Two-Class Medicine

Was reminded again today how priviledged I am. As a German civil servant, the government pays half of my medical bills, so I insure the other half with a private insurance. In these days, the average Joe and Jane are on a Krankenkasse and put up with long waits and not everything paid for them.

The eyes of a doctor's office clerk lights up, however, if you announce yourself a private patient. They can charge up to 2,3 times the normal fee for private people, so doctors are always happy to see you.

I broke (another) tooth this afternoon. I was giving myself some sugar just before heading for the lab, and got a hand full of chewey toffees out of my jar. One, yummy. Two, ohhhh, chocolate. Three: crunch. And I feel that the tooth is split in two.

It is now just a few minutes before I need to go to lab. I go check it out in the bathroom - yup, split down the middle, the back tooth. Okay, it has had a root canal and now has an inlay. And it is always infected, it seems. But to split on me like that, horrible.

I call my dentist. It rings a while, but sure, they are happy for me to come by, if I could make it by 17.30 it would be wonderful. So I show up late for lab (tsk, tsk, I make nasty comments about the students coming late to lab), manage to give the sequence diagramm introduction without a shred of notes (which are all online, but the computer isn't up at the teacher's place), go around and help, and then I disappear early to the dentist's.

She pulls off the broken shard, hemms and haws, takes an X-ray, and then asks me to go to an oral surgeon to get the rest of the tooth pulled. It has such a hook at the roots.

Her office clerk calls the oral surgon's office, she could see me maybe next Thursday. No way - I have time tomorrow, and none else. The office clerk notes that I have been there before - they pull my card, and I get offered an appointment on Monday. Both days are no-gos, I teach all day both days. I want to come tomorrow.

"Oh well," I say to the office clerk, "I'll just go to the clinic, they are open 'round the clock". They have, of course, seen that I am a private patient by now.

And suddenly I can come tomorrow at 3 pm to have my tooth pulled. They close at 14.00 on Fridays. The power of private insurance - they would rather have me come than lose me to the clinic. But isn't it horrible, that we have two (or more!) different classes of medical care in Germany?

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