Government Health

Me & My Health Care

imagesSit down Freesia Laners. This one may take a while.

I moved to Cape Cod a few years ago from Los Angeles, where I had health care through an employer. Getting a primary care physician on Cape Cod isn’t easy; they just don’t seem to want to live here. So when my mom died I called her primary care physician, who said she wasn’t taking new patients. I pointed out that my mom’s passing had left an empty spot for me, and we shared similar DNA, so maybe she could take me in place of my mother without much bother (sorry Mom, but desperate times call for desperate measures). The doctor took pity on me.

I decided to stay on the Cape, and I had to move my health care to my marketing company, Blue Shoe Strategy. Alas, the new health care — for which I pay upwards of $850 a month, by the way — wasn’t accepted by my mother’s hand-me-down doctor, so I went back on the prowl for a new primary care physician.

Not much luck. I made call after call to all the doctors on my list who take my Neighborhood insurance, and one after another said they were sorry but they weren’t taking new patients. I suggested that they might want to update their status on the insurance company’s web site if weren’t taking new patients, and they thanked me for such amazing insight and hung up.

I finally found a doctor who was taking patients and who looked like a decent person when I Googled him (no recent felonies), and I called to make an appointment.

“I have a few things that need attention, so I would love to get in to see the doctor quickly. I can’t walk. My hip is not okay.” After riding horses and playing a lot of tennis and putting my left leg on the dashboard when I drive (don’t ask), my hip is bone on bone.

“Oh, well before you can get in for things like that you need to have your first appointment, which takes a while. The earliest first appointment I have is in June.”

It was January.

“Oh,” I said. “Well, if she is my primary physician, and I have to have a referral for my hip, and it’s January now, what do I do about the hip?”

“You can go to the walk-in clinic in Centerville.”

“Really? That doesn’t sound great to discuss something as important as my hip.”

I made the appointment for June and decided I could wait on the hip thing.

June came, and I headed to the office of said doctor. I went in and it was filthy. Filthy, I tell you. The bathroom looked as though it had never had toilet paper—ever—and from the waiting room I saw several doctors working without scrubs. I was called into a cubicle to go over paperwork.

“I just wanted to let you know there is no toilet paper in the bathroom, and it’s actually kind of a mess.”

“We are really busy here.” Curt would be a good word to describe her tone.

I knew I couldn’t stay. Her half-eaten lunch was on the desk, and she wouldn’t look at me. I was out of there. I told her I didn’t think it was a fit and left. It had now been eight months since the start of my new insurance.

Four months later, and intermittent calling I found someone. She looked fabulous. It would take another six months to get my first appointment, but I felt like I had it nailed.

Two months later, her office called.

“I’m sorry, Dr. So and So has stopped taking new patients. We have to cancel your upcoming appointment.” That sounded like a new meaning for the word upcoming. Four months in the future is now upcoming.

“Oh, I’m sure this is a mistake. She already accepted me. I changed the information in my insurance. I have an appointment just four short months from now. I am not a new patient; I’m an as yet unseen patient.”

Nope. Nada. She was done. I started to cry and asked the woman just what I should do now?

“Well, you could see her brother. He’s taking new patients.” Done. And guess what? He had an opening a month away. Off I was sent after my first appointment with him for blood work. (I am not going to say anything more about him other than that I have seen him twice, including once for my “complete” physical, and he has yet to actually examine me. But hey, hope springs eternal.) He did send me for a complete blood work up.

The blood work place opens at 6:30 a.m. Being the early-to-bed, early-to-rise person that I am, I went at 6:15 in order to be first in line. I was seventh. When we filed in, I sat in the lone chair near the desk in order to keep away from any germs that might be festering in the people on the other side of the room. This gave me a vantage point that allowed me to see and hear them checking in as they were called up.

One after another they checked in, and when asked about insurance, every single one of them—all six of them, I swear—said they didn’t have it. Each and every one. I was shocked. They were all on their smart phones and all well dressed; one woman was wearing leather boots and a fabulous jacket. None of them had insurance. Not one. And each time the woman behind the counter said, “That’s okay, we will do it.”

My turn. I got up and proudly handed over my insurance card. The one that says I’m an upstanding American citizen. The one that costs me $800 and change every month, which comes to $10,200 per year. The one that has not helped me to get a primary care physician in over a year. That one.

“Great. That will be a $20 copay today.”

I stopped cold in my tracks. I snapped, I tell you.

“I don’t have $20,” I said. I was sure she would say the same thing to me that she said to my fellow Americans in the room.

“Oh.” She looked at me strangely. “Then we can’t do the tests.”

“Oh, I’m sure you can. Those that went before me this morning didn’t have any insurance, and they didn’t have to pay.”

“Yes, but you have insurance so you have to do a copay.”

“Ok, well, let’s start again. Pretend that I didn’t give you my insurance card, and I’m now saying I don’t have insurance. So I assume I don’t have to pay.”

