Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Unbelievable

I learned from Amy (hippies in yuppieland—a private journal, or I’d give a link) that long-time AOL journaller Pam (his1desire) was diagnosed last week with lung cancer. Though I know her only peripherally, I thought I would head over to Just One Girl’s Headnoise to add my words of encouragement to the stack of well-wishes sent Pam’s way. I immediately became gripped by Pam’s saga and her willingness to share it with the journal community.

Today, I read her entry about being contacted by the billing department at the hospital where she is being treated, and being dunned for what basically amounts to a "down payment" on her treatment. WTF!!!!???? Here is a woman who is still in the "deer-in-the-headlights" stages of trying to deal with the dreaded "c" word, coping with huge issues like how she’s going to break the news to her children, how she’s going to make sense of all the input from a multitude of different doctors, which tests with which specialists are on which days, and these IDIOTS have the unmitigated gall to call her on the phone and start hounding her for money! And she has insurance! But the ever-sensitive, ever-compassionate health care providers are making sure their priorities are lined up…get the money FIRST, and then start the treatment.

I could not believe this. To me, this is like having my auto mechanic tell me that he wants $500 up front before he even starts fixing my car. Like I would do that! Like anybody would! Why should health care be any different? Doctors, hospitals, the entire health-care world, are providing a service, for which I don’t believe anyone should have to pay before the service is provided. That’s just plain common sense. Add this to the fact of what we’re actually talking about here---treatment that could very well be a matter of life and death for a patient. Patients who are having to deal with huge emotional and practical issues…and the first thing we do is ask them to bring $500 with them when they come in for their biopsy? Absolutely inexcusable.

I had to wonder…what is wrong with a society that allows this? Are we so immersed in our "I got mine" philosophy in this country that even the industries that are supposed to deal in healing and compassion put their own bottom lines above everything else? Anyone who thinks there is not a health-care/insurance crisis in this country, should just go ahead and come down with a life-threatening disease, and see what happens. Something is very, very broken here.

14 comments:

  1. All I can say is Amen.

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  2. "Something is very, very broken here."

    And you are only now realizing this? What have you been doing for the past thirty years?

    If you are that out of touch, you are part of the problem. Or perhaps you have swallowed the line that any further regulation of the health care industry and its charges is tantamount to "socialized medicine" (with a heavy emphasis on "socialism," heheheh -- I love the way the Republicans Right has played the socialism = communism card in this battle).

    No, that wasn't a cry of "wolf" by Bill Clinton in his first term. His big mistake, given the times, was to ask his wife to lead the charge on overhauling the healthcare system. Not because she was incompetent -- far from it. Simply because the good 'ol boys that run this country couldn't stomach the thought of Miz Clinton having anything to do with it. She is too competent and didn't owe her allegience to the Pettybees (Powers That Be = PTB). She had to be taken down and they saw to it -- killing any chance for healthcare reform for another generation.

    Now that she's no longer the political virgin, she is also largely ineffective because she is owned by special interests. EVERY senator is. Never lose sight of that fact -- Congress is bought and paid for. When it comes to making medical care available to everyone, it always comes down to cost. Quite frankly, if the amount of money spent by the healthcare and pharaceutical special interests to buy politicians, pay for their trainers (lobbyists) and advertise how good they are were devoted to paying the medical bills of the havenots, there'd be no healthcare crisis -- there'd be a surplus of funding for research.

    I'll shut up now before I really go off on you.

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  3. Amen, Lisa. It's INSANE. We went through this recently with Marty's leg infection. He couldn't go to the orthopedic guy for a follow-up because they informed him he owed them $400 from 1991 (when he was on Blue Cross/Blue Shield). And the insurance would pay for his pain pills, but not his heavy duty antibiotics.
    I feel for Pam. It's hard enough to be dealing with an unexpected illness without tacking on financial stress.

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  4. It is unbelievable. They also send bills out without telling you what they're charging you for. You actually have to request a detailed billing statement. Then you find out you're paying $85 for stuff like gauze - when you could run down to the supermarket and get it for $5. Ridiculous, sick, crazy!

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  5. Your outrage is well placed!  I too am appalled at the state of medical care in this country.

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  6. Unfortunately the billing department of the hospital is responsible for billing.  They don't know the specifics of a patient as they don't have access to doctors files. It is sad they make these calls and request payment up front.  My father has been dealing with a couple different cancers over the past several months and he's required to put up several hundred dollars also.  Hospitals will NOT turn a patient away due to the inability to pay this upfront though.  Sad how it works but it's procedure for them and has been for years.  Pamela is and has been in my thoughts and prayers!

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  7. Hillary Clinton could have fixed this, but she was scorned and hated for her very competence, hatred that carries over to this day. I don't pretend to understand it.

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  8. Your point well expressed!

    Unfortunately, the illness that plagues our entire Medical System has adversly affected the protocol of the patient's needs.  The Patient needs to know there is hope....afterall, we spend most of our lives feeling that "good health" is like public domain...it belongs to us. If we are stricken with an illness, the remedy should not be offered to us with a price tag attached.   Hospitals....and the science of Medicine cannot exist on "good will".....they work hard to function with their greedy partners...the insurance companies, who now act as intermediaries on how much medical attention an individual is allowed to receive. "Broken?"....actually, the whole thing is frightening.
       I pray that Pam will find courage, hope and strength in a way that she never knew existed.....she will need all of it to carry her through these blindingly difficult times.
    Peace~ Marc :)

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  9. It breaks my heart that medicine is so money driven.  (for obvious reasons eh?)  Health care is one item that I am far more liberal about.

    PS:  In person I am exactly the same as my writing except in person I actually have a sense of humor.  Either that or I am ridculous cuz Charley is always laughing, with me, because of me or ar me.

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  10. Has the health care industry ever been noted for compassion?

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  11. So sad about Pamela, but she is a fighter!

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  12. thsi is so true, so sad & so frightening
    Marti

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  13. lightyears2venusJune 30, 2005 at 9:29 PM

    Several years ago I read an interview with an HMO CEO and she mentioned that she had been to see the movie As Good As It Gets and when Helen Hunt bursts out in the movie f--- HMOs! in regard to problems getting her son health care, the CEO said she was "shocked" when the audience broke out in applause.  I've never been in any movie where that happened and found that anecdote so significant. And as you say,  it's not just hospitals.  My primary care physicians' office is great, but today I tried to get an appt w/ a specialist and encountered the worst automated phone system ever.  "Appts" was not even an option; "press 8 to speak with the operator" told me the operator was not available--all day long.  Not once was I able to speak to a person.  And the voice mail I finally opted for said to expect 1-2 business days for a response.  Providing a service?  This particular doctor seems to feel he is doing me a favor.

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  14. sorry to be a tad late with my own comment .. been a little distracted ;-)
    i wanted to add that now that i've progressed along in this and i finally got to see the "important" doc .. the cancer specialist .. the oncologist, his office hasn't said word ONE about getting any money from me .. they copied my insurance card and that was all they wanted from me ..
    his entire office is staffed with very soft spoken, kind hearted, compassionate people .. i continued to be amazed every time i deal with his office .. they don't seem to have that hard edge .. the insensitivity, the coldness, that i've run into each step of the way with all the other doctors offices and hospitals
    its like they know that the patients are looking to them to save their lives
    and that seems to be more important than a $20 copayment
    its not all broken .. just some of it :)
    pamela

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