Taiwan National Health Insurance
The Taiwanese health system is a single-payer insurance system, meaning that the government provides health insurance for all of its citizens, and everyone is required to pay for it. It is a very cheap and efficient system, instituted in the turn of the 21st century. Now, the entire population of Taiwan has access to cheap, affordable and accessible care. Unlike the UK, Taiwanese physicians are employees of hospitals, not the state.
From a patient perspective, Taiwanese NHI is very convenient. The clinics are extremely cheap. English-speaking doctors are available, especially within the city Kaohsiung itself. Prescriptions can be bought cheaply at the clinic itself, and many medications are more accessible than what you are used to in America. You can get antibiotics and steroids without a script. In addition, you don’t need a primary care physician referral to see specialists (For example, if you have stomach problems, you can go right to a GI doctor – you don’t need your family doctor to refer you).
Hospital visits also tend to be very fast and inexpensive. The ER waiting time in this country is consistently less than two hours, and you don’t have to endure the insurance checks you are accustomed to in the United States because everyone is required by law to have the same insurance. Your hospital stays will also be much more affordable – surgery tends to be $3-4,000NT and most of it is paid by insurance. The quality of care is also top-notch – the facilities and equipment, in general, are great.
In addition, you can purchase glasses and contact lenses without a script and at a MUCH cheaper rate than in the United States. DON’T BRING LENSES FROM AMERICA – just buy them here. The one exception is if you have a particularly strong, far-sighted prescription, which may not be as available.
Dentistry in Taiwan is also very convenient and up to snuff with the U.S. It’s not necessary to hurriedly get a checkup in the United States. In fact, many ETAs have chosen to get their wisdom teeth removed in Taiwan due to the lower costs.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
While you are here, it might interest you to try Traditional Chinese medicine. Taiwanese citizens tend to go to see Chinese doctors for chronic ailments, like rhinitis, allergies and joint/muscle pain. Chinese medicine monitors and promotes smooth flow of fluids in your body. It is a completely organic way to care for these ailments and foster good health. You can look at it like a more organic way of taking multivitamins. However, even Chinese doctors would tell you to go to a Western hospital if you have severe trauma, cancer, etc. It is covered by Taiwanese National Health Insurance, so you can try it inexpensively.
Classic examples of Chinese medical treatment include herbal medicines, acupuncture, moxibustion, electrotherapy and cupping. While you may be skeptical, Chinese doctors go through a great deal of training. Taiwan has two universities that teach Chinese medicine, and it requires 6 years of University (the same as Western medicine). In addition, there are more and more studies showing the effectiveness of certain treatments. Chinese doctors are extremely skilled at old Chinese, for many Chinese medicine books are written only in old forms of Chinese. Thus, their English may not be as good as the Western physicians.