Socialised Medicine Vs Free Market Health Aka What Was Mr Moore Talking About.

Now health-care is not usually a topic that I have a lot of interest in, its all about sick people and well they're a whiney lot when you get right down to it. Fortunately they are by and large tucked away in hospitals so they don't bum me out when I'm out on the town. Especially as I haven't worked as a nurse for years.

But events in my life encouraged me to take a minor interest, predominantly being off work for a whole week with a suspected brain tumor and/or minor stroke. the details I will get to later.

So with a week away from the job and numerous visits to the various health professionals, in between I got a copy of Michael Moore's "Sicko", there had been some random news gumpf occasionally about that American president droning on about health reform over there in USAland.

Now I'd never heard the term "socialized health-care" before and I was horrified .. what could that mean ??? Reds under the bed with the bedpans ???? sounds terrifying ... remember when you were a kid and monsters resided under the bed ??? well this sounds much worse, constipation inducing much worse.

Imagine my further horror when I discovered that places that practice this "socialized health-care" included my sun drenched and nicely swept plain-ed country.

Now admittedly my GP (general practitioner) had given me some fairly strong and rather enjoyable pain killers so I don't remember a lot of this outrageous doco, but some points did stick in my mind and I want to rather extremely belatedly respond to them via my own personal hell on earth week sucked into this "Socialized Medical Model"

In particular

1) The inability to choose my doctor or health facility.

2) The COST of my treatments.

3) The inequality of access to health-care.

It began a week before I had decided to do a spot of rock climbing with some friends, an enjoyable a strenuous day. The following day my shoulders where knotted up like some extremely knotted thing. It hurt a bit and looking to the right was completely out of the question, so I rang a sports medicine clinic and booked my time with the sports physio, they could not see me straight away but they could book me in an hour from now. Well generally when I make up my mind to do something (like seek treatment) I prefer a quick resolution but I did cut them some slack because I did want to finish my lunch first.

As I sat in the waiting room for a whole 5 minutes (yes you bet I timed it) it struck me where was my choice .. and I'm talking about REAL choice .. thanks to those cashed up baby boomers who think at the ripe young age of 60 that snowboarding, parachuting and marathons are all things they should be doing there is a sports medicine clinic on nearly every corner to fix up the inordinate amount of knee and groin injuries they collect with such relish. But really what REAL choice did I have I either walked to the clinic next door to my place of work or had to drive over to the next block and go there .. not much of a choice you'd agree.

Anyway I receive my treatment and hand over my $45 dollars .. that's right I had to pay for my health-care and what worse I only get $32 back from medicare .. (maybe more I haven't bothered to go down and claim it back yet) .. I'm $13 out of pocket .. and the pain is still in my neck .. a few days later its worse and radiating around my skull.

I'm eating handfuls of Nurofen Plus just to get by (by the way don't try that with paracetamol based analgesia that stuff will kill you, god bless pharmaceutical companies who come up with cheap over the counter pain killers that will make you so sick you have to go and see your GP to get some better ones .. their marketing cleverness is always appreciated)

So the following week at work the constant headache is too much ( and my complaining about said headache even worse) and my boss throws me out of the office saying go see your doctor and come back when your feeling better. cheek really, but he pays my salary.

Now here is where choice becomes relevant, from my extremely disinterested view of whats going on over in USAland the occasional snippet of ultra right person carrying fairly poor quality placards are demanding they need the right to choose their health-care provider and not be lumped in with every-one else .. ( like sick people who chew up medical resources ).

Naively I thought well I have 3 doctors I usually rotate through, 1 because he's a mate and gives me near anything I want and he's free, 2 because he's almost next door and free also and the 3rd because he's really very good at diagnosing problems and straight talk ... oh and if I tell him I'm broke he bulk bills me and so he's also free.

