Why Can’t Health Care Be More Like Travel?

While visiting with me, an older relative of mine who resides in another state had the recent misfortune of accidentally falling, resulting in breaking her neck and opening a gash on her head. She needed a neck brace to stabilize her neck and must wear it for a minimum of two months; she also needed seven staples in her head, which have since been removed.

Why Can’t Health Care Be More Like Travel?

She vomited several times during one night, so I rushed her to the emergency room, hoping to get that resolved. What I thought was going to be an overnight hospital stay has become almost a week, and I have been visiting her every day.
As I sat in her hospital room while she rested, I began to note certain similarities between that room and a hotel room. She has good health insurance, so she will only have to pay a small co-pay…
…um…I meant to say that she already paid her co-pay. The staff at the hospital ensured that within the first hour or so after she was admitted.
Aside from paying your room rate in advance to secure a bargain, could you imagine someone on the hotel staff knocking on your door not long after you checked in, demanding payment from you?…
…and you thought that the telephone call from the front desk asking if everything is all right was annoying.
Anyway, I have no idea how much that hospital room costs per day — but I did research some rehabilitation facilities for her recovery back to complete health. One place which made a seedy motel look like a luxury hotel commanded a minimum of $450.00 per day for a small private room with a shower.
To be fair, that rate included physical therapy and meals, among other things. I have not seen what the meals look like or taste like — but I can tell you that their smells lingered.
I do not get nauseous easily. That day was a rare exception.
If that room was $450.00 for the night, I can only imagine what the hospital room costs per night. Sure, there are doctors and nurses to tend to you — when they are available, that is — but medications and medical supplies are usually not included in the “room rate”…
…not to mention that you do not earn frequent guest loyalty program points — unless you use a partner credit card to pay your co-pay.
This particular relative loves to travel. I had often wondered if her recovery back to good health would have been speedier had she been in a room at a luxury hotel where she would have been waited on hand and foot with butler service. She would have slept in a comfortable bed — not adjustable, I know — and dined on premium quality food.
The beach is one of her favorite places, as she lived right near one when she was growing up. She wants to go to the beach again. Imagine if that hotel room — er…hospital room…was equipped with French doors leading to the beach. I know that the ocean waves would relax her tremendously because I played a video of one on my portable electronic device and placed it next to her ear as she lay in her hospital bed, over-medicated, weak and tired.
She smiled. It was a rare peaceful moment for her in that hospital room.
She has needed physical therapy while in that hospital room after laying in a bed for almost a week — but I was told that the physical therapist can only come every other day due to a heavy workload. She had been given medications which should never have been given to her in the first place. She started developing a bed sore from being in that hospital bed for several days when — despite her broken neck — she can move all of her body parts. There were other factors which angered and frustrated me about her stay at this particular hospital…
…factors which neither you nor I would even think of tolerating if we spent hundreds of dollars per night in a hotel room. If something or someone is not available when wanted or needed, that would usually be unacceptable with an exorbitant room rate in the lodging industry. Why does it seem to be acceptable in the medical profession?
Without getting political here, I blame four factors — mostly dealing with the financial aspect which I believe is the impetus for the problems with which the medical profession is fraught:

  • Expensive drugs manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, which claim that they need to recover their research and development costs
  • Tuition costs at medical institutions which are skyrocketing out of control despite the state of the economy
  • Health insurance companies which cite increasing treatment costs for their subscribers
  • Medical personnel who are squeezed by the increasing limitations and restrictions imposed on them

Discussions on FlyerTalk

The one thing which seems to be healthy, however, is the almighty dollar on which they are all apparently profiting — but that is a debate for another time.
Meanwhile, the skyrocketing costs of health care have caused patients to look into medical tourism to save money. Tim Winship addressed this phenomenon of reducing medical costs by traveling in an article he posted to FrequentFlier.com on July 30, 2013 — but this topic has been discussed for years on FlyerTalk, as witnessed below:

FlyerTalk member choster read an article by The Economist about how to encourage preventative health care — something which needs to significantly increase, in my opinion — where “you earn points by exercising, buying healthy food or hitting certain targets; you rise through various levels, from blue to gold, as you accumulate points — rewards are adjusted to your starting level of fitness to give everybody a chance of making progress — and you are given a mixture of short-term and long-term rewards ranging from reduced premiums to exotic holidays.”
It is an interesting idea — one which could warrant further investigation — and certainly one which may interest other FlyerTalk members.

Summary

There is one thing about which I am certain: although the industries of travel and miles and points have not been viewed upon in a positive light recently, the health care industry and the concept of affordable health care — at least in the United States — seem to be far worse.
This whole health care debacle — at least I believe it is a debacle — is one reason why I strive to prevent illness as much as possible.
Although there was a point where things seemed hopeless, my relative is determined to pull through — and that is ultimately what will save her and her sanity.
In the meantime, I am certainly not going to pretend that I have all of the answers — far from it, even though there are some thoughts I have which I believe merit trial. What do you think about the medical profession and health care as related to travel, miles and points — and how do you believe that it could be improved?

4 thoughts on “Why Can’t Health Care Be More Like Travel?”

  1. BThumme says:

    I’m interning in San Diego for the summer. Broke My ankle playing hockey down here. I’m still covered under my parents insurance back home, so I didn’t sign up for the summer for work here.
    Anyways, my insurance would only cover something like 40-60% of the surgery I needed. So it was cheaper for me to fly back home to Michigan and have it done than stay out here in California.
    I don’t know where I’m going with this. Long story short, don’t get hurt while traveling.

  2. jALIg says:

    Or you could start turning into a proper society and get some universla health care. It should be a fundamental human right. Like access to water.

  3. nlkm9 says:

    I pay what I feel is an ungodly amount for insurance–$1800 a month…yet this am I was afriad to take my hubby to the hospital becuase I have a $1000 hospital deductible and would have to pay 30%…….it really stinks, but I wouldnt dare go without it. You make some interesting points.
    I have a friend who is on state aid–she thinks nothing of going to the er a few times a month and/or calling an ambulance–I would be charged $900 for what she gets for free. Grrr.

  4. nursedoc says:

    Disclosure: relationship to the author and the subject persont.
    It is true that the current system is not ideal. Unfortunately, The healthcare system is highly politicized in the United States. I would agree that access to healthcare should be seen as a universal right, not a privilege. Unfortunately, we in the United States still have some growing up to do. I do foresee in the future that we will do the right thing. Until then, the Gate master has some interesting ideas, and there is a lot that can be said for medical tourism if you have the money to leave our borders. I have seen my own patients travel to other countries for healthcare, that could not be afforded locally.
    To paraphrase a Brit : The United States will do the right thing, after trying every other alternative.
    Unfortunately, this will mean some additional years with the current system, until that day comes.

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