NomDebPlume's 2½ Cents

Because I have an opinion about everything…

What’s Bugging Me About American Healthcare Today…

Maybe I’m just in a cranky mood because I’m sick today and feel like picking on things, but there may actually be some truth to the claims I am about to make.  As always, it is for you to decide.

Two nights ago, my 5-year-old daughter began to run a fever out of nowhere.  One minute, she’s jumping around on a trampoline at a place called Tumbletown with boundless energy, and by the time she gets home, she’s got the chills and is feverish.  Apparently, the stuffy nose she’d had for several days was not due to allergies, but was actually a warning of something a little more sinister brewing.  So I give her some fever-reducing medicine and dress her warmly for bed, thinking (hoping) she will feel better by morning.  But, no.

A few hours later, I am greeted by an upset little girl who has just vomited all over her bed and herself.  She is feeling much worse and when I read the thermometer, I am alarmed.  Giving her more anti-fever medication only makes the vomiting start again, so I am at a loss as to what to do.  A call to the doctor sends us to the emergency room.

Despite the fact that the emergency room is empty, we are forced to wait.  I fill out a bunch of forms, and we wait some more.  I stand in front of the empty registration desk so someone way in the back might see me, and wait even longer.  Finally, we are taken back and the process begins.  A nurse takes vital signs at the registration desk, along with asking me for all the information I just filled out on the forms.  It’s after 1am and my daughter is crying and uncomfortable. 

When finished with this step, we are taken to a small room in the back and wait some more until another nurse comes in and asks what has brought us to the emergency room (for the third time).  I again explain the details of what my daughter has experienced and how we are there because our family doctor told us to come, and then she leaves.  And we wait some more.  She returns, finally, with a doctor and says, “Can you tell the doctor why you brought your daughter here tonight?”  I could hardly believe it!

The doctor examines my daughter and tells the nurse to give her a medication to combat the nausea.  During the examination, my daughter winces when her ear is touched and I comment that she made no mention of her ear hurting at home.  This is the only thing said by anyone about my daughter’s ear.

Over an hour later, the doctor comes back and says she will be prescribing an antibiotic before we leave.  Her father and I ask her what it will be for, what’s wrong with her?  “For her ear infection, of course.”  We look at each other in disbelief and nearly in unison say to the doctor, “You never told us she had an ear infection,” at which point, a polite disagreement ensues.  Ultimately, the doctor admitted she didn’t actually say it, she thought I already knew because of my comment. 

Puh-leeze… I’m lucky I understood any of her comments!  I’m sure her credentials are fine, or else she would not be allowed to practice in my local hospital with a fine reputation, and she was very pleasant to my daughter, but both her father and I had to struggle to understand her version of English.  We’re talking health issues here, I’d like to be able to understand the instructions she was giving me regarding the two different medications she prescribed and the timing, dosing, etc.  And knowing she had another ear infection was important because of my daughter’s history with ear infections and the possibility that she may have to have her adenoids removed if they continue.  No, she couldn’t have known this, but it seems like Doctor-Common-Sense 101 to make sure to tell the parents the diagnosis.

It took a total of 2½ hours on a quiet night in an emergency room to take care of something relatively minor (I think).  Every time I poked my head out of the room we were in, I could see the staff (including the doctor) congregating around the main desk, casually talking, moving around slowly. 

I know… Moms are biased when it comes to the treatment of their children and this whole story could be written with a slant.  But tell me this: why are prescription drugs so expensive?  Could it be because drug companies constantly advertise products that we cannot purchase without a doctor-written prescription?  Does this make any sense?  Don’t you think this promotes self-diagnosis?  Think about it – you watch the commercial, you decide, “Hey, I think I need that product and will ask my doctor about it like the commercial advises.”  Now, instead of your doctor deciding what is best for you, you have succumbed to marketing tactics just like every other product uses.  You can pick up your prescription right after that burger or new pair of shoes that the preceding commercials convinced you you needed, too.

And while we’re talking “Healthcare”, why isn’t Dental Care considered healthcare?  (Don’t stop me, the crank-o-meter is in high gear now :-)  It has always astounded me why teeth are not considered a part of the body like everything else.  They have their own separate system of care, one that is difficult for some to get – and a lot who actually have coverage don’t have enough.  Do you realize that chewing is the first stage of digestion?  And we chew with our……. TEETH.  If our teeth fail us, the entire digestive system is compromised, which now crosses over into the real healthcare world.  It’s not just cosmetic, it’s not a luxury.  In some cases, an infection in a tooth that is not cared for can spread to the brain, killing a person.  Under what system does that fall?  Mortuary?

Makes me crazy.  But it makes me feel a tad better writing about it. 

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9 thoughts on “What’s Bugging Me About American Healthcare Today…

  1. Oy carumba Debi! I know what you’re talking about. I’ve had my own nightmare experiences in emergency rooms. I hope your little one is better now.

    Unfortunately, I think that the drug companies are answering a need. Sadly, we as a society are so paranoid and so expectant of having to have everything we want and feel good all the time that if we don’t we demand an instant pill to fix it. Frankly, I find it really scary that in the last ten years they have come up with a name for every hypocondriac-condition known to man with requisite drugs to go with it.

