Never have done that before, have I?
In the 80s I got my health care through what was called “Opryland:” essentially the complex that was, and still is, The Grand Ole’ Opry. My wife worked in Wardrobe and I wound up at WSM: The Grand Ole’ Opry station, in programming. That’s what the company offered, and it was part of the start of the current model we use for managing health care… the other was started back when President Nixon was making deals so he could get reelected.
But that’s another story.
Back then the insurance companies, especially Prudential, thought they could do it all, and do it better: at least “better” for them. Prucare had their own facilities, their own doctors, nurses: everything. We rarely used it, except for what we now call “wellness visits…” a check up, essentially. We did notice we never saw the same doctor and those visits were skimpy, bare bones at best.
Then in 1986 I had a really bad accident.
I was in a 55 Dodge trying to pass a semi that was acting erratically: a 15 old at the wheel trying to bring fruit to a prison. A kid who had little, if any, experience handling a semi before was driving. He didn’t have the usual license one needs to drive a semi. You see in Tennessee at the time they had never differentiated between farm equipment and semis, so the kid could drive it since his boss told him to “go deliver those $#@! bananas.” Kid: weaving back and forth, stomping on his brake then the gas. Me: almost late for my on air shift at another station. I decided the semi was too big a risk and decided I’d pass him. Half way he cranked the wheel, I hit the brake and it went to the floor. I tried to pump it up, but by the time I got it it was too late: I slid under the framework for the trailer.
I hit what’s essentially a steel girder and almost put one headlight in the front seat.
At Prucare they did a few tests and then released me after telling me my kidneys had been bleeding and I had three cracked ribs. I thought it odd they only told me to come back “if you feel funny.”
What, did they think I didn’t already feel “funny,” considering?
About the same time of the accident I got a real nasty urinary infection. Not sure if they were related, but seems unusual they happened so close together. I hit 103 and went to Prucare. They gave me an antibiotic I was allergic to. I didn’t know, neither did they. Here’s the problem…
I hit 106. Rush off to Prucare with my wife driving. Temp slowly went down. They sent me back home. For about 2-3 weeks my temp kept jumping from 101, to 106, to 103… back and forth, up and down. At least every other day I would wind up back at Prucare. I saw a different doc each time. They spent a max of about 15 minutes with me and kept telling me to come back if it continued. I did. One time on the way out I passed out in the hall. Woke up with this male nurse straddling me and almost asked, “Why did you wake me? I was sleeping so well,” then I remembered.
He asked if I was OK. I told him obviously not, but I had to get to work. “Please go tell the doctors (notice I had to use the plural form) and ask if I need to come back. I’ll wait 20 minutes.” I waited 30 and then went to work.
Finally one day, yet another visit, the head of the hospital was walking through the exam room with yet another doctor attending to me. He lifted up my arm, pointed to it, and said, “Doctor, have you noticed this young man is having a reaction to the medication you’ve put him on?”
They took me off Sulfa. Then my temp dropped and so did I. I kept passing out, because my sugar control was gone: burned out according to them. But they didn’t want to test for it. They just handed me a list of foods I should avoid.
This is the quality “care” I got when an insurance company was in complete control. I’m “fond” of saying they almost killed me, though I never said that to them. Just before we switched companies about a year later the nurse led me to an exam room, for what I don’t recall, and I fell asleep. I woke up about 2 hours later: at least. When I politely came out and asked if they had forgotten me I got in a rather mild argument because the nurse said, “You should have said something.” “But I was asleep.” “Still you should have…”
It was her argument. Despite being a strong advocate in print I rarely argue in public and try to be polite as possible. Arguing usually gets you nowhere except even more pissed off.
When we left Prucare about a year later for the new company my wife’s new bosses offered I asked for my records so I could take them to the next doctor.
“Oh, we’ll send them over.”
Not trusting competency here, for obvious reasons, I said, “No, if it’s OK I’d rather do it myself.”
“Well, you can’t have them.”
This was one of the few times in life I did argue with “authority,” because now I was really suspicious.
“The Freedom of Information Act says you have to give them to me.”
She went somewhere: probably talked to the head of the hospital I had met earlier.
“Well, we’d rather you not have them…”
Oh yeah, I got them, and there wasn’t much in there I didn’t know, except I had been labelled a ‘delightfully eccentric young man.”
Really. I had never thought of myself that way until I read that that day. Amazing what we don’t realize about ourselves sometimes, huh?
Well, Prucare, is no more and insurance companies generally don’t have their own staff and buildings. They just oversee: vend out, for doctors, facilities, nurses… etc. I have noticed doctors often seem in a rush and push us through, do occasionally get skimpy with tests. What the companies seem willing to pay for, what not, seems stupid sometimes and counter productive, health-wise. My own doctor: I won’t mention his name so all the companies they have to deal with won’t harass them, admitted to me on my next to last visit that they do push to limit time, tests, etc. But I have also noticed doctors will sometimes go out of their way to go against that push. Almost as if they chafe under the pressure and the insanity of companies more concerned with bottom lines than patients.
Gee, ya think?
Well that’s one change for the good at least. Score one for patients, nurses and doctors.
But as bad as what we have now is, just remember it could be far worse. And as much as some like to rant and rave about Obamacare, and changes in our health care, if the insurance companies had their way you too might have a 106 degree temp and not have the tests, or the consistency in observers in the form of doctors and nurses, to know the meds you’ve been given might just kill you.
And one can only hope that whatever comes out of this mess that started so long ago will be better than back then, or even now.
One can hope, I suppose.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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