Being Sick In America As A Foreigner

New York, Travel

Some of you may find this post interesting, some of you may not, some of you may think it is too personal but it is something I need to talk about to keep me sane. I had always heard horror stories about healthcare in America. The cost, the doctors, the mistakes. As part of the visa that I came over on travel insurance is compulsory with your choice of excess between $250, $100 and $0. When deciding which excess I would go with I didn’t think I would get sick and was adamant I wouldn’t get involved in the healthcare system over here because of said horror stories. I chose the $250 excess because it was the cheapest option and thought I would not have to use it. Well, I was an idiot to put it lightly. Always go with the $0 excess when you are going to America and healthcare is extortionate. Always.
At the beginning of August I started getting a sore throat and thought I must have been getting a cold so treated myself accordingly. After a few days I noticed I had no other cold symptoms and the sore throat was still very present. It was then that I noticed white patches on my tongue which is not normal. I Googled symptoms as everyone these days does and asked my best friend who is a nurse what it might be. Oral thrush was the conclusion. This is caused by a low immune system and an imbalanced pH level. This was the conclusion for 2 months. Even after multiple prescriptions did not work and hundreds of dollars were spent. I was becoming increasingly frustrated and concerned. In New Zealand I would have been able to get on top of this straight away because healthcare is affordable even without health insurance. But over here, i was extremely hesitant because I didn’t have $135 to spare for each doctor’s visit. that’s correct – $135 for every doctors visit and that’s just for the initial visit! Any tests or prescriptions are extra on top of that. So each doctors visit I went to (3 in total) I put off until I really had to go. At my final doctors visit, the doctor told me I should see a throat specialist because there is only so much she can see.

Had to give up coffee for a while

Had to give up coffee for a while

My excess is $250, which until recently I thought was for each doctor’s visit but it is actually for each incident so because all my doctors visits have been for the same issue it is just the one $250 excess. I called the insurance company and explained what was happening. I had to talk to a customer service representative, then a case manager and then a nurse. Explaining my situation each time. They couldn’t guarantee that I would be covered straight away. My heart dropped when I heard that because there is no way I could afford a throat specialist without cover. A doctor had to review my case and another nurse. The first nurse I spoke to was the absolute worse. She was so condescending and was saying she thought it was extreme to send me to a throat specialist especially when I leave the country soon. Like you can just put your health on hold. Unbelievable. When I called them I was expecting them to just be like “Yep, that’s fine you’re covered go to the specialist now!” But instead, it took them 5 days for them to decide if I would be covered or not. Each day someone different would call and I would tell them the exact same thing each time. On the 5th day I called them to follow up and the person on the phone said “Oh yep, you’re covered you can go to the specialist.” So they had approved it without even calling or e-mailing to let me know. Anyways, that doesn’t matter because I had the cover which meant I could go to the specialist and find out what the hell was going on. The specialist I was going to see was at a 24 hour emergency care ear, nose and throat clinic. I had to wait 3 hours to see the doctor. First I saw a nurse who was taking calls while seeing me and I was getting sent around from person to person on a wild goose chase. It was ridiculous. I fell asleep in the waiting room, eventually awoken by the doctor calling my name. The doctor thankfully made up for all the bad service so far because he was lovely. He listened, was very understanding and empathetic of the fact I was in a foreign country which happened to have an awful healthcare system. He sprayed some strange substance up my nose which would numb my airwaves for when he stuck a camera up there to go down into my throat to check it out. I closed my eyes and prayed for the best. As he pulled the camera out, he began to tell me how disappointed he was, how he was expecting to see something really cool but it was really boring for him. “That’s great news for me”, I said. The correct conclusion? A sinus infection. He explained that the other doctors wouldn’t have been able to see that though as they didn’t have the camera. It was my back sinuses (obviously not the technical term but how i think of them) that were the issue rather than my front, usual ones (again not the technical term).
2014-09-13 19.35.51

So with a dosage of antibiotics, 2 nasal sprays and Sudafed in hand I was off home to try and kick this thing. It’s been a torturous 2 months but fingers crossed I am on the mend now and can enjoy the rest of my time in New York. There ain’t no way I am going back to a doctor here!