    As to dental being included in healthcare coverage – answer is simple – there is no money in it. Nope, no money at all. Referencing back to the entitlement-syndrome of society today – they are so prone to sue anybody for anything that doctors and health providers have to carry a hideous amount of malpractice insurance to cover the bagillion dollar lawsuit award or they can’t practice. I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty of incompetent health care providers, or even money grubbing drug companies – but much of this stuff has been created by the welfare state of mind that we’ve been indoctrinated into believing.
    WC

  2. WC,

    My daughter is feeling a lot better… thanks :-) It just burns me up the way a hospital ER can saunter around and ignore a patient when they’re not busy – but I guess I made that point already…

    As far as the drug companies answering a need, they can’t answer it unless a law is passed allowing them to advertise. I think society is better served by lower healthcare/prescription costs, which would be realized without all that money being thrown into their advertising budgets. You’re right: after we see a commercial, we suddenly think we are suffering from some disease and run to our doctor asking for the medication. It’s ridiculous!

    And with Dental/Health insurance, it’s the programs I’m talking about – why must we have two? Yes, we need different types of doctors, but separating the programs separates the quality and accessibility of care. There are many who have, or can get, health insurance – but it’s difficult to get dental. And even dental insurance given by one’s employer is capped and restrictive.

    Without making this too personal, I live on Medicare (due to disability), and Medicare will take care of my health, but not my teeth. I don’t understand that. Do they think I’m 80 years old and have no teeth?

    Anyway… I guess I’m still a little cranky… :-)

    ~Debi

  3. Debi,
    I agree – to see people who are supposed to be concerned with your health sauntering around as though you aren’t there is disconcerting. And I think, the height of incompetence. Imagine if we had state-sponsored healthcare, it’d be even worse. LOL. Don’t get me started.

    And the dental thing – yeah, it’s ridiculous. Preventitive care does not seem to be in the lexicon of the healthcare industry these days. To me, it’s illustrative of the absurdity of insurance – they want you to pay for it but never need it. To me, it’s a total racket.

    Glad your little one is feeling better. It’s scary when you don’t know what’s wrong and have to rely on strangers to fix it.
    WC

  4. Well, I certainly hope your young’un is doing better. Sounds like no fun at all for child or for parents. I’m sorry about your trouble, it’s too common in this day and age and very little is being done about it.

    Here’s an only marginally related story: a few years ago, actually it was the week before Thanksgiving ’01, I was managing a gas station back in my old home state of Alabama. I worked the afternoon shift, so I usually got up sort of late in the day, a little before noon. Well, the night before this particular afternoon I had a screaming headache before I went to bed. I was out of Tylenol, so I took some Aspirin with some water and went to sleep.

    I woke up the next morning feeling much better, and I got a shower and went about my business [Warning: this is about to get gross.] A couple of hours passed and I found myself clocking in at the job. I had been on shift for maybe thirty minutes when I started to experience massive stomach pain and terrible nausea. There was one employee on shift with me, a nice older lady who was brand new on the job, so I was training her. I could feel that something was very wrong, but this was a very busy and somewhat isolated gas station and I could not leave this lady by herself.

    By the middle of the afternoon I was excusing myself to the restroom every hour or so to vomit up large quantities of blood. I would have to clean the bathroom every time–it looked like a murder scene, no joke at all. I started calling around to other stores in the area to find a replacement so I could, you know, go to the hospital. All I got was excuse after excuse, and it wasn’t until about supper time that someone from across the state line actually got finished doing her laundry and could come in.

    I was too weak to drive by this point…I had lost a lot of blood and couldn’t stand up without feeling faint, although I thankfully never blacked out. I somehow drove to my parents’ house, which was just a couple of miles away, and got my Mom to drive me to the nearest emergency room. On the way I phoned the regional manager of my company, with whom I’d been in contact earlier in the afternoon. “Oh, don’t worry, Curt, your insurance will cover it,” was the line I got. Just like that. And I remembered that I had hospitalization insurance, but it wasn’t something to which I’d paid close attention (bad mistake) as a sprightly, healthy lad of 21.

    So we get to the ER, which is practically vacant, and my mom signs me in. By this point it’s been a long time since I’ve vomited, and the nausea is beginning to subside a bit (possibly because I’m running out of blood? I don’t know.) Mom explained to them what had been going on and that I was feeling very, very weak and disoriented, and she tells them that by my estimate I’ve lost at least a few pints. Orally.

    It took over an hour and a half for me to be seen by the triage nurse. They laid me on a gurney and rolled me back into the ER, where I was parked against a corridor wall. No one came to check on me for a further thirty minutes. But, probably from lying down, the nausea came back and it was only when I vomited another good pint of blood that a team of nurses and doctors suddenly descended on me with fury. Needles went in and tests were run, and it was decided that the aspirin I’d taken before going to sleep had aggravated pre-existing stomach ulcers. I overheard the doctor telling one nurse “This guy must be a heavy drinker.” Not true at all.

