Monday, August 07, 2006

My mom and dad's combined hospital stay. . .

Early last Thursday morning, I picked up my parents from their home and took them to the new Baylor Regional Hospital in Plano.

My dad was scheduled for an angiogram to determine exactly where blockage was located in the artery supplying blood and life to his left leg. Going into the procedure, the doctor hoped to be able to open the artery by means of angioplasty and/or a permanent stint.

My mom, who suffers from a non-cancerous blood disorder, needed a blood transfusion.

As it turned out, the hospital staff--an incredibly warm, accomplished and helpful team--arranged for the two of them to be in treatment rooms right across the hall from one another. That made my job much easier!

Both procedures went like clockwork.

My mother was all done by about 1:00 p.m. and feeling better. My father, complete with new stainless steel stint implanted successfully with blood flowing freely into his previously troubled leg, got into a room for an overnight stay around mid-afternoon.

All of this had been easily arranged in the week to ten days prior to their coming to the hospital. No long waiting period. Very little time for anxiety or worry or feeling poorly unnecessarily.

My dad had seen his heart surgeon who referred him over to the doctor who performed the flawless procedure. My mom had made her plans two days before following a routine visit to her blood specialist, a smart young doctor who is becoming her friend.

There had been no delays, no roadblocks, no question whatsoever about scheduling, cost, or whether or not their needs would be met in a most timely manner.

Both of my parents, now in their mid-80s, carry Medicare health insurance cards. Medicare is the national health plan provided by our government to persons past the age of retirement. An extremely efficient operation, Medicare works flawlessly for my folks. [Blogger's confession: Every time I hear someone bashing President Lyndon Johnson and his "War on Poverty," I can't help but think of Medicare--a program he delivered to America.]

As I waited for them in the really inviting environment of the new hospital, I couldn't help but think of my friends who don't enjoy such health benefits.

I thought of the long delays in arranging specialty treatment for the poor right here in Dallas. I thought of our overcrowded public hospital, a hospital doing amazing work, but stretched well beyond its limits.

I thought of the ease with which my parents have been able to find just the physicians they need when they need them, while my friends at the bottom of the economic pyramid struggle to find doctors because so many don't work with Medicaid patients.

I also thought of the recent cutbacks in funding for the Medicaid insurance program designed for low-income persons.

Just thoughts while waiting for my parents.

Thoughts set alongside thoughts and memories of my friends in the city.

Should health care continue to be treated as a commodity to be consumed? Or, should a higher, nobler view of life inform our perspectives on what we provide and demand. . .for everyone?


Matthew said...

I'd like to read more about how health is treated as a commodity. I think that would be interesting.

Larry James said...

Matthew, thanks for your post.

Currently, in the US, health care is bought and old like cotton, oil or men's clothing. Market forces determine its pricing and it is available to those who can afford it based on what they can afford. What you are able to pay or have paid for you (insurance) determines the quality, accessibility and outcomes of what you receive. The standard varies based on your income. That is what I mean by it being like a commodity.

krister said...

Larry, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on San Francisco's recent decision to move to universal healthcare.

Larry James said...

Krister, thanks for the post.

I believe that SF is making a smart move. A single payor system would save this nation a minimum of $45 billion annually in admin overhead alone.

Then, the benefit to the overall well-being of our communities would be staggering from an economic point of view. Our medical care might not be as exotic, but it would produce a much healthier populace. There is no debate about that.

When capitalism drives medicine, people aren't as well.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it necessary to have supplemental insurance in addition to Medicare?

Larry James said...

Anonymous 1:09, good qeustion.

Many people do choose to purchase supplemental insurance who also are part of the Medicare program. I expect that most do not. I know my parents have no such additional insurance and they do very well with only what Medicare provides. Mrket mythology is very strong in the US against the real value and benefit of government, single payor insurance.

belinda said...

all I can say is Thank God for democrats! yes, this country should have universal health care!

Anonymous said...

James, my son gets Medicaid through the Katie Beckett waiver. Every year we have to reapply for it. My son has autism and we take him to weekly speech therapy and occupational therapy sessions. While we do have private insurance, it is limited in the number of therapy sessions it will cover (75 for BOTH speech and OT, not 75 for speech AND 75 for OT).

The state of Georgia, in the last two years, has tried three times to limit children's access to Medicaid. Two years ago they attempted to force Katie Beckett families to pay premiums for their coverage. Last year they severely restricted the qualifying criteria for the waiver, resulting in nearly 2000 families losing their Medicaid coverage. We were one of those families. We appealed, and we got our coverage back.

Now, Georgia has decided that no child who receives therapy can get more than two hours a month without prior authorization.

Most kids need more, MUCH more, therapy than that.

We are lucky that our therapists are willing to fight the battle with Medicaid in order for the kids to keep getting therapy. But many, many other therapy places will not be willing or able to continue fighting the battle and will decide to no longer take Medicaid. That leaves plenty of families out in the cold with no way to get and pay for the therapy they need for their children.

How do you convince a government that they can either pay for medical care now, when these kids can be taught how to live a normal life (or as close to it as possible) or later, when these kids may have to be institutionalized and the taxpayers pay for their care?

Larry James said...

Tina, thanks for this post. Your case needs to be heard across the nation. You are right. The fact is we have a fight on our hands here. We must insist on change. It is the way of faith.

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