If You’re Gonna Get Sick, Do It in Europe

I’ve been bashing the Berlin weather for a while. Now the Berlin weather has gotten its revenge. By giving me tonsillitis.

I always thought tonsillitis meant you had to get your tonsils out. Thankfully, that’s not the case. It’s basically like strep, except the inflammation is on a tonsil (in my case, the left). The doctor prescribed me some antibiotics, sage tea, and vitamins. I just took the daily dose of the vitamins that he told me were to build up my immune system, but the packaging claims they’re for a variety of issues, including — and I quote from the German — “Burn-out-Syndrom.” Guess I’ll have a new lease on my professional life, or something.

Anyway, more interesting than my illness itself is the window I got into the German medical system today. I went to a doctor recommended by a family friend in the Charlottenburg district — Berlin’s Upper East Side (NY) or Upper Northwest (DC). I figured it’d be pricey, but I wanted to go somewhere decent, I didn’t know of any other doctors, and they’d take me as a walk-in. So I bit the bullet and went.

When I got there, they asked me for my insurance information, which is a little dicey, since all I’ve got here is some basic emergency coverage provided by the Burns program, which I was nearly certain wouldn’t cover me for this. So they told me I could sign in as a private patient and then negotiate with the insurance company later.

The wait and the actual appointment were both the fastest in my life. From the time I sat down in the waiting room to the time I left the doctor’s office couldn’t have been more than ten minutes. The doctor took a quick glance at my throat and gave me four prescriptions: 1) drink lots, 2) no contact sports, 3) drink and gargle sage tea, 4) take antibiotics. (And I’ll proudly note that I’ve now navigated medical emergencies in two foreign languages, having done so in Peru as well.)

Then it was back to the front desk, where I cringed at the bill I was about to receive. I figured 200 euros was probably a reasonable bet. The receptionist said if I liked, I could pay now and then have my insurance reimburse me. Knowing the latter part probably wouldn’t happen, I said OK and asked what the damage was.

21 euros, 44 cents.

When I told my roommate Jojo just now about the experience, she couldn’t believe I’d paid that much for a doctor’s appointment. But absent insurance, she conceded, they can charge crazy-high prices like … 21 euros, 44 cents.

Anyway, I’m convalescing now and could use some diversion, so send me a funny note or something. It’s crucial to my continued survival.

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2 Responses to If You’re Gonna Get Sick, Do It in Europe

  1. kristaj says:

    It’s so crazy that people from other countries tell the same horror stories about the U.S. medical system (or at least, in my experience) as people in the U.S. tell about other countries. But in the end, have you ever had a U.S. doctor tell you to gargle tea? And yet that will probably make a difference. I just picked up a bottle of echinacea extract in the apotheke to ward off my own mid-winter cold, and was pleased to discover that it is the real deal – the kind that in the states is hard to find if you don’t know someone who makes it.
    Feel better! Oh, and the joke: How do you double the value of a Trabi? Fill up the tank! (bada-boom)

  2. Pingback: Well That Was Brief | Ein Berliner, Briefly

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