Coming from the States, especially in the past year, you hear a lot about health care, insurance companies and the evils of government controlled health systems.
I myself was pretty skeptical about the socialized healthcare when I moved here. Being unemployed I'm eligible for free healthcare- all GP visits, prescriptions, procedures, everything is free. The process of getting the medical card was pretty frustrating and I had to wait about three months before I actually got the letter stating that I was approved for the medical card. So During these last three months I had no coverage whatsoever, which was a little scary but thankfully besides a few sore throats I've been healthy since I've moved here.
In order to get the medical card you have to go to the community welfare office- This process of the community welfare office is frustrating. Each district has a certain day in which they can go and see their officer and there is only an hour window in which you can see her in. For instance we have to go on Tuesdays and Thursday between 11:30 and 12:30. But here's the thing, there is a huge district that has these same times. There is always a lengthy wait in an over-crowded waiting room with a fairly rough crowd of people. Needless to say I don't enjoy the visits to the Community welfare office. Thankfully now we have most everything sorted and so we shouldn't need to go there anytime soon, but when I first moved here, we were in the office each week!
Anyways I had to go and wait and get an application form from the Welfare Officer. In addition to the form I was given a list of doctors in and around Limerick. In order to get the medical card you have to be on a doctors patient list. This sounds a lot easier than its done! We spent one afternoon going from one doctors office to another trying to find a practice that had a space for me. Thankfully after calling around I found a great doctors office only a few blocks from our apartment! Then at this point I had to fill out the application, the doctors office had to fill out another part of the application and then I had to take it back to the Welfare office. Which of course, this is the way the Irish system seems to work, I was uninformed of some bit that i needed to have before I could turn in the application and was sent away after over an hours wait to see the officer. This happened about 3 times I think. (and every single time we had to fill out an application since I've been here we have been turned down this way at least twice!) so after all this running around I finally was approved for the card and turned in the application. They told me there was a three month processing period so don't get sick!
Well the waiting period was all fine and dandy. I never really minded so much, I was thankful that I was even eligible for healthcare. In the States if James and I were in the same position we would be a lot worse for the wear so I'm happy with whatever I get. I finally got my card number last week and in good timing. I woke up Sunday morning with my chest hurting something fierce! I have this recurring problem where the cartilage between my breast bone and ribs gets inflamed and it is extremely painful breathing, laying down, walking, whatever.
I didn't really feel like going to the doctors, but with us leaving for London in a day and a half I thought it might be smart to get checked out and perhaps get some prescription strength medication. I dreaded going to the doctor, especially with no appointment thinking "great- I'm going to be stuck in here all day."
Well get this.....twenty minutes- twenty. In twenty minutes not only did I arrive at the doctors office, was seen by the doctor, had a prescription written and had it filled at the pharmacy. All completely free of charge. The Staff at the doctors office is friendly and the doctor was competent. All in all it was one of my best medical experiences. I heard that the medical process here was fine and quick easy going, but I was still quite shocked at how efficient and pain-free the entire process was.
I feel a lot more confident now about medical care here in this country and am slightly annoyed thinking back to all of the money I had spent in the States for healthcare that wasn't really comparable to the service I received today, and everything that I have heard from others living in this country. Every month I paid high premiums and high co-pays for each visit. Any prescriptions I had were costly since my insurance only covered the bare minimum. I know that now in the states the cost of healthcare is going up even more- and that premiums are doubling and tripling in cost! I know that there is no easy solution and any overhaul in healthcare in the states will take a long time and a lot of growing pains. But it just makes me pause and think that a country as large and as advanced as the United States, why can't we figure out a system that works as well as the one here?