Saturday 29 September 2012
NHS versus Private Medical Aid
For 39 years I was only aware of the NHS. Yes, there was private care available at a cost in the UK, but it usually came with a benefit package or the rich used it. Despite needing hospital care in the UK the private scheme was only ever used the once by hubby as in the past treatment needed hadn't fallen into the right category. I've had a few stays in hospital with viral meningitis and pneumonia and other things and all of them were 999 calls/emergencies so never really stopped to think about using the private care and apart from service in the NHS being slow, there's never really been an issue. On moving to South Africa less than 2 years ago, our only option is private medical care, so we've been told and although its part of a benefit package hubby still has to contribute 50% of the monthly cost and it's a taxable benefit. There was the cricket ball in the throat incident, pay cash up front, claim back from med aid, bills sent directly to us to pay, but not receiving them so issued with court orders to pay as the med aid wasn't linked to the emergency hospital son was taken to. Emergency surgery after the heelies accident, now apart from the cast being too tight, that all worked out well, from A&E to surgery, to ward to discharge, less than 24hours. There's been a CT scan after I was dehydrated, numerous dental treatments and doctor’s appointments. We've certainly had our monies worth from it but what has been the real cost? I personally think Private medical care is a waste of money, time and effort and so far it has caused me more stress than any of the treatments, surgery and emergencies that have happened so far. When admitted to hospital you have to set up an account, so your child is separated from you while you complete paperwork, provide copies of ID and med aid, know your hubbies works number off the top of your head as in any emergency you're never prepared. Did you know you can request which hospital you want the ambulance to take you to? Then the hospital will ask you after they've carried out initial treatment what scans/tests etc do you want? You're the bloody experts, you tell me. Do you want to be admitted? I don't know how much does that cost? Then of course you say yes to the tests and no you'll take child home if the hospital say it's ok to discover that now you have to phone your med aid and ask permission for the tests, you discover the hospital you are at doesn't meet with the med aids agreed prices and you have to then hand your bank card over for them to take the necessary payments, because they don't tell you this until afterwards or unless you ask, keep the receipt and spend next 6 months arguing with the med aid for a full refund...It was an emergency. Oh and don't forget the payment gap you'll end up in, the what? Exactly. You go to the Doctors or are half way through dental treatment and your funds run out. Yes seriously and the first you know about it is when a bill arrives or you get a phone call demanding payment. It's even more annoying when you explain to the med aid that you don't know how any of this works, as you are only used to free treatment as you're from the UK, you finally get informed that there's a drop in centre nearby where you can ask to speak with someone to explain all of this to you. So you visit every time you ne something or you get a bill and they are very good at reading off the computer, emailing you cut and paste and putting you on the phone to someone above them who is more qualified to answer your question, when all they then do is read off a piece of paper. This week I was admitted to hospital for day surgery. It was 6 weeks from referral by doctor to appointment and the actual procedure. Which compared to the NHS is bloody brilliant, but the stress of organising it was immense. R500 payable on initial consultation, claimed back from med aid. Completion of consent forms for surgery and all med aid details including car registration numbers for both myself and hubby (no parking permit was issued) details of next of kin in South Africa and as we are immigrants, contact for family members in the UK. Then there was approval from the med aid, the hospital contacted me to say I'd need to pay R3500 towards the treatment, so a visit to the med aid drop in centre, a phone call to discover that they won't pay for two treatments in the same year. But I wasn't having two treatments in the same year, but according to med aid level 1 injection were the same as level 2 injections. The physio and anaesthetist come to see me, told to refrain from driving for 48hrs and my neck may be sore for a week. At the consultation I was informed I'd be sedated and a needle would be inserted into my nerves on both sides of my neck from C1-7 and an electrical pulse would stimulate the nerves. I was put under and the procedure lasted 90 mins, I came round and my blood pressure was 57/40 something, I was dehydrated and it took 2 hours for the drip to pass through and I was discharged at 5pm. On arriving home I stepped out the car and collapsed on the drive, I've been in bed ever since with this (sat pm) being the first time I've been able to sit up for more than a few minutes without incredible neck pain. On calling the hospital on Friday I was told I had to have complete bed rest till Tuesday, take the meds as prescribed, despite instruction on box saying 'when needed' and to drink caffeine, coke and eat chocolates to keep my blood sugar levels up, my feet elevated and not to attempt to stand unaided and not to be left alone. Now hubby wouldn't have gone to Cape Town Thursday till Saturday had we been given that information at the hospital. And thanks to med aid company I now have to go through the whole procedure level 2 again in January when the New Year starts which will mean with the costs that we will be in the payment gap sooner than we want. In the meantime I'm trying to find a perodontist that works within the med aid figures and despite requesting that the med aid company find me one, I'm still waiting for the surgery I need to resolve and slow down the bone degeneration I have and prevent my teeth from falling out. I'd rather have the NHS any day, thank you very much. I may have to wait longer but from previous experience, there is less stress prior to the event and after. My father had a heart attack in June, the only option he had was the NHS, their care during and after was fantastic and the help he receives now is amazing. No wonder I'm suffering from depression, most of it caused by my lack of knowledge and the medical aids lack of understanding in response to 'I don't know how this all works, please help'