Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, Healthcare, living with chronic illness

Chronic Can Be Costly

In the old days, before your diagnosis of a chronic or other life-altering illness, when you got sick you may have gone to the doctor, paid for an office visit and lo and behold you got well.  There weren’t repeated trips and co-pays for office visits.  There weren’t endless tests or supplies needed, maybe a bottle of Tylenol.  The cost was minimal financially, and the cost emotionally and spiritually was minimal too.

Then you were given a diagnosis by the doctor and everything changed.  You began to see your doctor more than you see some of your friends or family.  Your new inner circle consists of lab technicians, insurance personnel, and your medical team.  Chronic illness is expensive.  Let’s take Type 2 Diabetes as an example.  It not only about the costs associated with a change in diet, but the meter, the lancets, the test strips, and the follow-up lab work with the doctor.  There is no end to the costs and for many this becomes a financial and thus an emotional burden.

This week the New York Times Online ran an article about the cost of Type 2 Diabetes.  They state, “Already, this incurable and often debilitating illness costs the country’s health care system a staggering $174 billion a year.”  They go on to say that because of the personal cost of managing the disease only about 25% of Type 2 Diabetes patients are getting the care they need.  Don’t you think that’s shameful?  Doesn’t the healthcare system and the powers that be understand that by not taking care of those with Type 2 Diabetes you end up taking care of patients with heart, kidney, and circulation problems.  Does paying for test strips and meters costs less than having to hospitalize someone to amputate a limb?

The New York Times cites Consumer Reports Health in a report they produced stating that, “diabetes patients spend an average of $6,000 annually for treatment of their disease.”  When you think of the cost, understand that these are net dollars.  As a “civilized” society can we continue to look the other way and not treat those who need our help.  Yes, there needs to be a partnerships and Type 2 Diabetes patients need to do their part (just as my mother is doing) by eating properly and getting enough exercise.  It has to be a partnership, but a true partnership, not one in name only.

If you have  a chronic illness what has the cost been to you?  I’m not only talking about the financial cost, but the emotional and spiritual as well.  Let your voice be heard!

Posted in Healthcare

Lack Of Medical Insurance Makes People Do Crazy Things

Last week I wrote a piece about what happens to people when they don’t have medical insurance and the troubles it creates in the long run.  I’m writing this piece because my fear is that those of you without insurance or even those of you who do but decide you know better than your doctor are often, literally, taking your life in your own hands.  I’m talking about taking responsibility for your health, but making life and death decisions that may not end up working in your favor.

The last post centered around my co-worker who is having serious side effects from his high blood pressure medication.  The Nurse Practitioner (NP) wanted him to come in for an EKG, but he’s currently working out-of-state and couldn’t go into the office.  Instead of finding a local medical facility to do the EKG, he has simply avoided the issue altogether.  The NP wanted him to call back in a few days, or sooner if he’s still having symptoms.  At this point-in-time he still hasn’t made that follow-up call.

On Tuesday I asked him if he’s still having symptoms and he replied in the affirmative.  He’d had some beers (not that he’s a big drinker) and then had to take another pill in the middle of the night.  Do you think he has called the NP to discuss the symptoms?  The answer is a big, fat, NO!!!

Here’s the difficult part, I don’t think he’s trying to place his health in danger, but I do believe he’s worried about what the medical bills will do to his financial situation.  Prior to this job he’d been out of work for 13 months.  The problem is that without medical care, five months of work won’t benefit his family in the long run if he’s permanently disabled or dies.  I keep wondering if he has a big life insurance policy to protect his family.

Since I can’t force him to go to the doctor all I can do is to continue to be inquisitive about his health.  perhaps if I’m persistent enough he’ll finally decide to take the actions he needs to protect his health and potentially his life.  My fear is that when people don’t have medical insurance they become, out of necessity, penny wise and pound foolish.  One trip to the emergency room will wipe him out financially, especially with the amount of tests they’ll end up running on him.

I guess I wouldn’t be hounding but he bought a new computer last week.  He can afford a computer, but can’t afford the EKG?  That’s something I just don’t understand and certainly wouldn’t approach him to explain.  When a computer is more important than your health what’s the message you’re sending to you body, to your loved ones, and to the world. 

I urge you to consider what you do because you don’t have health insurance, especially if you have some type of chronic or life-altering health challenge and how to make better decisions.  Find a social worker at a community health center who may know resource that can assist you for low-cost or no-cost  care.  Don’t wait for something to happen…this is the time to be pro-active.

I continually hope that my co-worker will wake up one day after having some symptoms and say to himself, “Gee, maybe I should look into this”.  I can’t insert thoughts into his head, but I can prime the pump,  but he’s got to make the final decision.

Posted in Caregiving

Healthcare Reform?

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!!

