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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Adventures in health care and other random crap

Sorry for the lack of posts the past couple of days. I started my Monday at about 5:30 a.m. by tripping over my dog as I went to let him outside to handle his business.

What I got for my trouble was a severely wrenched ankle - that I was already nursing, a set of X-rays that showed my ankle bits a bit out of order, and the inability to walk. I could not take a step without excruciating pain. Luckily, I remembered that when Mrs. B and I bought our house two years ago we found an old hand-carved cane in the shed. She wanted to toss it. I thought it was cool, in spite of the paint chipping off. So I kept it. Don't you know I was beyond thrilled to find that cane on Monday. So, funny as it looked I found myself a couple hours later hobbling at a snail's pace with this cane into an urgent care clinic a few miles from my house. I figured it would be as fast, maybe faster than a traditional emergency room. Mrs. B walked next to me, though I'm not sure what she would have done if I'd fallen, since I'm nearly twice her weight, I think.

Anyway, after checking in, handing over my insurance card, and a $20 co-pay, I found a seat just a couple of feet from the check-in window, and over the next eight-plus hours I waited for my turn to see a doctor. Clearly, I was wrong in my assumptions about the speed of these places and the definition of "urgent." So while I sat, I people-watched. And I observed and overheard about 40 people check-in during that period. About two dozen of them did not have have insurance. I know this, because the nurse's aide doing the check-in asked each person, like she'd asked me. Then she'd tell those who said no that there was a $70 clinic fee for the uninsured. Interestingly, there were two categories of non-insured. I heard a few answer that they were flat-out poor and could not afford the $70 fee. Most of this category counter-offered with $10 or $20 or whatever they had on them. The nurse's aide gratefully accepted. The other category of uninsured folks chose their words carefully when presented with the $70 fee. BTW, the folks in the second category were pretty much all very well dressed, verrrrry well dressed. As much as I make fun of the looks-obsessed among us, I can tell you that my working knowledge of fashion is good enough to know that these folks were all dressed in things I couldn't afford on average. So when told of the fee the folks in this second category answered cautiously to the effect of "The sign at the door says you have to treat me even if I 'don't' pay, right?" The nurse's aide nodded wearily each time. Category two would then respond to the effect of "Well, um, then no I'm not going to pay anything."

It wasn't necessarily that they couldn't pay. They said they weren't going to.

Suddenly, I had an epiphany about why health insurance costs so much. I'm not mad at the genuinely poor folks who just couldn't pay and had a legitimate urgent medical need. But those folks who by their own indirect admission could pay but wouldn’t are screwing the rest of us who at least try to pay for medical care.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe hospital corporations are almost cruel in what/how they charge for certain types of care and accessories. Hundreds of dollars for minor injections, $1,000-plus per night if you have to be admitted, $30 or $40 for use of an assless hospital gown that you don’t get to keep, and so on and so forth. But what medical facilities charge isn’t all the fault of corporate greed. Hospitals pass some of the costs on to the federal government, which in turn finds a way to stick health insurance companies for some of those costs. And the health insurance companies then raise the rates of the people already paying for their medical care, in order to compensate for folks like those at the urgent care clinic who refused to pay for even a portion of their care.

Oh, and even though it’s gonna make me seem calloused, if I paid for my visit, and you could have but didn’t, and we both arrive at about the same time and have ailments that are similar in seriousness, I’m seeing the doctor first. And I’ll trip you and drop a chair on your head if I have to, to make sure you don’t see him before me. It’s the principle, dammit!

So I finally made it out of the “urgent” care clinic at about 6 p.m. Monday, hopping on a pair of shiny new crutches. Mrs. B was kind enough to carry my cane for me.

Have you ever seen a news report about a person “accidentally” walking through airport security and forgetting that he had a loaded pistol or a Bowie knife in his carry-on? I have, and about 50% of the time I’m skeptical. I think “that dude is a nut job who was planning on taking hostages.” Well, my handy-dandy cane? The one I was so grateful to find on Monday, considering it had been a cast off by my house’s previous owner? It’s a weapon. Seriously, I don’t mean it can be used as a weapon. It is a weapon. As I was lounging and waiting Monday, feeling sorry for myself over my ankle, I started fiddling with the cane. It loosened up near the top, right below the handle. So I gave it a tug, and it came apart. Turns out it’s one of those secret-sword canes. The sword part is rusty. So who knows how old the thing is or if it was ever “used.” But can you imagine how I would have stammered and blustered if there had been a metal detector at the clinic? Not sure I could have explained myself to security. I guess those “I didn’t know it was in my bag, officer” excuses are legit sometimes.

Here's my rusty sword cane. I took a break working from home today to try to figure out how to restore the thing. It'll make for a great conversation starter some day.

