Socialized Larceny

I mentioned to BrainRants, that one of the drawbacks of socialized medicine is inefficiency.  Most practitioners – doctors, nurses, technicians, are in it for the good of their patients.  Some of them though, and perhaps more of the clerical support, don’t have that commitment.  They know that their job is almost guaranteed by the government, so there is no need for speed or accuracy.  This is one of the reasons for things like long wait times in emergency.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, about having two different clerks take exactly the same information, sometimes the reason for a position disappears, but, the redundant clerk remains, unfireable, sometimes unnoticed.

Another downside of socialized medicine, is the unnecessary and/or excess billing by doctors and clinics.  Higher than necessary and non-valid claims are sent to uncaring, overwhelmed government clerks, too busy to pay close attention, and, in many cases, more interested in Keeping their job, than in Doing their job.

Not that I am suggesting anything illegal or unethical, but, these are just a few of the things I have noticed lately.

I had blood work done for my vision problem.  My doctor’s receptionist called me and told me that I needed to come in to see the doctor about my high cholesterol, which I did.  When the doctor came into the exam room, she didn’t even know why I was there.  The base-line for the tests I took is 5.5.  My result was 5.7, the same as it was a year previous.  I didn’t Need to come in, but it was a billable visit.

My wife had some blood tests run.  The clinic at her doctors’ building is open from 5 till 8 PM, five evenings a week plus Saturday and Sunday.  We got a – I don’t want to say *urgent*, perhaps *strenuous* – call on a Saturday afternoon, from a clerk, who informed her that she had anemia, and should come in to the clinic the next day for a prescription for iron medicine.  We waited three hours for her to be seen by A doctor, not Her doctor, then we took the prescription to our pharmacy and had it filled.  Commonly used to drug bills from $300 to over $1000, I was astounded when the pharmacy clerk wanted $1.79.  It was an over-the-counter pill that could have waited for her next visit to her doctor to be recommended, but, that was a billable, urgent-care visit.  The doctor who wrote the unnecessary prescription is a cosmetic surgeon.

It seems a good idea to ascertain the cause of anemia.  It could be an ulcer, or other internal bleeding.  The wife had an appointment booked with her doctor about an ongoing sore throat and cough.  While she was in, she asked about the anemia.  Her doctor checked the results.  Like my case, the base-line is 130, and her result was 127, barely below the warning line.  The results did show that she produces red cells of different sizes, an unusual occurrence, not necessarily dangerous, but definitely worth investigating.  The other doctor didn’t mention a thing about that.

The wife and I both recently got two/each hearing assistors.  We were told that they were $2000/pr.  My retirement benefits would pay a thousand for each of us and the government gets stuck with the balance.  When the wife went to file the paid invoice, she noticed that each $2000 bill, was actually over $2900.  Besides the charges for hearing aids, the government got billed for the hearing tests.  There were $450 dispensing fees.  There is a 30 day check-up, and a 90 day check-up, and then yearly  follow-up visits.  I’d like to think that, at least some of that is included in the $450, but I’ll bet not.  There were even $85 ear-mould charges.  I don’t remember any ear-moulds being taken, especially since these things have a soft ring on the inner end, like a ski-pole bottom.

My daughter was also tested and prescribed hearing assistors at the same time.  Three at one blow, sounds like the little tailor, killing flies, for Mother Goose.  She is disabled, and all her medical bills go through the Ontario Disability Services Plan.  Because of this, we were led to believe that her units would be somewhat less expensive than ours.  After several weeks of not hearing (Oh, funny!  That’s why we went in.) about her units, she called her case-worker.  Perhaps thinking that this was just another, typical government agency, they had recommended a $5000 pair.  She’s tried the wife’s units.  They work just fine.  We don’t need a Porsche, and the ODSP will only pay for a Ford.  I don’t blame them.

I think this hearing company is now under watch, if not investigation.  The daughter now has to go to another hearing clinic and be retested and resubmit.  ODSP will accept no further submissions from this company.  This means that the daughter’s chances are less than they were, and, even if her next request is honored, there will be bureaucratic delay.

Not every crook is a Bernie Madoff.  Many just keep chipping away, small scale.  Many never get caught.  The egotistic greed is disappointing.  Instead of this money buying a cottage or a bass-boat, it could be used to actually help someone who really needs it.

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Ah, I See…Or Maybe not!