The month of August has been crazy for the politicians as they reported back to their home districts touting the new healthcare plan.  They’ve been holding town meetings that have been anything but calm, in fact they’ve been down right chaotic.  It seems constituents believe that whoever yells the loudest will be heard.  Unfortunately, when people are coming from a place of emotion all logic gets thrown out the window and the message gets lost.

I get that the healthcare reform has to include everyone.  I also get that by providing the consumer with choices we may in fact curb costs because competition may get insurance companies to come up with new strategies for attracting and retaining consumers.  Are you noticing anything in all this talk about consumers?  They plans seem to be focused on the patient.   What about the caregiver?  Don’t our representatives understand that we’re not only talking about the cost to the insurers and the insured, but what about the cost of caregiving to corporations and employees who are paying big tax dollars into the federal government?  Who do they think is going to pay for healthcare reform if they aren’t going to add to the deficit or add taxes?  You, the caregiver, are carrying the cost with your tax dollars.

It’s time that we look at the needs of the patients/consumers with one big caveat, how does the caregiver fit into the equation?  I don’t usually get political in my sharings, but I couldn’t simply let the matter go without chiming in during such a critical time in our policy formation and social/moral obligations as human beings.  My hope is that you will look carefully as to how healthcare reform will impact your life as a caregiver.  We know it will reduce some stress such as financial stress if everyone is covered, but what about the emotional and spiritual impact of reform.

Please let your voice be heard.  It doesn’t matter where you fall on the continuum of the debate, just stand up, be heard, and participate.  Caregivers participate in the health and healing of their loved one, now it’s time to expand the scope of your participation.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Are You a High Roller?

A friend of my parents recently quit her job.  The circumstances aren’t important, what is important is the conversation that followed.  My mother asked her if she was going to take the COBRA option which allows you to pay out-of-pocket for your health insurance.  In most cases you can do that for 18 months unless you have extenuating circumstances.  She replied that she had just gone to her doctors for routine physicals, had her dentist visit, and is feeling fine.

Let me explain the idea behind insurance because it’s a bit odd.  When you purchase a health insurance policy you are betting that you will indeed have some type of illness or accident and the insurance company is betting that you’ll be happy and healthy and they’ll simply collect their premiums.

The truth is that no one ever thinks they are going to get sick.  I took my cats to the vet today for an annual exam and vaccinations and in walks the vet wearing a wig.  She’s obviously going through cancer treatment…did she plan on this?  Could she have foreseen that she would be diagnosed with a health challenge this great?  If you look at the bankruptcy courts in our country a high percentage of people filing for bankruptcy are doing so because of medical bills.

I realize that not everyone has the funds to pay for their own insurance, but then it’s important to find other means of coverage.  Until healthcare reform is finalized if you have a lapse in coverage of one day between insurance policies any new provider can deny you for having a pre-existing condition.  All it takes is a 24 hour lapse in coverage and you could be in hot water.

There are the types of conversation you should be having with your legislators as they discuss and argue about healthcare reform.  It only takes one cell to go haywire, one text while driving, or a myriad of other mishaps to set you in the poor house.  Think ahead, plan ahead, and take every precaution possible…you’ll thank me.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, In the Know

Treatment with a Guarantee?

It’s interesting to read about medical providers who are not only coming up with innovative treatment plans, but also finding that good medicine is good for the medical providers bottom line.  I came across an article in the business magazine “Fast Company”.  They showcase cutting edge ideas and this one about healthcare caught my attention especially in the midst of a political campaign where the candidates are talking about healthcare reform.

The treatment in the article is a coronary artery bypass graft.  They state that they are charging a flat fee and if the patient incurs any preventable complication putting the patient back in the hospital, the hospital picks up the tab.  They have come up with a forty step process that standardizes the treatment protocol so no one involved in the patient’s care overlooks any one item.  Accountability is included in this process helping to cut down or eliminate missed steps increasing the success rates.

Does the 40 step plan work?  Glenn Steele Geisinger Health System’s CEO had the procedure done and it was successful.  Following the surgery he received an e-mail stating that 113 people had accessed his medical records during his stay, all authorized.  This is why they believe the 40 step plan works because everyone is kept in the loop.  Can you imagine coordinating 113 people for one patient?  This increases communication and keeps everyone on the same page.

They say this is their first process to be implemented but more will come.  I believe that any time you can increase communication surrounding the care of the patient it’s a true benefit.  When everyone is speaking the same language, following the protocols it means that there is less confusion, and that means less chances for the patient to be harmed.

It’s important that we continue looking for ways to increase access to healthcare.  If we can do this while still maintaining the highest levels of care so that fewer complications result in fewer deaths we’re ahead of the game.  When all eyes are on the patient that’s good.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand that all eyes are on the patient and the pocketbook, but for now we’re heading into uncharted territory.  Let’s sit back and see where the next leg of the journey takes us.