Stop Defending US Healthcare

broken

So the heath care debate rages on. While the bullshit about death panels and other nonsense seems to have faded into the background (where it belongs), there still remains one argument that I see repeated over and over again:

“We have the best healthcare in the world”.

Am I the only one who sees the utter fallacy in this argument? If we’ve got the best, then the rest of the world must be damn-near dead. Considering that I don’t know many people who even have a frame of reference, it’s a spotty argument at best.

Some proof? Let me relay a story from today and then ask me how government would make this ‘great’ system worse.

Backstory

My primary care physician (PCP) recently retired, due to having a newborn child. I’ve had a great relationship with this doctor since I started seeing him 3+ years ago, and I was honestly saddened to see him leave. But having a 2 year-old myself, I can understand. So, I jumped through the hoops, found a list of doctors that were (a) on my insurance and (b) taking new patients. Then I asked my son’s pediatrician (whom I trust) for some recommendations, since picking a doctor off a list isn’t the brightest idea. So I got a name, called, and made an appointment. Today was that appointment.

I have a pretty detailed medical history, including some major bone surgeries from my early 20’s that now require a daily NSAID. I also take a medication for my stomach, since I have a family history of acid reflux, and OTC medications don’t work for me (anymore). And, to top it off, I take a medication for ADD. While I’ve had ADD since I was a kid, I didn’t start addressing it until my son was born. I was concerned about being able to focus and pay attention to important things, like feeding schedules, a child running around, etc. Also, I had basically lost the ability to read for anymore than 5 minutes at a time. After that, the words would literally begin to swirl. Certainly not a good thing for one planning on returning to school.

Today’s Visit

So I leave work early so I can get to the doctor’s appt, since this was the earliest time they could see me. I bring the three meds I take with me, so I don’t come across as some random guy begging for pills. Once I fill out the paperwork (one page for medical history, 5 for insurance-related info), I sit. And wait. Almost an hour later, I see the doctor. A nice guy, no problem there. We go over my medical history, then he gives me a short physical. Again, no issue. Then we discuss my medications. Come to find out, he’s not comfortable writing the script for my ADD meds without me having a psychological exam. Mind you, I’ve been on this for over a year. But again, I can understand his situation. What I take (Adderall XR) is considered a controlled substance, so just handing it out to people who ask is a quick way to lose your medical license. So he indicates that once we get that squared away, he’ll determine whether or not to write the prescription. He’s completely within his rights to do so. While annoying, I understand and agree to go through the hoops. Now here comes the frustration.

The Call

Since I’ve never had a psych evaluation, both my new doctor and I aren’t sure how exactly to go about it. So he has one of the nurses place a call to my insurance company. After 25 minutes, 2 hang-ups, and a rude person on the other line, we determine that I need to call a special ‘psychology’ number. So I take the number and go home.

When I get home, I grab the phone, a notepad, and my insurance card. I call and speak to a woman who proceeds to do the following:

  1. Explain to me the difference between a doctor and a psychiatrist
  2. Why it’s in my best interest to see a psychiatrist on a monthly basis for my ADD meds
  3. How my PCP isn’t really qualified to prescribe the meds I’ve been taking

Now I’m a reasonable guy. And I understand rules and protocols. But this is ridiculous. I now have to make an appointment with ANOTHER new doctor, go over my history again, to receive a medication I’m already on. And the kicker? Once I get an appointment, I have to call them back to have them authorize it. Yes, the people who told me I have to go get an appointment have to authorize it after I make one.

Since I’m almost 800 words in, I’ll cut this short. The long and short of it is that my new doctor agreed to write me a one-month script, since the med in question cannot be refilled, and requires a paper prescription from the doctor. This will give me time to go see a shrink, let them evaluate me to again prove that I have ADD, then I can go about my business.

And on a side note, my wife went in and out of the DMV last week in 10 minutes to renew the tags on her car. So the DMV did in 10 minutes what my doctor, a call center, and the ‘best system in the world’ couldn’t do in 3+ hours.