I’ve always taken my own good health for granted.  The poor wife has so many little medical problems.  A doctor at the clinic said to her one day, “You’ve got a lot of things wrong with you!  Nothing that will kill you, but a lot of small stuff.”  She has fibromyalgia.  It makes her sore and tired, and makes exercising difficult.  She has arthritis, especially in the knees, which makes exercising difficult.  She gets bladder inflammations, which means we can’t go over to the hot pool for low impact exercise….are you beginning so see a pattern here?  Extra weight gained puts pressure on the knees, which causes less exercise, which causes depression, which causes weight gain, and around and around we go.

My daughter is also semi-handicapped and I drive her to out-of-town specialists and treatment clinics.  At 67, though, I WAS in amazingly good shape, good genes, good diet and a physical job.  I didn’t get sick.  All that changed late in November.  I got The Flu!  There was the Christmas/New Years preparation stuff to get through, but, I’m retired, I could afford to take some time off for an unexpected illness.  Weeks passed, and I slowly recovered.  At one point, for a couple of days, if I extended myself too much physically, I would feel as if I were passing out.  I would grey-out, starting from the outer edge of my left eye, and proceeding till I had narrow tunnel-vision in the right.  If I stopped and sat, or leaned over, and took a couple of deep breaths, it would go away, in reverse, always with the left eye the last to clear.

I finally got to the point where I felt that I was back to normal, except…  I was driving one day and I looked at a snowbank,and there seemed to be a yellowish/green spotlight, about a foot in diameter, shining on it.  When I got home, I realized that my left eye had that circular spot in the vision where everything was blurry.  I tried to read the digital clock on the stove, and found that there was a small blind spot in the center of it.  What to do?  What to do?  It didn’t occur to me to go to Emergency, because it didn’t feel like an emergency.  My Optometrist was closed till after New Years, so I waited till then to phone.

As BrainRants commented the other day, hurry up and wait.  No pain, no actual blindness, the best they could do was a Feb. 2 appointment, but they put me at the top of the cancellation list.  On Monday, Jan. 10 they called to say they had a spot at 3:45 on Tue., Jan. 11, which, of course, I took eagerly.  The Optometrist scanned the inside of my left eye and found leakage, like a little blister.  No wonder I had this blurry spot.  Suddenly this was a priority!  By now it’s after 5:00 P.M.  Go to the Emergency ward at the local hospital which has the better Opthalmalogical equipment and wait five or six hours for them to confirm his opinion and call an Opthalmologist.  Either she would come back to the hospital, if it were serious enough, or put me on her ASAP to-see list.

Only one person in front of me in admitting, and it still took almost three hours for a nurse/practitioner to check my eyes.  Sure enough, it’s serious enough to DO something about.  Do I have a brain tumor or something else in my head causing pressure and leakage, or is this just a continuing effect of a nasty case of flu?  I got to go to Nuclear Medicine (sounds scary by itself) and have a CAT-scan of my head done.  The on-duty radiologist took just enough time to come back and say no anomalies, that my son had to make the decision to leave for work an hour early, because we still have the car, and he will have to go to work and come home in the morning, by bus.

The Opthalmologist agreed to see me at 9:00 A.M. the next day  She found inflammation in both optic nerves and the leakage in the left eye.  It’s PROBABLY just a left-over from the flu.  It SHOULD go away by itself or with the help of some medication, but, we’d like to be sure it’s not from another cause.  I got a cross-referral to a neurologist.  His office will call with their earliest appointment.  This is Spinal  Tap.  He’ll use the horse needle to take fluid from my lower back and check the pressure.  I also had to call my own doctor to go in for blood-pressure check and a prescription sheet for blood work at the clinic to check for diabetes, cholesterol etc.  I just did that a couple of months ago.  I wonder if those results are current enough?

The ten-day forecast is, Doctors!, Doctors! and more Doctors!  Tuesday morning I drove the wife 15 miles to the next city for a visit with a weight-loss specialist.  Late Tuesday afternoon I saw my Optometrist.  He looked fuzzy.  I spent five hours Tuesday night in an Emergency ward.  Wednesday morning I visited the Opthalmologist.  Thursday afternoon we drive back to the weight doctor for a half hour of physio and home exercise sheets, and then an appointment with the dietician.  Friday morning I go back to the (I’m going to write “eye doctor”, ’cause Opthalmologist takes too long to type and I’m not sure I’m spelling it correctly.  I have to be sure to run the spell check on this before I post it.) for a field test, which checks what the range of sight is in both eyes.  Friday afternoon I go to my doctor for a physical and clinic sheet.  Monday I drive my wife an hour down the big highway to her Rheumatolgist.  Tuesday I drive my daughter an hour up the big highway for pain maintenance medication IV treatment.  Wednesday the wife and I go to our massage therapist/osteopath, and sometime soon, I’m going to have to fit in blood work at the clinic, and an appointment with that Neurologist, when he calls.