“But I know you do have insurance.”

“Well, I’m telling you I’m canceling it when I leave here.”

And so it went. I finally paid the co-pay, and with my inner rage I woke up any cancer cells that might have been sleeping in my body as I sat there waiting to be called. I started thinking about a relative, with whom I am very close, who pays nothing for his insurance – he does work – and he gets in right away and seems to have better care than I get. I tried to channel my inner Oprah about remembering that anger is only affecting you. The person to whom your anger is directed doesn’t even know you are angry. I looked around the room. Not one of them seemed to notice me, let alone recognize that I was furious with each and every one of them. Namaste.

I’m a liberal when it comes to human things. I am a conservative when it comes to financial things. So, I’m neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I have voted for both sides of the aisle, and I’m proud of it. I’m not sitting on the right and bashing the left. I don’t think people never need help. I truly believe in helping my American neighbors rise up from the ashes when they need my help because of events beyond their control. I even believe in helping when their misfortunes happen because they did something wrong. I’m a giving girl. I am. But now I realize that there is something very, very wrong with the whole system. What to do? Who the hell knows? Compassion with accountability. How does one do this?

I’m considering my options. I’m not sure of my next step yet, but I can assure you there will be one. You haven’t heard the last from me about this. Feel free to go back to whatever you were doing before starting to read this long message.

Government History

Remembering John F. Kennedy

imagesSo it’s the anniversary week of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and today I found myself pondering the fact that we make so much of the day he died, rather than celebrating his accomplishments on his birthday. Then I realized that it’s because we all remember — those of us over 55 — every moment of that day he was shot; we can feel the day in our own memories. I was in the sixth grade, and our principal called us to the auditorium and said, “Our President is dead. Everyone go home.” I walked home — a long way home, in the rain — and no one was there when I arrived. I sat alone on the steps of our house on that cold, gray afternoon and wondered if the world was coming to an end. I didn’t feel the enormity of it; I just watched everyone talking about the enormity of it. And then followed that long weekend when, for the first time in history, every TV program was preempted and we all watched the same images unfold over and over again. Then, two days after Kennedy was shot, Jack Ruby shot Oswald right there in front of us on live TV, and in the chaos that ensued, I knew nothing would ever be the same.

But Kennedy’s assassination was not an ending. It was the beginning for my generation. There was Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, civil rights marches gone awry, I Have A Dream speeches, Vietnam protests, friends getting drafted, and an entire subculture that stood up for what we believed in. Me? I was at the University of Nebraska standing up for nothing other than Cornhuskers every fall Saturday. I did work for Nixon’s reelection campaign, volunteering and feeling good about it. I think we can all agree that that endeavor didn’t turn out so well. I watched him resign at Crystal Lake Lodge, where I was a Dirty Dancing Waitress for the summer, and the crowd of liberal New Yorkers who came each year for their week at the Lodge cheered as if we’d won World War II. Me? I stood at the back of the room wondering at their pleasure. Our President had resigned on TV, in disgrace, and I felt disgraced too. I wondered what the rest of the world thought, (a world of which I knew little), and I was embarrassed.

In the midst of the political carnage of the sixties and seventies, I remember first hearing a song on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The Smothers Brothers — Dick and Tommy — were like the Fred Rogers of comedy in the sixties, and for their time they were very, very funny. The laughs were usually at Tommy’s expense, but he didn’t seem to mind. They invited Dion to come on and sing Abraham Martin & John, the song that wrapped it up for all of us. The song was about the very public, very violent deaths of four great men, three of whom had been leaders of our day who inspired hope. Where had all these men gone? Abraham Lincoln. John Kennedy. Bobby Kennedy. Martin Luther King? Three of them dying on my teenage watch. Over the hill to where? And what happened to how they made us feel? It’s a song for the ages, and I hope those of you who do not remember those times will take a moment to listen. It will tell you of that time long, long ago, when Americans dreamed of an America that was just a bit better than it was at that time, and they were willing to give up things to get it.

John Kennedy should not be remembered for that day fifty years ago when shots rang out from the book depository in Dallas, but rather for his courage under fire during World War II, when he swam another man a half mile to safety in Japanese waters, despite a back injury that would plague him for the rest of his life. He should be remembered for starting the Peace Corps. For standing up for civil rights. For having the courage to own the responsibility for the terrible Bay of Pigs incident. For spurring us to greater heights in space. For taking Jackie to Paris and showing the world that we were no longer the new-world America with no taste, but a new, sophisticated America that could send our fashionable and fabulous first couple overseas with pride. For his “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” line, which I think should replace the Pledge of Allegiance in our schools. For being the first public man I can recall to be unashamed of his love for his small children, and the first one to celebrate Bring Your Children to Work Day. For saying, “Yes we can,” and then proving it. And last but not least, in my American sixth-grade girl’s opinion, for having great hair.