I’ve been watching the health care debate go on and on in the United States and it has made me sick to my stomach. Literally. Let me qualify that. I have been sick to my stomach for over a week and I am choosing to blame it on the health care debate in congress. Did I call it a debate? I’m not sure there is a word for what is happening in congress (at least not one I am comfortable posting here).

PART I

I went to the hospital two days ago with stomach problems that went beyond the normal ‘couple days of discomfort and life goes on’ symptoms. Nothing life threatening, just persistent. Checked in, got a number. After a couple of minutes in the waiting room I had my vitals checked (all normal) and then saw the doctor. Some questions, quick check, prescription for an antibiotic and out the door. 15 KD (about $50.)

Emily and I then went across the street to the pharmacy. Five minutes later I had my prescription. 4 KD (about $15) Done. We had time to kill before the taxi arrived so we sat down for coffee and a snack. It was a rather pleasant experience. No lines. No hassles. I’m considering going back just to enjoy the atmosphere (exaggerating, but only slightly.) All of these expenses (except the cab) are covered by the health insurance provided by my employer. No co-pay, nothing. Fully covered.

OK; so going to the hospital in a completely foreign land – not that scary. Here’s the scary part. Why can’t they get it right in the US? The hospital I went to was an amazing facility with incredible staff and thorough, professional physicians. The pharmacy was efficient, fast and user-friendly. Why is this so hard to get right in the US. Whose interests are being served? Truly? I read that we don’t have health care in the United States, we have sick care. Painfully true.

PART II

So the gentleman who cuts my hair keeps his shop open about 18 hours a day. One can get a haircut at anytime that is convenient. He’s very good. We don’t communicate much, just common pleasantries and big gestures – my Arabic is as good as his English. Traditionally, a shoulder massage follows a barber style haircut. You look neat and trim and you feel great. My guy in Kuwait gives a shoulder massage, but also has a way of finding every point of tension in your scalp, neck, shoulders and back. Tonight, my barber massaged my scalp for a couple of seconds and then stopped. He gestured to his stomach, groaned, and said “bad, huh?” I verified his diagnosis and he went to work. A couple of minutes later the pain and tension was gone.

I’m not going to stop taking the prescription I have from the doctor, but I wonder if I should have gotten my haircut first. ~b

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