Finally, where health is concerned, I’m glad to hear that Nick Bollea, teenage son of legendary wrestler Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea, is OK following his jaw-dropping car wreck from a few days ago. I say a prayer for his friend and passenger though, who remains in the hospital in critical condition.

Not sure how to say this delicately, so I won’t: This kid should not be driving. In fact, if he wants to make a career out of something involving forward motion, he should be a mail man. They do lots of walking, and on a good day they walk fast. In the 10 months or so the Bollea family lived in Miami Beach, young Nick decided he wanted to pursue a career as a race car driver. He crashed a car at a race track during a practice/time trial. He was behind the wheel of the family Lamborghini, when it inexplicably burst into flames and burnt to a crisp. And he was pulled over and ticketed at least once for speeding.

OK, I'm done. I'm gonna pop another Motrin and go to sleep. One more thing: Up late, trying to find a comfortable position to sleep in, and watching bad movies I stumbled onto 1990's Dark Man. And I finally figured out what about that film has been bugging me all these years. The bottom half of Liam Neeson's title character's face gets burned off. He has no lips. And yet he still manages to perfectly pronounce "Ms," "Ps," and "Bs." How is that possible?

I know. I'm going to sleep right now.

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  • Would you rather have discovered that the cane concealed a blade, or liquor?

    I hope your ankle recovers swiftly!

    By Blogger mkh, at 6:03 AM  

  • I used to be a bill collector for a hospital; and yes, people who could afford to pay often wouldn't when visiting the emergency room.
    But they do give their name an address and other information, and they will pay if they want to keep their credit record. But even that drives up costs.

    And the Dark Man's perfect diction has always plagued me.

    By Blogger C.L. Jahn, at 8:48 AM  

  • Wow - seriously? 8 hours at urgent care? I thought it was bad when I had to wait an hour. Oh, and ours is $120 without insurance, and I think I heard them turn people away for lack of payment.

    That bit about folks choosing not to pay would piss me off too. Hope your ankle is better soon.

    By Blogger fiwa, at 10:04 AM  

  • I'm not sure I could have kept my mouth shut when those people refused to pay. My mouth gets me in all kinds of trouble that way. At there very least there would have been some high wattage glaring going on.

    Anyway- I hope you feel better soon, have fun with your cane (but don't end up back at urgent care because of too much fun!) and enjoy your Motrin.

    By Blogger WNG, at 12:44 PM  

  • You don't even want to think about getting me started about health costs - with or without insurance! Now, relax, rest the leg and get back on both feet soon!

    By Blogger Jeni, at 2:38 PM  

  • Hope the leg gets better soon.
    Have to agree with you about the people sponging off the system, they are one of the big problems with rising health care.
    The cane is cool, but you might want to check the local laws; in many states sword canes are illegal to carry in public.

    By Blogger BobG, at 2:45 PM  

  • Yeah, that movie was the bomb back in the day. Now you watch it and are like, "How do his bandages stay on all the time?" How is it possible that his computer still works after being in an explosion? And why in the hell did they call it Dark Man and not crispy scientist adrenaline freak revenge man....or something?

    By Blogger Mr. Poopie, at 2:48 PM  

  • Get better soon.

    But didn't you know that the wealthy (or better-off) are above the rules? People like that deserve to get turned away.

    By Blogger Tere, at 3:35 PM  

  • Hahahaha!! The pain meds got you on rant mode brother. Get well soon.

    By Anonymous Calmerthanyouare, at 4:29 PM  

  • Don't forget that while the people who don't have insurance pay $70 (or less) and you paid your $20 co-pay, the clinic probably charged your insurance company $125.

    That and if you add the part about how insurance companies love to drop people when they get sick you pretty much covered everything wrong with the state of health care in this country. Oh and greedy doctors. There, that's everything.

    Hope the ankle gets better fast. Does the dog feel guilty?

    By Blogger Jay, at 5:56 PM  

  • So this rich guy goes to Heaven and Saint Peter says to him, "You can come in as long as you've paid all you are able to at Urgent Care."

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 9:19 PM  

  • I can't even talk about young Hogan. But that sword cane is super cool! Sorry about your ankle.

    By Blogger My Reflecting Pool, at 11:17 PM  

  • I would love to see the ruckus that ensued from trying to get that cane through airport security. You would have been wrestled to the ground right there on the spot, bad ankle and all. For some strange reason, that makes me chuckle.

    By Blogger GrizzBabe, at 9:54 AM  

  • Hope you're feeling better and we want to see photos when you restore that thing.

    By Blogger Christina_the_wench, at 11:55 AM  

  • You look pretty well medicated in that picture.

    Hope you feel better.

    By Blogger Jon, at 2:33 PM  

  • look stoned.

    That has got to SUCK being semi-footless, but the badass cane? TREASURE! Now I'm wanting to check that thing out on Ebay or Antiques Roadshow or something!

