Sunday, November 20, 2011

Kushibo says HABO (again)

As in, "help a brother out" (again).

It seems one Michael Milne, a teacher in Miryang in the southern part of South Korea, has encountered some serious health concerns that involve the need for a liver transplant. He needs a liver, your prayers, and (if you're able) some cash. The details can be found here.

The Facebook page in that link includes the information for fundraisers and bank transfers within Korea (and I suppose outside of Korea, but for a hefty fee), and they're working on setting up a PayPal account.

I'm one of those there-but-for-the-grace-of-God kind of people, so as soon as I can get access to my money within South Korea, I'm in for 100K won (bank account details below).

Nonghyup Bank 
(농협은행, National Agricultural Cooperative Federation)
Name: 마이클 (Michael Milne)
Account number: 811057 52 067773

And if anyone knows any more details on his condition, please feel free to leave some information.

UPDATE:
I belatedly saw that Brian in Chŏllanamdo also has put up a post on this which includes useful information on the blood/organ donation issue. One of his commenters asks about the insurance issue, which I also addressed below (the lengthy third comment).

... Sphere: Related Content

14 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for helping us get the word out! My name is Anita, and I live and work in the same town as Michael Milne, the gentleman we are trying to raise funds for.
    Summary - he went to the doctor with a stomach ache, and was told to get to a larger hospital immediately. He did, and is now waiting for a liver transplant. The doctors have said he will not survive without it.
    The first hurdle to overcome is a liver donor. Blood type O neg is the rarest in Korea, and Oneg can only receive Oneg, when it comes to blood. Mick's brother came in from New Zealand, and after a rollercoaster of compatibility issues, they have started the tests for a live donor transplant.
    The second hurdle we are trying to jump now - the cost. The insurance provided to us, as foreign teachers, does not cover major hospital stays or surgery. The hospital has quoted 40 - 50 million Won for the procedure. We have raised 6 million in the past week, through amazing websites like this, and extremely generous people. It is such a great start, but we need more.
    We hope to get a paypal account set up, but the family has to do this, and they can't until Monday.
    Thank you so much once again, for your good thoughts, prayers, for passing this on, and for any donation you can make. I will do my best to update this website.

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  2. Thanks for the update, Anita. I will try to add an update to the above information, but I wanted to make sure I'm clear on everything.

    So Mick Milne's brother, they are hoping, will be able to donate part of his own liver for a transplant, and he's coming to Korea to do the procedure?

    Is that partial transplant enough to save him or will he need more in the future?

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  3. Anita, I also have a question about the insurance issue, but I thought I should put it in a separate comment because it's going in a completely different direction. Essentially, I'd like to understand better what has caused the financial problem so that this kind of thing can be prevented for others in the future. (I'm in public health and I may end up back in Korea working on health policy for foreign nationals if everything goes right, so this is personal as well as professional interest.)

    I haven't had Korea's national health insurance (i.e., NHIC coverage) since 2008 and prior to that I hadn't had anything more serious than an appendectomy with a five-day stay in hospital (which would have amounted to 500K won had I not stayed in a "deluxe" room), and I haven't been looking into insurance coverage lately so I'm a bit in the dark.

    My understanding was that the NHIC generally covers a large percentage of most general procedures, after a modest copay. In that case, something major would be covered but not completely, so it can still be expensive if it is a major operation like this. Because of this, many people get supplementary insurance (e.g., major medical, cancer treatment, heart disease, etc.) to cover catastrophes. If I'm remembering this and remembering it correctly, it should be the same whether it is foreign nationals or ROK nationals.

    But if English teachers specifically — or foreign nationals in general — are getting differential treatment whereby major hospital stays or surgery are NOT covered by the mandatory NHIC coverage, that is something that must be changed.

    On the other hand, if this is a case where the coverage is the same for Korean nationals, but English teachers on one-year-at-a-time visas are not aware of the supplemental private insurance options available that might have covered this, then that information should be gotten out there.

