Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No Spoonful of Sugar with THIS Medicine!

Everyday I hear about the health care plan and the public option and it makes me want to shout and grind my teeth. The reason I hold these sentiments is because I have had a taste of what socialized medicine has to offer, and let me say, it was a very bitter pill to swallow.

If one wants to get a glimpse of what socialized medicine has to offer, they need look no further than the VA Health System. As a veteran, I have personal and first hand experience with this institution. As much as the system is touted, it leaves MUCH to be desired.

The only time I ever utilized the system was in a pinch, when I was unemployed and had no other option. Believe me, if I had any other option, like private insurance through my employer, I would never set foot in a VA Hospital.

The environment of a VA Hospital is similar to that of a corral, where all the veterans are herded about like cattle. An appointment is almost like a full day field trip. Instead of being able to choose your doctors, you are broken into “teams” according to the last four numbers of your Social Security number. However, if you are a female veteran, like myself, you are lumped into one team, regardless of your number. Getting an appointment seems easy enough, until you realize you will have to wait three weeks to months in order to be seen.

If you want to go in for a physical or a checkup, you may as well clear your schedule, because you’re going to be there ALL DAY. You are actually given a check list of departments to go to and you basically follow lines on the floor through a confusing maze.

The dispensary (pharmacy) is basically like the counter at a crowded deli. You pick a number, and you wait. And you wait. And you wait. Finally your number flashes on the display, and you’re given a bunch of medications for whatever your ailment. It’s not uncommon to see some people come out with grocery bags full of drugs and medical devices.

Another wonderful cost cutting measure is that nice rationing of care. You will damn near have to be on your knees or flat on your back before you get surgery or any kind of corrective procedure. I have a friend who is only 40 years old with herniated disks which are so painful that he can barely function. Instead of giving him the surgery that could correct it all, he’s been furnished with a cane, some pain medication, and a handicap car tag. He was told that his condition wasn’t bad enough to warrant surgery just yet. Forty years old.

Don’t forget that you can be dropped at their discretion, and at times, without your knowledge. Despite having served your country and allowed your body to be battered and bruised in the process, and being promised this wonderful benefit upon separation, you can in fact be dropped from the system based on income. I found that out the hard way. And not only that, but if you do work and you have private insurance but opt to go to the VA for care they will STILL file an insurance claim and send you a bill for the remainder. Learned that the hard way too. But back to being dropped.

Apparently I’d made too much the previous year and didn’t realize that it had any effect on my VA benefits. I was unemployed and had been for about 9 months. I was sick and needed to be seen. Well, I missed my appointment trying to brave DC traffic and it was too late to be squeezed in. Well, I figured while I was there I’d take advantage of the free flu shots. I went to have my information put in the system so I could be put in queue, but lo and behold, I was not there. They asked to see my Vet ID card. I asked, oh, you mean the one I’d requested about 4 years ago and never got? Well, I go into the eligibility office to find out why I had never received it and found out that I’d been dropped from the system. I pleaded my case, saying that what I made last year was irrelevant and that I was unemployed and needed care NOW, but they’d hear none of it.

Let me not forget to tell you about how they can, and most probably will, deny you treatment for anything THEY deem unnecessary. So for someone like me with bad acne and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, really can hope to get no better a course of treatment than a tube of hydroquinone, which actually makes it worse for me. Not even a consideration for an acid peel or anything else new. So just imagine how much they’d try to stiff you on receiving any kind of revolutionary or state of the art surgery which may surely prolong your life or increase your functionality. Not saying it doesn’t happen (sometimes), but not enough to make a difference.

I DREAD the thought of so many war veterans returning home, only for the system to be overwhelmed and ill equipped, or maybe just downright disinclined, to properly treat them. They won’t even acknowledge the validity and prevalence of PTSD, imagine what else they may ignore?

Oh, and the emergency room? Forget it! I went to the emergency room one night in excruciating pain and signed in. There were perhaps 4 people in the waiting room with me. Some came and went. I sat there for THREE HOURS before I got up to tell the receptionist that it doesn’t take 3 hours to triage someone and that I’ve been waiting to give samples that I know they would need. Gotta tell you, it did warm my heart to hear a nurse in the back talking about how she was about to retire and really didn’t give a damn. Needless to say, that after being triaged and providing samples (which weren’t even tested), I was ushered into the back to wait another hour and eventually given medicine. Well, the next day things had worsened dramatically, prompting another visit to the ER, but this time at a private hospital. I was given the proper testing and asked the right questions. Eventually the doctor came in and told me that the pills I was given the night before I may as well throw out because they were useless. I firmly believed that if things had gotten any worse, I would have lost my child, whom I’d just begun to carry. To add insult to injury, I received a bill from the VA!

Be careful what you ask for. The VA so often boasts having some of the best care and state of the art equipment in some of its facilities, but I really have yet to see any of that. Honestly, do you really want any of this?

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