3.22.2009

Mike talks about... healthcare

I understand that cutting healthcare costs is a hot topic in the U.S. The Obama administration might want to pick up a few ideas from Roatan.


On the good news front, a doctor visit runs about $2.50 at Miss Peggy's drop-in clinic. And you get free drugs! Unfortunately, it takes two to six hours to actually see the doctor. Everyone brings their whole family and gets dresssed up, like for church. It's an outing. Enterprising women sell sodas and snacks on the front porch. Children (including Delaney and Hayden) are entertained on one of the island's few swing sets. Fox News would call it socialism.




For impatient gringos and parents of twins, the clinic offers a Rapid Care option. For about the price of your deductible back home ($25) you can go in the back door, skip the line and see a doctor within 20-30 minutes. And, you still get free drugs. The problem with this time-saver is that it can take up to an hour after you've been rapidly cared for before the busy volunteer pharmacy technician actually dispenses those drugs.




Speaking of medications, there are some interesting twists here. You don't really need a prescription and there is a generic for just about anything. Again, for the price of your deductible, you can get a three-month supply of your daily doses if you know what to ask for. Beware of visiting U.S. doctors, though. They tend to presecribe medications that are not available.... anywhere on the island. Perhaps this means something.


On Roatan, doctors often prefer to order up shots over pills. The serious reason for this is that illiteracy is so rampant on the island that doctors aren't confident that their directions will be followed. But the comical consequence of this is that you end up with your pants down inside a corner Farmacia.

Instead of at the doctor's office, you are sent to one of the island's many pharmacies to get your shots. This is not your local CVS. In my first experience with this, I was told to drop my drawers right there at the counter. At least that's what I think the woman said in Spanish. At least that's what I hope she said.


Healthcare on Roatan is an adventure and generally an inefficient all-day proposition. Perhaps somewhere in this is a model for reducing healthcare costs in the United States.