    Either way, it's something that needs to be fixed with policy change and/or an information campaign.

    (A lot of twenty- and thirty-something English teachers — at that age where they generally still think they're invincible and bad things happen to other people — might not get supplemental catastrophic insurance even if they were informed about it, but that's another issue for another time.)

    Sorry if I sound like I'm being insensitive or going overboard on this, but the one positive to consistently come out of urgent cases like this (or of Matt Robinson in 2009 is that it can provide a cautionary tale for others.

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  4. Oh, and a better pic and some more background bio on Mick would be nice, too, for the update.

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  5. On the other hand, if this is a case where the coverage is the same for Korean nationals, but English teachers on one-year-at-a-time visas are not aware of the supplemental private insurance options available that might have covered this, then that information should be gotten out there.

    Either way, it's something that needs to be fixed with policy change and/or an information campaign.


    The information is definitely out there, but it is up to the individual to seek it out and make use of it. How hard is it to search the website of the national insurance system or ask someone else to? ESL teachers are adults and should be treated as such. I don't buy the "vast Korean conspiracy" to disenfranchise them from knowing their rights. In this case, the individual was not aware of his medical coverage. The information is definitely out there and available to those who seek it out. A second opinion might also help, but I don't know if that was sought in this case. Anyhow, it might be cheaper for him to fly to New Zealand as they might provide him with better coverage. But that might not be medically feasible in this situation. I don't want to blame the victim, but people need to take responsibility for themselves and putting the blame on the insurance system for not getting the awareness out is just deflection. I think foreigners, especially white ESL teachers, are too coddled in Korean society and it is a great detriment to themselves as well as Korean society as a whole. At what point does the individual need to adapt to society without expecting it to cater to him/her?

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  6. itissaid, you are right that it is up to the individual to seek out information and use it, but in all fairness to the English-teaching crowd and probably most other foreigners in Korea, they haven't been in Korea long enough to be able to handle themselves adeptly in medical situations. I know that was the situation with my ex, who dragged me along to every visit to Asan Med Center.

    While information is out there in English, including at the website, it is often not as thorough as in Korean, and sometimes written in confusing word-for-word translation, which makes it hard to be aware of one's medical coverage. And even when things are written clearly, the fact is that we're dealing with insurance and payments and what-not, and that means people don't always know how much something is going to cost just by looking at the forms. In my own case, my appendectomy was 1.5 million instead of 500K won because the "deluxe" room was not covered by NHIC.

    Now, I am quite functional at Korean, and I was able to ask questions, figure out what was wrong, and even negotiate and work on solutions in a way that a person whose Korean goes little beyond "Ŏlmamnikka?" could not. Had I been one of those people, I might not have understood why, for example, I was being placed in the "hotel wing" of the hospital instead of the two- or six-person rooms that were covered (they'd all been filled by the time late in the day when they decided I was going to need surgery).

    So I'm going to cut them some slack. But I do agree with you that assumptions of a "vast Korean conspiracy" are detrimental and counterproductive. I also agree that English teachers are coddled in many ways — starting with getting a year-long work visa in two weeks and full medical coverage for someone with no qualifications beyond a bachelor's degree — but that doesn't apply to all aspects of life.

    I don't think it's unreasonable to have effective and comprehensive information available in multiple languages — English, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc. — when the national and local governments in many of the countries of origin of the English teachers and other foreigners provide materials in Korean (e.g., driver license manuals, voting materials, Medicaid and Medicare benefits, etc.).

    In the end, though, the foreign teachers need to adapt. If they don't, their life in Korea is extremely limited, to their detriment. And all they have to do is get shitfaced at Gecko's or somewhere in Hongdae and then go home and gripe about their taxi driver on the K-Interwebs. ;)

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  7. itissaid, you are right that it is up to the individual to seek out information and use it, but in all fairness to the English-teaching crowd and probably most other foreigners in Korea, they haven't been in Korea long enough to be able to handle themselves adeptly in medical situations. I know that was the situation with my ex, who dragged me along to every visit to Asan Med Center.

