Medical treatment her is far cheaper than the USA, but if you want to get proper treatment, you are going to need a healthy sense of skepticism and a little education.

First off, it’s CHEAP. I don’t remember what I used to pay before I got health insurance through my residency status but it wasn’t much. With an Alien Resident Certificate and the universal health insurance that comes along with it, trips to the doctor are even cheaper, costing 150NT for the visit and sometimes a small copay for the drugs. Drugs from the pharmacy cost the same weather or not you’re insured. A visit to the emergency room can cost upwards of 3,000 NT but if you’re headed there, money is the least of your concerns.

When going to see a doctor, small clinics are always faster, better and cheaper than large hospitals unless you need treatment or tests that aren’t offered at small clinics (EX:the health check for your ARC). The downside of treatment at a clinic is the wait and the doctor Himself. He is accustomed to everyone kissing his ass and hanging on every word. He will get pissed if your pasty-white ass dares question His wisdom. Fuck Him. First of all, the body of medical knowledge He draws upon comes more from grandmas outdated health advice than from His formal training. He will parrot ridiculous, outdated “knowledge” with great authority such as: rain, wet hair, stale air and dog fur will make you sick. He will also shamelessly give you outdated dietary advice even without ever having received any related education or training. Locals don’t belive me when I tell them that my 5 credit nutrition course in college means that I have more nutrition training than their doctor does because, well, He’s a doctor!  Second of all, He gets more money the more drugs He prescribes to you. You will not pay extra because those drugs are covered by health insurance but he still has financial incentive to prescribe you more drugs than you need. Even if he gets pissy at you for it, demand to know the names of the drugs he is prescribing you so you can use your own judgement to decide which ones you will put in your body. This may also result in getting better, more appropriate drugs once He knows that you will call him on his bullshit for prescribing useless or dangerous drugs. I once had a doctor prescribe a DIFFERENT drug after I asked what was in the pills he prescribed me and refuse to tell me what was in the first prescription. Scary shit! If you don’t recognize the names of the drugs you are prescribed, Google them. For those of you who have the common sense to call “bullshit“ on ‘ol Rocky, I congratulate you. Yes, you should never trust Google’s advice over that of a trained, medical professional… in any other country. Over here, the doctors and pharmacists themselves check Google before making prescriptions. I’ve seen it done. It isn’t even a secret. If you have health insurance, it can be a little cheaper to get your drugs through the doctor but if you value your time over your money, the only reason to visit the doctor is to get drugs you can’t buy over the counter.

This brings me to pharmacies. This is my go-to 90% of the time for when I need some drugs. It’s a little more expensive but much faster. Go in, tell the pharmacist where it hurts and they will give you some drugs. Again, check the active ingredients or ask. If you ask for a drug that they don’t carry or have run out of, the pharmacist will tell you that this drug isn’t sold in Taiwan (usually because he is trying to sell you something he DOES carry). Check the next pharmacy because he’s probably lying. A word from the wise: yes, you CAN buy antibiotics over the counter. In my experience, most pharmacies don’t carry them and will tell you that you can’t buy them over the counter in Taiwan. They are full of shit. Shop around until you find a pharmacy that will sell them to you. When buying drugs from the pharmacy, don’t accept their first offer. Instead, ask for a generic version or cheaper version of the same drug. They usually do. If they don’t they will often as not respond by haggling down. I once got a morning after pill for 300 NT after first being offered one that cost 700 NT. A final piece of advice: pharmacies usually carry a magical combination of pills that will cure a hangover within an hour of taking them. Just ask. They cost anywhere from 100-200 NT depending on the pharmacy and are worth every penny.

Chinese medicine is bullshit and shouldn’t be counted on by anyone who is… alive. This is the type of medicine that was developed back when people didn’t know any better and didn’t understand what causes disease so they did the best they could with what they knew and for some reason didn’t change their methods as newer knowledge became available. The Chinese, being militantly proud of their traditions, continue to flout this “ancient Chinese wisdom” as having legitimate medical value equal to or surpassing “Western” (modern) medicine. Average Wang is incapable of understanding the full implications of The Placebo Effect so don’t even bother trying to explain why “but it made my influenza disappear after only a week!” doesn’t mean the treatment worked. Because ridicule is more persuasive than logic to this kind of individual: having a doctor stick needles in your ass cheek will not cure your influenza.

Finally we come to the magical herbs and concoctions that the locals insist will “improve” your body (grandma said it does, so it must be true!). Holy basil is good for your liver. Okara is good for your stomach. Green tea (with lots of sugar) will make you lose weight. “Such and such” foul potion will make your skin whiter. Just smile and nod and forgo the snake oil.

This is the “street smarts” I have gained over my 7 years of treating bumps, bruises and afflictions in Taiwan. Pharmacy> clinic>hospital>scratching your nuts>Chinese medicine and snake oil. Stay safe, stay healthy and when Murphy conspires to visit you, be smart about how you seek treatment.

-Rocky

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