Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “pollyana” as “someone who thinks good things will always happen and finds something good in everything”. Okay, I am getting that out of the way first thing of 2014. I am a pollyana. I do want to stress that this particular post is not meant to be a political one, although I am certain that will be at least a handful of comments that will be directed politically. So please excuse me if I do not engage in those. I want to talk about the human side of the issue, medical care.
I believe our country to be one of the best in terms of medical care available. I just wish that it were accessible to everyone, not just the patients, but to the doctors and hospitals all over the United States. We are a society that believes in being humane, yet we constantly turn away patients for lack of insurance coverage, funds, fortunately only certain prior conditions. This certainly is not right. Now here is where I identify as the pollyana.
While the politicians hammer out their differences with the Affordable Care Act, one part of the law that I respect, and truly appreciate, is the insurance part that now covers patients with pre-existing conditions. Patients with serious illnesses for decades faced enough hardships without having to worry if they would not be able to get the health care they needed just because they cashed in their health lottery ticket for another serious health condition.
I remember the first time I was rejected back in 1990 for a job that I had applied for, as well as health and life insurances. I was discriminated against for the job which I later fought with the Pennsylvania Labor Commission, who introduced the newly approved Americans With Disabilities Act, but I was powerless against the insurance companies who had stated that I needed to be in remission of my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma five years before they could consider me for coverage.
So let me get this straight. The moron pen-pushers at the insurance company have dictated that I would be considered less of a risk to insure at five years, even though I would be five years older, hence five years closer to my mortality (which was even more likely a risk than recurrence). This is where I got the first idea in my head that I would be “cured” of my cancer in five years. It was not from the doctors, but rather from the statistic stupidheads at the insurance companies. After all, who best to determine if I would have a long life post cancer… the doctors who treated me, or the dope actuaries at the insurance companies. Well, back in the 1980’s and 1990’s it was those pen pushers that won. Today, it is the Affordable Care Act.
There is no doubt that something needs to be done to control out of control health care costs, whether it be the insurance companies, pharmacy companies, or hospitals. I can acknowledge that there are many who abuse the system by going to an emergency room for simple things that can be taken care of by over the counter means. There are people who do not take better care of themselves by either smoking, being overweight, drug abuse, etc. But I also know first hand, that there are patients that need over-the-top care, diagnostics, extraordinary means to find out what is making them sick, and then to treat and cure them. I am one of those patients who is alive because I had a doctor advocate for a test that is not normally done on a 42 year old male (when the need arose – not my current age now).
At the age of 42, my family doctor, not even a cardiologist as I had not even had the thought of seeing one for the complaint I had raised with my doctor, ordered a nuclear stress test. I had no symptoms of anything that would justify this expensive test right from the gate, but my doctor ordered it anyway. The test saved my life, literally. As my newly acquired cardiologist put it so eloquently, “it wasn’t a question if you were going to die, but when.” I had no time for insurance bullshit appeals. In less than a minute of any strenuous activity the blood flow to my heart was restricted over 90% and being an otherwise healthy 42 year old, I had no reason to suspect anything unusual.
I have learned to trust my body. If something feels wrong, then something is wrong. I have a primary physician who knows this personality quirk about me and is as strong willed with my care as I am. I know the difference between a cold and the flu and when to call the doctor, and I do.
Recently, someone I know who had just completed chemotherapy had developed a cough. At first, it was thought that it could have been just an allergy or even a cold. After all, the Fall weather brings that sort of thing in the Northeast. And antibiotics which had been prescribed seemed to have at least some sort of effect. But when the antibiotics stopped, the coughing increased. From the phone, it was decided to have him see a pulmonologist which only made sense since it was a cough. But the cough got drastically worse, and instead of waiting a few more days for that appointment, a decision was made to go to the emergency room. Long story short, it was not the lungs at all, but the heart.
The immediate reaction is what can a cough have to do with the heart? I know I did. But as it turned out, his heart was effected from the chemo which caused his heart not to work effectively which caused a fluid build up in the lungs, hence the cough. This incident has my friend still dealing with this issue now over two months.
My point is this. I know that there will be those out there that who may complain about the lengths that have been taken to save his life. I know that there will be those out there that will say too much money has been spent. But every decision and every step being taken is keeping him alive. He not only needs that care, he should have that care. And so should everyone. We are a civilized country. We need to let the doctors be the doctors and do what they know. The doctors are the ones in the operating rooms, or interviewing patients. Insurance companies look inside a binder and read statistics and procedures. Insurance companies do not have any clue what color hair the patient has, yet somehow they are the ones that want to call the shots from their books.
Yes, I will admit to being a pollyana. Everyone should have the same access to quality health care and get that care. I am now 48 years old and watching someone half my age go through what he has would devastate me the same as if it were someone twice my age. Our fates should not be determined by pen-pushers trying to make a profit but rather the doctors who know how to make patients well.