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The health care crisis hits home - Phil's Rambling Rants — LiveJournal
May 25th, 2004
04:12 pm


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The health care crisis hits home
I've been meaning to schedule a physical for a couple of weeks, but failing to get around to it. Yesterday, I finally made the call. Since I just turned 40, I think I ought to get a real physical exam, not just a quick once-over while the doctor refills the prescriptions that I need to live.

They told me that I'd have to wait until August, because my doctor only does one physical per day. When I was unhappy, they invited me to change doctors. I've been seeing this guy for 10 years; I don't want to change doctors. But I do want a doctor that thinks my physical is important, so he'll actually be thorough and make sure that if anything is wrong he finds it.

This doctor is a cancer specialist, but he was taking new general patients when I joined the health plan 10 years ago, and as far as I recall hardly anyone else was, even at the biggest hospital in almost 100 miles. It really seems to me that if a doctor is going to let someone choose him as a primary care physician, he has a responsibility to really be available for that person as a primary care physician, and being a primary care physician for a healthy person mostly means doing physical exams. It further seems to me that once he's had a patient for 10 years, he shouldn't treat seeing that patient as a sideline to his real practice with cancer patients. And finally, if he really is too busy with cancer patients, he (or his staff that work for him) should at least be able to provide some better support than "if you don't like waiting more than two months, you can pick a new doctor".

After getting some sympathetic noises but no real help from the nurse, I went ahead and scheduled the appointment, at which time she told me there had been a cancellation; would I like to have my exam on June 29? If they'd offered me that in the first place, I wouldn't have gotten all upset and gone through all of this. But maybe I wanted to know that I should be looking for a new doctor. I will be paying attention to what he actually does for me when he sees me, and if he confirms rather than easing my fears that my care is not very important to him, I'll have to start the process of trying to find another doctor.

I want to believe that the problem is not that my doctor is a jerk (he certainly doesn't seem like one; that's why I've been seeing him for 10 years), but that the system is squeezing him by making him deal with more patients than he can handle. The fact that I'm getting jerked around by the best health plan in town, at the biggest and best equipped (not necessarily best run) hospital within 100 miles, certainly doesn't bode well for people with no or second-rate health coverage.

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(2 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:May 26th, 2004 12:00 am (UTC)
Yeah, those times that i've gotten sick enough to actually go to a doctor, i almost always get that, "why don't you come in for regular check ups?" to which i respond, "i have no health insurance. are you aware of how much you charge someone like me for just a regular checkup??" That usually quiets them down.
[User Picture]
Date:May 26th, 2004 10:07 am (UTC)
And of course what they charge you for a regular checkup is much more than what they charge a health plan for the same checkup. You can't get preventative care, but if you get sick, we have laws that say they have to help you. And if you can't pay for it, they raise the price of everything to cover the cost (and protect the huge salaries of administrators and doctors, and the huge profits of the corporations), which means it's even less likely you'll be able to pay for your own care, and also cranks up the price of insurance so more people end up not having it.

Our medical science is amazing, and many individual health care professionals are hard working, caring, and good at what they do, but I'd have to think for a long time to think of anything else good to say about our system. It usually doesn't affect me personally, because I'm lucky enough to have what is considered a top-notch health plan with my job, which was kind of the point of the title of my original post.

I'll stop rambling-ranting now.
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