Access to Health Care
The wealthy enjoy better access to doctors and are rarely required to wait for appointments. You never hear of the wealthy waiting in emergency rooms for hours. You never hear of the wealthy being left on a stretcher awaiting an available room. In some cases, the wealthy have their own hospital floors with better nurse-to-patient ratios, better bedding, and concierge service. In New York-Presbyterian/Weill-Cornell Hospital, wealthy patient even have spectacular views of the East River. They can afford to pay about $2,400 per night.
More Attention from Doctors And Nurses
Many doctors and nurses treat wealthy patients differently. They may even deviate from usual protocols for the comfort of the patient. Doctors act differently with the wealthy because they know their decisions will be examined in detail by hospital administrators and possibly the press, and the public. The most senior doctor on staff generally performs the procedures needed.
More Testing and Treatment Options
Wealthy patients are often made aware of more costly treatment options. Some health insurance programs for corporate executives pay for routine full-body CT scans as part of their annual physical. While these expensive and detailed tests have never really been proven to improve health outcomes, doctors do them with little question for wealthy patients that demand them. If there is an incidental finding, more testing is often scheduled to pinpoint the problem. The wealthy also have greater access to treatments that are experimental and not covered by traditional health insurance.
For many, it is not surprising that someone with fame, stature, and/or wealth would receive more attention at the hospital. However, this increased attention doesn’t always result in better medical care. As the recent death of Joan Rivers has shown us, even routine procedures can go terribly wrong and sometimes physicians are more concerned about their reputation than they are about treating the patient. Illness is a great equalizer in our society and the wealthy are not immune.