I dreaded going to the doctor today, but I needed a prescription for medicine I buy over-the-counter at home.
Armed with the name and address of a doctor who speaks English, I hired a babysitter to watch the girls and off I went to test out Europe’s system of socialized medicine. Foreigners don’t have the luxury of free medical service so without German health insurance, I didn’t know how much I’d have to pay.
I found the Doctor’s office downtown, hidden over a pizzeria. The receptionist didn’t speak much English, but she valiantly attempted to understand my very broken Deutsch. I showed her my medicine bottle, and we communicated in one-word sentences until she realized what I needed. Then she helped me fill out the paperwork to see the doctor (all in German, of course).
After an hour wait in the lobby, I was in.
The doctor was very gracious and after a short consultation, gave me a prescription that will probably last a year. He said I would pay thirty euro at the front desk (not bad! A consultation would probably cost $100 at home.) and then buy the drug at the Apotheke (pharmacy).
When I went back to the front, the receptionist asked: “How much Doctor say you pay?”
“I think he said thirty euro.” I held out a fifty-dollar bill.
She gave me a funny look and headed back to the doctor’s office.
Great—he probably meant $130.
When she came back out, she printed out a receipt for $3.15.
She looked at my fifty and said, “Kleine?” (smaller?)
I pulled out my purse and handed her a five coins. That’s right—I paid a doctor with change!
I can’t comment on the entire socialized medicine system. I don’t know what would happen if I needed surgery or had a life-threatening emergency. But for a simple medical need, I’m all for the three buck deal.