Bring on the socialism.

{ 5 comments }

Ryan October 7, 2009 at 11:33 am

I agree wholeheartedly with this post. I recently had a bad experience with doctors. I haven’t been to a doctor in years and my girlfriend wanted me to get checked up. I made an appointment to see her doctor. My appointment: five weeks away. It took five weeks to be able to see a doctor. After five long weeks of waiting to get into a primary care physician, I had to wait a full two hours to see him.

I think the government should definitely take over the AMA or whatever licensing body governs doctors. If they relax the standards and let more fringe candidates into med school, the supply of doctors would create more competition. True story: A friend of mine applied to pharmacy school, but got beat out because a girl that had worse marks than him happened to be Iraqi (minority & female). He was arbitrarily passed on because he was a white male. It could be white males like him that could save healthcare.

Valerie M October 9, 2009 at 2:15 pm

While I’m with you on not defending health care, I have to ask how the government is supposed to eliminate all of these middlemen and red tape? Nearly anything the government runs is rife with red tape, what makes anyone think it will be improved with health care? By comparison the DMV is pretty simple when you stand it next to something like health care.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not 100% against any form of government intervention. So what’s the solution? Heck if I know. Whatever happens, happens, but I for one do not expect the waiting and the constant shuffling around to get much better simply because the government says it will fix it.

Health care overhaul has good intentions but the very least I expect from it is that I won’t have to depend on employment healthcare benefits to see SOMEONE (however long it takes) if I’m sick without having to go to the ER.

I used to want to go to medical school (I majored in Biology with the interntion of going into health care). Until I found out how little control doctors have over anything they do, because of BOTH government and insurance regulation already in place. You mean, I’m supposed to go through schooling and training for 7-10 years only for the government & insurance companies (how have NO medical training) telling me exactly how to treat people on one hand and beating off lawsuits from patients on the other hand? I imagine that’s one reason why there’s a growing doctor shortage, which simply equals longer waits and MORE shuffling around, health care overhaul or no.

Again, there’s no easy solution. Just some thoughts.

Norcross October 9, 2009 at 3:04 pm

I agree 100% that there isn’t an easy solution. But if you consider that the idea of the employer-run health insurance was an accident to begin with (employers used it as a loophole for Eisenhower’s fair wage act), fixing it will involve more than just reform. It is going to require a completely new way of thinking about how we treat people.

As for red tape and middlemen, that’s something we’ll probably never get around. But I’d rather have a government middleman who has no vested interest in whether or not I have a procedure than one from the insurance company who’s paycheck depends on what I do and don’t get.

Valerie M October 9, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Agreed that we definitely need a new way of thinking.

Unfortunately I don’t see the government having less or no vested interest as opposed to the insurace companies. Insurance companies ARE profit-motivated but governments do have budgets, in the loose sense of the word, as well. If they do go over budget, somebody else is still paying for it and it won’t be the government.

How do you keep the budget from going crazy? You regulate the hell out of it in attempt to plug in the money leaks. Therefore, in attempt to contain costs, I’m afraid that the government will eventually get too tied to procedure and become just as rigid as the insurance companies are now.

The irony of it all is, while the insurance company shouldn’t be able to tell you what kind of treatment you need and how to get it, what makes the government more qualified? Politicans don’t have medical training, either. Yet, they’ll be the ones using their judgement to create and pass these ‘money-saving’ regulations. Who in turn is regulating the politicians? Cause it’s sure not the voters, by any stretch. Maybe we can give the government that kind of power but it is 100x harder to take that power away if they screw up. Especially after they invested billions upon billions of dollars into something.

And that, my friend, is why I don’t think the government is going to save or necessarily fix anything in the long run. We’re just trading one problem for another. I just cope with it by having no expectations. Sounds pessimistic, but I’d disagree.

I guess I’m on a rant here. ;) On a brighter note, I do think this is a great post, very thought-provoking.

Valerie M October 9, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Sorry for the typos. :( BTW: The text in the comment box is small.. hard to see.