    The Asan Med Center does have English speaking doctors, no? I would say that your ex was being a bit needy and that it does not necessarily mean that it was warranted. It's about basic life skills. One does not have to speak a word of Korean to access the many resources that are out there for foreigners. There's even a free translation service provided by the KNTO, so Korean is not an excuse. I KNOW that people have used them to translated for medical services because I know of a Korean guy who worked for them.

    While information is out there in English, including at the website, it is often not as thorough as in Korean, and sometimes written in confusing word-for-word translation, which makes it hard to be aware of one's medical coverage. And even when things are written clearly, the fact is that we're dealing with insurance and payments and what-not, and that means people don't always know how much something is going to cost just by looking at the forms.

    What about asking? I don't expect foreigners who speak no Korean to go to doctors they cannot communicate with. As far as the discrepancies in translation, that is an excuse and generalization. If one does not see the information one seeks, then it is up to the individual to ask questions.

    I also agree that English teachers are coddled in many ways — starting with getting a year-long work visa in two weeks and full medical coverage for someone with no qualifications beyond a bachelor's degree — but that doesn't apply to all aspects of life.

    No one should expect to be coddled in all aspects of life. At some point, living in a foreign country is not going to be AS easy as living in your home country. The problem is when foreigners demand it to be so. That's just not how it works unless you go to a country with a similar language/culture. I don't know how much more Koreans can coddle foreigners. At some point, one does need to learn the language and customs of a culture and Koreans aren't demanding about that unlike some other countries that demand fluency from the get-go.

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  8. I don't think it's unreasonable to have effective and comprehensive information available in multiple languages — English, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc. — when the national and local governments in many of the countries of origin of the English teachers and other foreigners provide materials in Korean (e.g., driver license manuals, voting materials, Medicaid and Medicare benefits, etc.).

    The Korean government does provide some forms in English and does much more than that providing help for foreigners who want to start businesses or look for work in Korea. I don't know of any other country that specifically helps foreigners to find jobs. However, at some point, one needs to learn the language and adapt. It's not really an issue of culture/language, but one of personal responsibility and just taking care of yourself. The Korean government should provide forms for tourists, but residents should be expected to learn the language. There are a number of expats who have lived in Korea for YEARS and still do not feel the need to learn it as it's a "waste of time" because it's only spoken in Korea. Hello? Where are you? Too much coddling by Koreans in social situations has made some foreigners believe that there is no need to speak Korean and so they use it as an excuse not to learn it. And yet they still bitch and complain about how Korea is so difficult for a foreigner to live in. You can't compare them to immigrants from non-English speaking countries who come to America with no job, little money, and sometimes, no connections. There is no comparison. Koreans are very understanding of foreigners who speak little to no Korean. But for immigrants to countries like the U.S., speaking fluently, but with an accent can be a target for cold or ill treatment. I've seen this with an Indian man at a university and even white immigrants from the former U.S.S.R. I don't understand why one wouldn't want to learn the language just to make it easier on oneself and enjoy life more. We agree that foreigners need to learn the language, but not the degree to which they should be accommodated.

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  9. I am sorry - I do not have time to read all of the posts about insurance right now - but I read your initial one. I am only going on what the hospital told the family. Perhaps the hospital meant that 40 - 50 million won would be what Mick has to pay, and insurance covers the rest? I am not sure.
    I don't think this insuramce is any diofferent for Koreans - as the second poster said - we are just not aware, or choose to be ignorant to, the fact of supplementary insurance. I have been here for 4 years, and never once have I asked about what my insurance covers. I thinkit's imporant for us, as foreigners, to find this out, and then look for options if we think we need them.
    I don;'t think it's a question of being treated unfairly at all, I think it's a question of being proactive and finding these things out for ourselves. Thank you again for the awareness. I have posted another update on facebook, and will cut and paste it here for you too. As for photos, I only have the one.

