Traveler’s perk

On Dec. 7, 1997, the L.A. Times “Travel” section published a letter of mine entitled “The Price Was Right,” regarding a medical emergency that I experienced in Bilbao, Spain, after eating a bad trout in a restaurant and getting severe food poisoning.

In my letter, I extolled the virtues of socialized medicine for travelers to that country, as the cost to me was $0.00, even though the treatment included a doctor’s house call, ambulance, lab tests, x-rays, EKG and the care of physicians and nurses at a local hospital.

Much to my surprise, my published letter resulted in a personal phone call, note and T-shirt from the Spanish Embassy.

In July ’06, while visiting the island of Flores in the Azores, Portugal, I tripped on the sidewalk, landed on my right elbow and cut the skin so severely that my traveling companions took me to the small local clinic on this island of 4,000 inhabitants.

I was immediately attended to by a doctor and two nurses, who prepped me with a local anesthetic and took four stitches to close the wound, also x-raying the elbow to ensure there was no break.

That care, plus two follow-up visits to change the bandage, cost €20, or $26. (My estimated cost of similar treatment in the U.S. is $2,000.)

At those prices, it’s tempting to buy an airline ticket to either Spain or Portugal to obtain medical treatment — and have lots of fun sightseeing as well.

Hermosa Beach, CA