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Health Care 103: What’s Going On?

As I write this, my dad is about to undergo heart surgery. We’ve been waiting for this moment for the past six weeks. We’ve survived a number of twists and turns, from a blind eye (or two) to a blind fumble over paperwork. 

Ah, yes, paperwork: the hallmark of America’s health care system. Here’s an actual, true-life story of health care by paperwork. 

Let’s play the hospital shuffle again.
health care
Photo by Andrew Davey

Last time we spoke about my family’s harrowing health care odyssey, my dad was being treated at the third hospital. He gradually regained much of his vision and mobility. And Monday last week, his opthamologists finally gave him the green light to transfer back to the second hospital to undergo heart surgery.

But of course, it could never actually be that simple. No, the second hospital’s pharmacy couldn’t figure out how to process the eye medications he needed. Yet then once they finally seemed to figure out a way to transport and process his eye medications, they then said they hadn’t yet secured a bed for him.

Now mind you, my dad’s health insurance (again, a Medicare Advantage HMO) had already approved this second hospital for my dad’s heart surgery for over a month. The insurance repeatedly insisted he have the heart surgery there, even when the third hospital initially requested that he stay here and undergo the surgery here. With all eyes on the second hospital and all expectations for the second hospital to get moving on my dad’s surgery, why couldn’t they get their act together?

Actually, let’s not.
health care
Photo by Andrew Davey

After I posted my new Democratic Caucus Power Rankings, I had some time to run errands around town. But as soon as I returned home, my phone lit up. It was a phone number I didn’t recognize. And for some reason, I had this intuition that it was OK to break my typical rule of “Don’t Answer Phone Calls from Numbers You Don’t Recognize”. 

Fortunately this time it worked out, as the person on the other line was my dad’s heart surgeon. He let me know that my dad will stay at the third hospital after all, as he and his health care team at the third hospital could not afford to wait for the second hospital any longer. They basically filed an expedited appeal with my dad’s insurance, and the insurance finally gave in and green-lighted the third hospital surgery last night. 

So as I write this now, we’re awaiting my dad’s surgery at the third hospital later today. I changed my flight so I could get to Orange County (California) earlier, hence why I’m writing from an airport restaurant instead of my house. 

Now, let’s talk about this distorted “health care debate” again. 
health care
Photo by Andrew Davey

As I’ve been ranting since last December, there have been so many misconceptions and misunderstandings about how the American health care system actually works and what the various plans and proposals to change this system truly mean. 

Just because someone promises “choice” doesn’t mean you get to make all the choices. Just because someone says, “If you like what you have, you don’t have to give it up,” doesn’t mean they’ll first have to check whether what you have provides sufficient coverage. Just because someone says, “That’s too expensive!” doesn’t mean what we have now isn’t already very costly.

As I’ve been explaining for over a month, the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) has already served as a life-saver for my dad. Still, that doesn’t mean there’s no further room for improvement. And while that also probably means there’s no one health care plan that will magically fix all our problems with one wave of the wand, it’s incredibly disingenuous to deride proposals like “Medicare for All” single-payer health care as “too expensive” or “taking all your choices away” while refusing to acknowledge the high costs and lack of choices many Americans now face under the current private health insurance system. 

And finally, parting words while my plane’s grounded.
Photo by Andrew Davey

As I write this, I’m on the airplane. There was some “mechanical problem”, but at least they fixed it fairly quickly. At least I’ve averted my own personal health scare today.

I kid… I think. Anyways, that’s all I have for now. Once my dad emerges from surgery, I’ll have another update. 

Just remember to please, please, get woke and stay woke. And yes, that means when a presidential candidate promises you everything you want and nothing you don’t, read the fine print.

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