethe.


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