Redline Doc

Oct 12, 2010 - 3 minute read - Medicine Universal HealthCare

REAL Health care -- in the trenches.

I read Paul Romer’s The effect of Health Care Reform on others, a play on the vagaries of our dysfunctional healthcare system and putative illnesses of Mother Goose characters.  I admit it (a guilty pleasure) I laughed. Then I reflected on the daily life in our Community Health Center, in Connecticut, located in poorest city of its size in the nation. The irony is just too much. We (nutmegers) are the wealthiest per captita state in the nation!

But- I digress.

A patient appears at our primary care clinic on Friday. Classic signs of cholecystitis (gall bladder attack).  We hustle her by transport to the emergency room. Monday morning she’s BACK!  At the emergency room, the nice physician gave her the name of several surgeons she could call to have her gall bladder fixed. None take her insurance.

An 82 year old lady lives in her car. Bernie (this is too good) Madeoff with the retirement funding. She can’t afford the taxes. She lives in her car.

A patient comes for diabetic medication, gets a glucometer (to measure the sugar), strips (to use in the machine) but the company doesn’t pay for the lancets to draw the blood from the finger. Urmmmmmm.

A patient drops a heavy object on her foot. She goes (of course) to the emergency room, diagnosed with a fracture but referred to the clinic so that she can have a cast put on.  She is uninsured.   I might add this over a five day period.

A patient comes with a kidney infection. No problem. Antibiotics. Oh – we don’t cover THAT antibiotic.

A patient, finally stabilized on psychiatric medication shows up for a refill. UhOh. You need a prior authorization. What? This patient has  been taking this for a year. No matter. We need to consider the forms (they say) to make sure the patient is getting the best medication. Insurance oversight.

A letter arrived the other day from one of the major drug companies letting us know that they are going to be direct advertising to consumers for certain drugs so that they (the consumers) will know what best to ask for.

A young boy comes having (as children are wont to do) leaped off a picnic table and stepped on some glass. The local ER (no problem) sees the child, recognizes that there is glass ‘somewhere’ in the wound, sews up the wound, and sends the parents off in search of a surgeon who will see them on state insurance. Two days later. They arrive at our clinic looking for guidance. We are fortunate to have some favors to call in. He gets care.

Lest you think out there that is is a factor of my particular city, its not. As I speak with colleagues around the country, this is the rule not the exception. As insurers tighten the profit noose, looking to their bottom lines not yours, this is a frightening and every more common occurrence. As hospital emergency room expenses rise the quest to slide more care out to the community increases. Its shoddy. Its terrible. Its not good medicine, hell its not good care in the third world. It is however our current system.

Healthcare reform may change some of this but we are only at a beginning. I praise Paul for bringing a bit of humour to what is, for me, a very black, dark sad subject.