    Another thing driving up health care costs is the number of illegal immigrants who are having their babies on our dime - sucking the Medicaid system dry...but I shouldn't start...or I won't stop.

    Enjoy some rest, dude.

    By Blogger Tiggerlane, at 5:38 PM  

  • Awwww, poor baby! Feel better soon. I'm sorry for bring this up since you're laid up and all....Mrs B's husband is kind of fine! What! Again I apologize. Just couldn't help myself. :P

    By Blogger Angie, at 6:39 PM  

  • Take care and get better soon mate

    By Blogger Cazzie!!!, at 2:08 AM  

  • Take care of that ankle.

    The clinics here will only take emergencies without insurance otherwise they have to go to the county hospital.

    when I was visiting Telluride colorado, The clinic only took one type of insurance or cash. They were turning away people with multiple compound fractures and making em wait 2 hours for an ambulance from a neighboring town.

    I can't say I blame em because if they took in every broke dirty hippy snow boarder they would be out of business in a week.

    By Blogger Hammer, at 9:45 AM  

  • Feel better soon. I was in twice, the first time the hospital for four days, the second time the hospital for 12 day. A week apart. My co-pays for going in through the emergency room were more than the total cost of your entire visit if you had no insurance. Each time.

    Feel better, and I am glad you didn't find out about the weapon in a worse situation.

    By Blogger Monty, at 9:02 PM  

  • I am so sorry about your pain and anguish, but what a great story! And unbeknownst weaponry. Holy crap. Get well soon.

    By Anonymous Kim, at 10:14 PM  

  • Get better soon and sorry that your trip through our great American healthcare factory sucked.

    It's frustrating to watch our fellow humans at work sometimes, no?

    By Blogger Queen of Dysfunction, at 7:56 PM  

  • Ah, the joys of the American healthcare system. Makes one wonder where the "care" part comes in.

    I have evil inner knowledge of the system both from my primary job, which among other things includes beefing up the benefits and benefits administration; and my secondary work (volunteer) as an EMT. I walk through the doors of hospitals with tons of generated income on my stretcher.

    Disappointingly, while the idea is rampant that an ambulance ride gets you faster service, don't believe it. If we bring you in as a code red, you WILL get immediate service. Otherwise, you are just as much a victim to the system as anyone else who walks, crawls or limps (with a weapon no less - congratulations!) in. Also, that ambulance ride may not be free. Certainly it is with us - as a volunteer organisation we would never condsider charging for that. But the paid services will and a cheap ride it is not.

    As for the cane, that is the neatest thing - and well worth having it restored. You need not spend a boatload to do it, either. Any blacksmith at a Renaissance faire will be happy to look at it, possibly fix it or at least point you in the right direction to get it restored. That is really too funny.

    Still, be skeptical - most of those people who are suddenly innocent still really are not.

    This is a great blog. Mind if I add it to mine on the list of other blogs one should visit?

    Feel better! Ankle injuries are tough ones.

    By Blogger Aislínge, at 2:59 PM  

  • Start with Scotch-brite on the steel. Moving down to sandpaper eventually- see if you can put your hands on some "Trizact" by 3m. Put a nice shine on it. Vacuum the rust out of the cane part and maybe use a 22 cleaning rod with a nylon brush to make sure it's clean.

    After you have the most of the rust removed use a light oil like Rem oil to coat the blade. And then forget you have it. Except, of course, in airports. Hope you heal soon and don't need it anyway.

    By Anonymous og, at 5:20 PM  

  • Yeah that cane would have been tough to explain. I have always found it comical in a 'piss you off sort of way' that they refer to these places as 'emergency' rooms and 'urgent' care facilities.
    Hope the ankle gets better quickly.


    By Blogger briliantdonkey, at 10:55 AM  

  • Sweet Nibblets, dude! Clean that thing up and lose the crutches.

    Of course if you keep the cane you'll need a fedora and an ankle-length coat!

    I might also suggest you memorize the lyrics to the song, 'Who Wants to Live Forever' and start ranting, 'There can be only one!'

    Apologies to Mrs. B's future sanity...

    by the way, today's word verification was 'faxwhus', which, I am sure, is not a statement your inability to focus on 'deadlines' whilst you are happily blogging away! LOL

    By Blogger dennis, at 12:44 PM  

  • Yeah, that's frustrating. Wrong, even. I worked at a hospital for a bit and was DISGUSTED by how much we wrote off every quarter as a result of non-payment. And to make matters worse, whatever Medicaid doesn't pay for patients that are at least are on a government program, the hospital has the write the rest off as a loss — but the rest of us wind up paying for that by way of increased medical care costs.

    Times like these, I wish I were Canadian.

    Sorry to hear not only about the ankle... but the whole experience. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 3:42 PM  

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