So I ring and to my shock and horror, he's on holiday !!!!! only his partner in his practice is available, and sure I've seen her a few times before and she's equally as good and straight talking. But she makes me call her 'Jeanie' not Doctor or Doctor Jeanie just plain old Jeanie. Where oh where is my choice .. I want Doctor Davis (it does have a nice alliterative sound that installs confidence) but the receptionist is unwilling to call him back from spending some time with his family because I have a headache, its not like I don't have private health insurance (having it gives me quite a worthwhile tax break) where is my choice Mr Moore I had to settle for the equally competent "Jeanie" and not my alliterative favorite Doctor Davis (who I just call by his first name Ivan). sigh ... so be it I do need the medical certificate to take back to work so I can enjoy my week off with full pay.

So I go see Jeanie and again this socialized health-care rears it's ugly head, this time I am sitting in the waiting room for 15 minutes ... I was able to download 2 iPhone apps while I waited for my appointment time to finally come around. And she was running 2 - 3 minutes behind schedule as well. It gets worse she kept me in there for 45 minutes while she collected all my recent history checked my blood pressure, my ears, my eyes, sitting up down blah blah. the testing and inquisition went on for ever, finally we get down to business, she wants some of my blood and to send me off to have my head CT scanned ... gawd how much is that gonna cost and how much of my week off will be chewed up by this.

As I understand it over in USAland they have huge health-care empires that employ super smart lawyers armed with statistics on pieces of paper .. they KNOW that a percentage of people who turn up to a health-care facility are just time wasters or hypochondriacs and so they can get you in and out in a matter of minutes based upon their statistics .. this seems a much better system, under such a system I would be home on the couch watching daytime TV in record time. I now start to understand the debate surely a company that specializes in health and is making great profits for the shareholders must be doing something right AND they have lawyers armed with words on paper, (I have a lot of respect for words on paper, is not the bible full of such instances, there certainly are a lot of words on that paper and every-one is very serious about them)

But I digress, So burdened with a ton of diagnostic slips that I have to go and act on, then Jeanie raises the cost and choice issue ... do I want to have my head scanned in half an hour and pay for it with my health insurance OR do I want to have it done for free at any of the 3 close public hospitals.

Choice you think??? .. not at all .. 1 hospital was the Alfred basically the states premier accident and emergency facility, noisy helipads, decompression chambers all sorts of specialists .. bah ... they think far to highly of themselves, then there is the St Vincents ... think woman THINK .. its across town it will take 20 mins to drive there in this traffic (and no I wont take a cabcharge and go in a taxi like some uninsured person), finally we settle on a community hospital which is just down the road from work .. excellent I can go have lunch with my co-workers and gloat a bit.

She then asks me about pain relief, I tell her I have replaced 2 meals a day with handfuls of Nurofen Plus, she laughs, I do not, she frowns and tells me that's why my blood pressure is now making her BP machine beep like a mad thing. Now I'm sure this would not happen in a country where health is an industry but I actually had to haggle with my GP, something along these lines.

GP: You have to stop eating handfuls of Nurofen or your head will explode.

ME: No my brain hurts too much.

GP: I'll give you blood pressure tablets to bring your blood pressure down.

ME: I wont take them I want my pain killers.

GP: What if I give you better pain killers, will you take the blood pressure Tablets then?.

ME: hmmmm depends what you offering

GP: Panadiene Forte 60mg codeine a sitting

ME: Nup

GP:OK oxycodone and I'll give you a month free supply of the blood pressure tabs

ME: DONE .. lets shake on it.

Finally the ordeal is over overburdened with diagnostic slips and arms full of free sample packs, I thank her and wander off to the receptionist ... now we'll tally the cost of this misadventure, "oh hows the new job going?" asks Jeanie, "not bad still paying off the credit cards" I reply ... "Bulk bill him she tells the receptionist" and smugly goes and sees her next patient.

Well that's killed my day I have to go to hospital now and have my head scanned as well as get all my blood taken. and I'm still $13 out of pocket (I'm keeping tally).