I can’t even blame any or all of this on getting old, but let’s face it, **it happens when you do.  I look back to when I had to drag my sorry ass to work, as the good old days.  I’m optimistic that this will all pass with no serious lasting effects.  Already this vision thing is cutting down on my reading, doing crosswords and computer time.  I don’t think they make Braille keyboards.

The First Rule of Blogging

The first rule of blogging is that there are no rules about blogging.  Blogs don’t have to be long, or short, or funny, or serious, or, as I recently discovered, about what you were going to make one about.

I’ve been assembling one in my mind for several days.  It was going to be all about man’s inhumanity to man, and how, even in the holiday period, people still seem to go out of their way to screw someone else over for lazy or selfish reasons.  Then I got THE FLU.  Now I understand what SavortheFolly was talking about on her site, hot flashes, cold spells, weak, can’t concentrate…..

I originally started this blog over a week ago and got as far as concentrate, above and then did or didn’t do something, and lost the 800/900 words that followed.  I couldn’t post that little bit without the hook and punchline, and I couldn’t figure out how to get it back.  Not terribly technically savvy at the best of times, the flu just made things exponentially worse.  I did learn that the first rule of blogging is really, “Learn to run the platform, so that s**t like that doesn’t happen again.”

I mentioned to the wife that I was unusually weak, and couldn’t concentrate enough to do the Inhumanity one, and she said, just do one about getting the flu.  A spark of genius, but I was in no condition for it to be mine.

First of all, the wife is in charge of getting colds and flu at our house.  She already suffers from fibromyalgia, which can render her weak and sore.  If some guy in Hong Kong sneezes, she’s in bed for two weeks.  I don’t get sick!  If she passes something on to me, I have a little k’choo, and twelve hours later I’m as normal as I ever am.  I lost two consecutive days of work, forty years ago.  She’s never seen me SICK since.

I can’t talk logic to an emotional wife.  It’s just the flu.  I don’t normally get it this bad, but I’ll be over it in two weeks.  Yeah, right!  She drags me off to the clinic, where she finds that she has a bacterial cold, for which the doctor gives her medication.  I, on the other hand, have a case of viral flu, for which they can and will do nothing.  Take a week off and call us if you die.

My dad used to say, about bad infections like this, that there would be a couple of days when you were afraid that you were going to die, followed by a couple more, where you were afraid you wouldn’t.  This is now officially a zombie blog, because I’m pretty sure I died and came back to life.

I have a much more accurately empathetic understanding of what the wife goes through 4 or 5 times a winter.  I couldn’t believe the lethargy and sleepiness.  If the house was on fire and I didn’t have to reach too far for a phone, I’d have to call someone to come and drag me out of my chair and rescue me.  Just getting up to go pee was a five-minute project.

The aches and pains meant that I wasn’t sleeping well, at a time when I needed more sleep than usual to combat the infection.  When I needed to sleep, I NEEDED TO SLEEP.  I could be reading a newspaper, or trying to have a conversation with someone, and suddenly just have to lie on the couch for a nap.  I would be wrestling Morpheus and dead to the world before my head hit the cushion.  Could be twenty minutes, could be two or three hours.

One of the strange symptoms of this flu was hypersensitivity on parts of my body.  One of my cats reached over to touch my side, to get my attention.  No claws, just petting me as I might pet him, and I thought that he had beat me with a leather belt.

I’d gained about ten pounds since I retired two years ago.  The only plus I see to this flu attack, is that I have no interest in food and too little strength to chase down even a couple of pieces of toast.  I could stand to lose some more, and what I’ve lost will probably come back, but two weeks of flu have lost me ten pounds of weight.

As I told the wife, it’s been another week and I feel better.  Like the guy in the  Benylin TV ad, I’m not better, but I feel better.  I’ve finally woke up both the hamsters in my head and got them facing in the same direction on that little wheel.  This morning I had two coherent thoughts in a row.

What a whiny little personal rant this has been.  If you don’t get colds and flu, you are now congratulating yourself.  If you do get them this bad, at least you are reassured that others also get them as bad, support in discomfort.

Thanx for reading, and I hope to have something a little more intellectual and less depressing in a couple more days.