Healthcare is definitely handled differently here in India. We have had only a little exposure to it and am sure my knowledge with grow as we live here but the following are some interesting facts I wanted to share:
1.The Chemist — in every market there is at least 1 chemist store (pharmacy). These chemist stores sell everything from heavy prescription drugs to your basic shampoo and soap. Most of these stores are about the size of one aisle in a grocery store (maybe less). There is at least one individual in each store that speaks pretty good English so I have been able to make sure what I was asking for was understood. It is usually the man that is collecting the money — he seems to be the boss. So within the first month, we visited the chemist for 2 different reasons. The first was within the first week to see if we could seek out some aid to help us with sleeping. We were tired of waking up at 2 am and not being able to go back to sleep. Several individuals that have handled the international travel frequently, suggested that the best way to get on track with the 12 hour time change was to take some Ambien for just 2 days and it would really help. We headed into the Chemist and learned just how easy it is to get prescription medicines here. All we did was ask for it and we got one tablet sheet (about 10 of them) for a total cost of about $3. My second trip to the Chemist was taking a prescription in to see if they could fill a prescription from a US doctor that I had brought with me. The gentleman handed me the medicine — didn’t even care about the doctor’s prescription, and proceeded to tell me that “it is not hard to get medicine here in India.” I had to redo the math after paying for the prescription because it came to less than $4 which was less than most people have as a co-pay in the US.
The above picture is a chemist store in one of the local markets. The picture below is a picture of the sidewalk view in front of the Chemists.
2. Insurance — there is a state run healthcare system here that only the very poor (which is a massive number of individuals) use. The majority of Indians prefer the privatized healthcare option due to the better facilities and ability to use doctors of their choice. We have been to a doctor twice since arriving to get some “highly recommended” shots that the school advised, including rabies, Japanese encephalitis and typhoid. I was already with our insurance card and learned that everything in India is done on a cash basis. One then has to submit the receipts to the insurance company for reimbursement. It is definitely some work on the patient’s part, but much better for the doctor.
3. Doctors — there are general practitioners or pediatricians that have their own offices and those that work only at hospitals. Those that have their own offices are much better known and have a good clientele. The doctor’s offices are usually in neighborhood where the doctor has his office on the first floor and he resides above it. According to the doctor we visited, it is very difficult and expensive finding office space. The doctor we went to which was highly recommended by the American Embassy School had worked as a doctor in the United States for 15 years prior to returning to India. We have never had a doctor spend so much time with us. His overhead costs are kept at a minimum from what we observed compared to visiting a doctor in the US. The cost to get these multiple immunizations were a fraction of what it would cost us in the states. The doctor we chose works with mostly expats. In fact, nearly all his clients leave India for the summer, so when his children were little he would head to Disney World in Florida and spend 6-8 weeks there.
4. Hospitals — there are several hospitals in New Delhi. Some hospitals are those that handle the state-run medical care. As our relocation specialist took me to a hospital to visit, I learned that expats are treated entirely different from the average Indian needing medical care. I had an appointment scheduled with a hospital representative who gave me his card with his personal mobile number to call if we needed anything. He would help me get the appointment scheduled and assist. Based on the number of people waiting in the hospital, choosing a private doctor for immunizations, etc. was a much faster way to get it done. I am hoping none of us will need to visit a hospital again, but learned that after being admitted to the hospital for 24 hours, that is when they will accept your insurance information and bill directly.
Less than half of the children in India are ever immunized properly due to lack of funding. Malnutrition and bad water sources contribute greatly to health issues. Although the cost of a prescription as referenced above may seem like “small change” to us, the majority of families here could never afford to walk in the chemist and pay that amount to help out.