Sunday, May 4, 2014

Hospital Bill

Been awhile since I posted to this blog. Doctor's notes for excused absences? I have a note from my mother? None of the above, I just don't like to post unfinished thoughts. Although, you have noticed, I do. It's my rule, so I can break it with my permission.

I also do not like to whine. My recent medical adventure ended well, was painless but a little scary. I had cataract surgery 12 or 15 years ago. Pretty routine now, they remove your old lens, slip in a new plastic one, 10 minutes and you're good to go. For 12 or 15 years. One morning I woke up to find that my left eye was seeing the world as though looking into the window of a front-loading washer. "Hey!" Said I of the steel-trap mind, "This is just wrong." Seems the little plastic lens had escaped into my eyeball. Went to hospital, my great brother-in-law holding my hand, while they retrieved it and put in a shiny new one. Good as new.

Now I have shortened this a bit, left out a couple of doctor visits, but this was not an emergency room trip. Into the hospital at 6:00 AM, out by 10:00 AM, no bed, no room, no meals. The hospital bill alone, not counting any doctors, billed to insurance, of course, was $52,000.00.

Of course Medicare and United Health will knock it down as excessive. Of course the hospital will show this as a loss. I know this, and I understand this, but I  don't have to approve of it. Maybe it will change with Obamacare. Maybe not. I'm just glad I'm insured.

CJ is still in the hospital, since March 31. I can't wait to see his bill.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hiring and Firing Doctors

In the last several years we’ve hired and fired quite a few doctors. C. J. and I have primary care doctors, and every body part has it's own specialist. Not just eyes and teeth, but we have ones like the toe guy, the cancer guy, and "Gastro Man." He laughs when I call him that.  Getting good ones doesn’t come easy; you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. Here are some hints on finding your prince(s).

Is it clean? One of CJ’s specialists had peeling linoluem on the floor, stained walls and woodwork, and no sink in the exam room so you could see if the doctor washes up. Even if it’s clean, is it crowded? Does he expect you to spend a lot of time there with patients who are coughing and snorting and screaming kids? An hour is too much, and it shows the doctor doesn’t respect you or your time. The receptionist has your phone number, and could call if an emergency affects the schedule. Greed leads to overbooking, which leads to long waits for you.

If you call the office and get a busy signal, this doctor is living in the dark ages. He or she doesn’t trust voicemail, e-mail, or fax messages. Odds are they are using paper files instead of a computer, and get all information by pony express. Your appointment time is spent digging through paperwork instead of looking down your throat or up your wazoo, which should be more interesting. Odds are good that they are not sharing information with your other doctors or the pharmacy, as they should.

We have had doctors who will not shake our hand without rubber gloves. We had one who wouldn’t let patients use the rest room, sending them upstairs and down a hall, some trailing tubes or tanks. Most do not visit hospitals at all, or even make a phone call. One asked me how my surgery had gone, after I dragged my sorry body to the office for a follow-up visit. I told her I had no idea, because I slept through the whole thing. That question told me she hadn't even checked with the hospital or the surgeon.

This is easier than breaking up with a boyfriend or firing your yard man. No need to say good-bye, no need to ask for records, no reason to tell them why. Just hire a new doctor. We like new doctors, not just as in different, but newly graduated. This includes those with a dozen or more years or so under their white coat. They know the new tricks, are not burnt out, and don’t seem so arrogant. Maybe they run them through a charm school course. Or they may just appreciate your business.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Storming the Castle

Something triggered memories of our last European trip, probably pictures posted by friends. It was 1976, a milestone in several ways. It was the Bicentennial, it was the year before CJ's stroke, but is best remembered as the year we stormed the castle.

We took Doug and June, who were about 12 and 16 at the time, to see Europe by train. We carried only hand luggage so we could be spontaneous, sleeping by night and jumping off in the morning when we saw an interesting place. No reservations, just a vague plan to visit friends in the Netherlands, mosey up to Copenhagen, then down through Germany. The only Must Do was to spend the night in a castle on the Rhine, selected and booked ahead because it looked like a true castle, turrets and all.

The Netherlands trip included a bike ride in the Haag up to the North Sea beach to see the German bunkers, which were accessible by hiking through a nude beach. It also included a day trip to Gouda for the cheese festival, with music, dancing, and lots of cheese. We picked out a lovely ball of Gouda, sealed in wax, as a snackable souvenir.

Traveling by train in the summer sometimes included open cars, sometimes shared with livestock in the rear seats, and sometimes quite warm. After a night sleeping head to toe in our compartment, just the four of us and the cheese, we began to regret the cheese  We checked into a hotel in Copenhagen, all took showers, and ditched the cheese. However,  as we toured Tivoli Gardens, we still reeked of Gouda. We could part a crowd, which was a good thing.

At our next stop we found a laundromat, where we washed and dried the clothes in our satchels, put them on, and then washed and dried the clothes we had been wearing. No more Gouda cloud around us! {We told CJ we thought it was his socks anyway.}

We changed from train to bus to boat as we neared the Rhine, courtesy of Eurailpass. In less than an hour we spotted the turrets on top of a hill, and told the pilot to let us off at the castle. Sure enough, there was a dock with the right name on it, so we hopped off with our satchels and headed up the mountain.

After a hundred feet or so, the path gave out, and we stashed out satchels and began to climb.  Even as we are parting vines and helping one another over boulders and ravines, it never occurred to us to turn back. We finally reached a wall about ten feet tall. It had some slits, probably for pouring hot oil on the enemy, that gave  us a bit of a toe hold. Looking over the top, we saw a large courtyard with several tables of well-dressed people having tea and cookies. They looked at us with astonishment.

The waiters, however, brought over chairs to help our descent, led us to a table, and took our orders, oblivious to the fact that we were sweaty and trailing vines. Soon a manager arrived, confirmed our reservations, and asked about our luggage. He said he would send a car for it, and that is when we noticed a parking lot around the corner. Yes, there was a paved road that most people used, a few yards south of the dock. We used it the next day, after a lovely night at the castle.