    In regards to the actual surgery I have no idea how that will work - but there is a good website mentioned in the update - check it out. Thanks again!

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  10. Just over a week ago we sent out a plea to raise money for our friend, Michael Milne, who is in a Busan Hospital waiting for an organ transplant. We jumped in with two feet to try to raise the money our friend needs in order to have the surgery, and because of this, the information at hand has been very disconnected.
    In an effort to be more concise, we have gone through all of the posts and tried to provide all of the relevant information in one spot. We have kept the money donation posts here, to try to send personal notes of thanks. (Please be patient! )
    Michael Milne, a teacher from New Zealand, has been teaching English in Miryang, South Korea for almost five years. He works at four different schools, and loves his job very much. He is not a big partier, but he did enjoy the occasional drink. He went to the hospital with stomach problems, was transferred to a Busan hospital, and has been told he needs a liver transplant, or he will not survive. Mick’s family does not have the 40-50 million won that the hospital says is not covered by his Korean National Health Insurance.
    As we have seen, things change quickly, but at this point, plans for a live donor transplant are going ahead! The surgery is scheduled for next week. For your information, you can read about live donor transplants here: http://www.surgery.usc.edu/divisions/hep/ldlt-donorandrecipient.html
    While this is great news, and half of the battle, it means we need the donations more than ever.
    We are so grateful to tell you that we have raised close to 10 million won from your extremely generous donations (as of Wednesday, Nov. 23rd). The full sum of your donation is going into Mick’s bank account, and helping to pay the hospital bills, which are quickly accumulating; and helping to support his family, since he is not working.
    Unfortunately, we still have a ways to go to get to the necessary 40 – 50 million won quoted by the hospital.
    Please continue with your support, whether it be through prayers, good thoughts, kind words, or money donations. We need them all! We will continue to post updates about Mick, as well as any events we plan in order to help raise funds.
    We’d like to extend our sincere thanks, and extreme gratitude in the generosity that people have shown. Please find some happiness in knowing that you really are helping to save a life. We are truly overwhelmed with the kindness of the communities we have reached out to. Thank you so much!
    Much thanks to the people with O- blood that have offered to donate. We will need you, and we’ll be in touch with details soon! Thank you for your support!

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  11. Anita, thanks for the update.

    I wish I had some way to help out in terms of talking with someone about the insurance issue and payment. Is there any Korean speaker in the area who is knowledgeable (or could become knowledgeable) about insurance matters to see if there are ways of reducing the cost? (Forgive me if this has already been done.)

    Have you considered doing a fundraiser in the Seoul area? Although Pusan's a big city, Seoul has a far higher population of teachers and other international residents, which might make for a successful fundraiser if you can find a place (e.g., in Hongdae or Itaewon) willing to offer the venue. I think this was done when money was being collected for Matt Robinson.

    Sending thoughts and prayers your way (and some money, soon).

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  12. Anita,

    Kushibo gave great advice in his last reply, but I would still be proactive in learning more about your insurance policy.

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  13. In regards to the fact that we should be asking what is covered by our insurance, for those of us from countries with universal health care, we assume that if we have national health insurance, it will cover anything that a doctor recommends. So it may be less an issue of laziness, and more an issue of people's worldview.
    By the way, I am in the process of getting supplementary coverage after a couple of friends have been diagnosed with cancer and had to deal with the costs attached to treatment. It is slightly complicated, and requires a Korean translator, but I'm looking forward to the peace of mind.

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  14. In regards to the fact that we should be asking what is covered by our insurance, for those of us from countries with universal health care, we assume that if we have national health insurance, it will cover anything that a doctor recommends. So it may be less an issue of laziness, and more an issue of people's worldview.

    But isn't it lazy to assume? LOL.

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