Which is pretty sorry. Let me tell you a story. Last Thursday afternoon, I went to the pharmacy for a refill on one of the two medications I take for hypertension, and found out the prescription had expired. I asked for a small supply to get through the next few days until I could get the prescription refilled, and they said they couldn’t do that, because it’s a “controlled substance”. What?
It used to be you could call your doctor and ask for a refill, but now they (at least the clinic where I go) requires the pharmacy to do that. Which the pharmacy does by sending a fax.
On Friday, I went to the pharmacy, but the prescription had not been filled yet. They hadn’t heard from the doctor. My clinic is closed on weekends, but I hoped they had called it in late Friday. So I called the pharmacy. No luck.
I waited until Monday, which was Christmas Eve, and called the clinic. They were closed. I got a recording which said, “If this is an emergency, please hang up and call 911 or go to the Emergency Room”. Well no. I’m not going to the Emergency Room (an $800 minimum charge) for a $10 generic prescription. So I called one of their sister clinics–there are seven in the area–and they said, “We can’t help you. We don’t have access to your records. But if is this is an emergency…”
One of the initiatives of the President’s health care plan is moving toward electronic records, so that any caregiver has access to your history. I confess I was somewhat leery of that, but now I get it.
The thing is, while I wouldn’t go to the ER, it was becoming something of an emergency. Saturday, after missing a day and a half of the medication, I had a massive headache, which I knew meant my blood pressure was up. I chose to try to be very quiet and still and wait. And hope I didn’t have a stroke in the meantime. The headache never went away, and plus, I felt sick. The kind of “sick” that you are when your blood pressure is high is not easily described.
It was no use calling either the clinic or the pharmacy on Tuesday. It was Christmas Day, and both were closed. On Wednesday, I called the pharmacy. Still no prescription. I called the clinic. They said, “Yes, we do have the fax from the pharmacy, but the thing is, it’s still on the doctor’s desk. She’s been the only doctor here today and has had to see all the patients”.
On Thursday I called the pharmacy back. Still no prescription. On Friday I called again. They had it, and it was ready. By this time, I’m very, very sick, and was having trouble contemplating the idea of moving from the couch.
So here are a few things that are wrong: no electronic record. Not enough doctors. The fact that doctors in the U.S. expect to be rich. Which is understandable, since the cost of medical school is astronomical. Assuming you ever make it out of that debt in your lifetime, then you’re faced with malpractice insurance, which is equally astronomical. The cost of going to the Emergency Room–which is the primary source of medical care for those without health insurance. So if you do have it, then you are paying for all those who don’t. (Thus the $800 minimum.) So wouldn’t it be better if everyone had it?
Having said all that, I’d say that in order to have a good medical professional, you also have to be a good patient. For instance, don’t fail to notice that a critical prescription is expiring just before the Christmas holidays.
The Health Care “Debate”
As I commented today on Nick’s blog, I haven’t seen any debate. To be exact, I said I haven’t seen any goddamn debate. All I’ve seen is a bunch of hysterical people, like the woman weeping her ugly eyes out saying “I want my America back!” As Helen, of the immensely popular Margaret and Helen blog said, the America she wants back must be the one where a black man does not grow up to be President. All I’ve seen is debate being shouted down. I’ve seen people openly carrying guns to an event where the President is scheduled to speak. When did we start allowing that? What I hear is, it’s legal. I also saw a comment that said those people probably had snipers trained on their ignorant persons from the nanosecond they showed up. I have no doubt that’s true. Remind me to tell you sometime about when I lived in New Orleans and personally had the occasion to witness said snipers in place. So let’s acknowledge that it’s legal. But at the very, very least, it’s rude.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let’s talk about the villains in the story. You get to take your pick, but the rules are that you have to prioritize. Your choices are: doctors, insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies, and the government. Hint: you don’t get to pick the government. The government is what we rely on to protect us. And you don’t get to pick who you want the government to protect you from. You don’t get to say that Osama Bin Laden is fair game, but Bernie Madoff and his ilk isn’t.
Of our three remaining choices, I’d say that doctors have the least blame. Which is not to say”no blame”. The second least blamable is the pharmaceutical industry. Granted, they are raking in millions, but this isn’t about castigating capitalism. Profit is not a four-letter word. The pharmaceutical industry has come up with life-saving drugs, and research is expensive (after all, they have to pay doctors to do it). That leaves us with the insurance companies, which bingo, you guessed, is my prime suspect. Doctors agree with me. But all three of these villains are trapped in a system which none of them can bail out of on their own.
So here is Fakename’s prescription for “fixing” healthcare. Make all insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies non-profit. (Like that would ever happen lol. Especially since it might play havoc with your investments.) Pay for doctors to go to medical school–anyone who wants to go into that field should not be discouraged. Too many idealistic people are changed for the worse by the reality that they will be 50 years old before they get out from under their student loans. In fact, if you did just that one thing, pay for medical school education, it would make a huge difference. Then doctors might retain some of their idealism, instead of bowing to the need to make as much money as possible. In the U.S., doctors are rich (well, after age 50). In other countries, not so much. In other words, they don’t do it for the money.
It sort of comes down to what you value. Doctors are not miracle workers, they are craftsmen (and women). They hold no more value to me to me than Jeff the Mechanic. In fact, increasingly I find that I have to do most of the work for my own health care, and thankfully the Internet is my Second Opinion. Now that I think about it, Jeff the Mechanic is worth more, since the Internet will never tell me what I need to know to replace a head gasket.
My point, in case you were wondering, is that I am terminally angry with these people who are sabotaging reform, in the name of protecting their “individual freedom”. They don’t even have a clue what they’re talking about. I can deal with people disagreeing with me in a thoughtful way. But I am done dealing with stupid, and the apologists for stupid.
Posted in Health, Medicine, Politics, Social Commentary
Tagged doctors, government, health care, insurance companies, pharmaceutical industry