    So the decision was made to force plastic tubing up my nose and down my throat. The tubes were connected to a vacuum which started pumping blood out of my stomach. Once all the blood was gone from there, the doctors said they would administer some medicine which would quickly heal the ulcers.

    But the blood kept coming up through the tubes. It didn’t stop, and no one was there to monitor it. They were out in the hall. I passed out. I woke up about 36 hours later.

    It turns out that what actually happened was that a piece of aspirin had gotten lodged in my throat just the wrong way. The previous night, while I’d been sleeping, the aspirin was chewing away at the lining of my esophagus, which was already severely weakened from acid reflux. It runs in my family like our last name. By the time I woke up to begin this exciting day, there was only a small sliver of tissue left connecting the lower portion of my esophagus to the upper. By the time I made it to the hospital, there was none at all. My esophagus had come apart, quite literally, and that’s where all the bleeding was coming from, as you can imagine.

    So by prediagnosing this problem as alcohol-induced ulceration, the doctors made the mistake of thinking that there would ever be an end to the blood they were pumping out. I had to have a blood transfusion, and then they went in with a scope device and sealed up my esophagus with lasers, or something. The bill ended up at over $15,000. I was in the hospital for almost 96 hours.

    And it was not covered by insurance. Only the ‘room and board’ at the hospital was covered by insurance. I’m still paying down the bill, finally about to get it gone.

    Had the doctors applied the correct treatment, the bill would have been more like $2,000. Blood transfusions and extra, unnecessary invasive procedures are expensive. The reason the doctors misdiagnosed my problem was probably that they were busy enjoying their down time and, when they realized that they were dealing with a truly life-threatening issue, they rushed to judgment in something like a panic.

    The original doctor never came to check on me while I was in the hospital, after the surgery. He wouldn’t show his face. I was advised by an attorney who is a trusted friend of my family not to pursue litigation because the costs would outweigh any returns, which would be years away if they ever came. So I just filed a complaint with the American Medical Association and others.

    Yet another reason why I’m steadily inching northward towards Canada. No, I’m being facetious; it could happen there, too, and I have a feeling that you and I might ultimately draw different conclusions about the nature of these problems, but we can agree that there are some things which are very, very wrong with healthcare in America. And it has to do with market forces coming into consideration in inappropriate ways, both on the insurance side and on the treatment end, and with the ways in which they deceptively work in collusion on dizzyingly large scales, both in our own country and internationally.

  5. Wow, tellit – what a nightmare. I hope you sued their asses! I’ve been pretty lucky in my life and have never been seriously ill – but in your place I would have been scared to death.

    Glad you made it through that.

    WC

  6. Good Grief! Like WC, I would have been scared to death, too. At this point, I guess you’re supposed to be happy you’re alive to tell the story, AND to pay off the remainder of the debt, right? It is unconscionable that your insurance did not cover every single cost associated with your visit to the emergency room that day… regardless. Did they expect you to sit up and diagnose yourself?? “Uh, people, it’s my esophagus… the aspirin became lodged and ate away at it, causing all this bleeding… I’m not a drinker, so can you please stop trying to drain the blood out of my stomach and repair my esophagus.” :-/

    I’m glad you’re here to tell this story… but I wish you didn’t have such a horrendous story to tell.

    I have one for you, but it pales in comparison and goes back to the subject of Dentistry (a pet peeve of mine, can you tell?) About 6 years ago, a visit to my dentist showed that I needed a root canal, so my dentist referred me to an endodontist to get it done. He sent me over with a referral slip with the words, “Root canal, tooth # 10” and an x-ray of the tooth. The endodontist decides to do the root canal on the tooth NEXT TO IT, tooth # 11, which didn’t even have a cavity, but DID further aggravate the pain in tooth # 10. My face swelled, the pain was excruciating, and when I called to report this the next day, he came back in on a Sunday morning to perform another root canal – this time, on the right tooth.

    Knowing this guy had made an egregious error and damaged a perfectly good tooth in my mouth, combined with the fact that I could not afford a cap for it, I decided to take him to court to hold him accountable. Long story short: the District Justice decided in his favor, citing that I’d signed a paper giving him permission to repair anything else that needed fixing while in his care and in his esteemed opinion, this tooth without a cavity needed fixing… because HE SAID SO. P.S. He got paid for both root canals. At the time, I had dental insurance, so I only had to pay the 20%, but he still got paid for doing something wrong and inflicting horrible pain in the process.

    Your story was more than marginally related, and we can agree that there is quite a lot wrong with healthcare – much more than I was able to articulate on a day after my daughter visited the emergency room and I was busy sneezing and blowing my nose. I suspect it all funnels back to the root of all evil… :-)

  7. And thanks, my “young’un” is doing better… bouncing off the walls like she always does. The miracle of antibiotics…. :-)

  8. way to go! couldn’t have said it better! you’ve just about stated some of the reasons why I don’t really like hospitals — the “red tape”, the “responsible” and “compassionate” doctors and nurses (well, not all of them) — and I also have this skepticism of the prescriptions given. sometimes I feel like they don’t work.

    but then, they’re the professionals, and all we can do is complain when the damage is done.

  9. Thank you for your comments, Sean… and for your home security info.

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