I arrive at the hospital and have to wait a further 10 minutes to be seen and let me tell you this hospital looked nothing like the one they have on House, no drop lights, not much glass and certainly no 5 super physicians to every patient, no witty tough tough love to comfort those malingerers who will be cured in 45 minutes, NOT EVEN CLOSE (explain that Mr Moore if socialized medicine is so great why do these hospitals all look so utilitarian) ... FINALLY they bring me in and scan my head and you know what ... I had NO choice in the radiologist at all ... he was on duty and that's what I got stuck with ... I could not even pick the nurse who would be also assisting me .. what is this Communism ????. I know I should have made a scene demanded my basic human rights but I was feeling a little euphoric the new pain killers where the bomb, I was aware the headache was still there but I was too happy chasing the dancing fairies to really bother too much about it.

So I sit in the waiting room AGAIN waiting for the preliminary diagnosis and to see if I can go home. Finally after a FURTHER 10 minutes they give a copy of the report and a CD with all the images of my brain and the software to view them with. The receptionist that I had been chatting with inquired whether I'd like a taxi (as I was alternatively talking with her and shooing the ever present flying fairies) I politely declined the offer pointing out that my new pain meds warn against operating heavy machinery and NOT against driving my sleek turbo charged SUV. Then it struck me why had they given me copies of all my results, the answer 'they' gave was it was for choice... say, I wanted to go see a different doctor I could take all these images and paperwork with me ... GOTCHA !!!! .. choice my left foot ... my preferred doctor was unavailable !!!! .. I saw through that almost instantly and with a little prompting from a particularly wise little flying fairy. They inform me they found nothing life threatening but I may need to come back for a follow up.

At least the ordeal was over I left my "Calm polite I can put 2 words together in a sentence at at the doors and proceeded to drive home along the beach, possibly literally as normally when I drive that route there are proportionally less umbrellas and leaping bathers to dodge. The little flying fairies by this point had gone and I had no-one to bounce ideas off. Upon inspection of the car some days later I noted no extra scratches or dings and no worrying news reports so all was well.

So finally at home and with almost 2 days of my paid relax time used up I put on my CD and watched the looped animated scan of my brain, popped a few more pain killers (cos it was time to take them again) and sat down to watch the pretty slide show. Now I'm no radiologist but after a my pain killers (which almost numbed the headache) and a few beers I could SEE things in those scans ... and I know the difference between white and grey wobbly looking things when I've been sitting in front of them for an hour or 2 .... this was confirmed when I received a call from the 'hospital' (I'm not sure it even qualifies after watching House) can you come back in tomorrow or the day after if that's OK we want to do a follow up with contrast. OK I say and hang up ... I KNEW IT !!!! I was trapped in this socialized medicine now they'd keep scanning me and taking blood until they'd made all their booking quotas ... got some free time on the CT scan appointment book lets call that bloke back in ...

15 minutes later my suspicion deepened as my doctor or should I just say "Jeanie" called me at home to "see how I was and that I was not anxious about the call back, they'd found some calcification most likely it was naturally occurring but they needed to rule it out", "No No I'm fine I'm in good spirits, I'm sure its nothing as well" .... But I was NOT fine this was either a communist state plot or my brain was turning to stone literally before my eyes as the brain scan continued to cycle on my large flat screen TV. I knew those wobbly looking bits where bad news !!!!

So I go through the whole horrendous process again .. back at hospital at 9am in the morning .. no sleep in for me .. laying in the outdated radiology equipment in these poorly funded state hospitals, (do you know the CT scanner was 2 - 3 years old ... YES that's exactly what I thought, this would not happen on House ... oh Americans have it so good).

This time when they were finished they again handed me the receipt .. yes the receipt not the bill ... suspicious I thought as well .. these scans cost $189 a pop and here they were handing a piece of paper (and I still have a lot of respect words on paper) that told me I don't have to pay this amount ... very very suspicious behavior in my mind. Almost gloating one could be forgiven for thinking.


Well home again I go back to the couch and possibly off for a bit of shopping therapy later in the afternoon, Jeanie rings back again says .. All the results are in, your blood pressure is up, your cholesterol is up a bit, but everything else is fine, take the blood pressure meds for bit, start eating better go out do some light regular exercise and stop drinking 4 red bulls for breakfast and smoking a packet a day, come see me in a week and we'll see how your improving THEN comes the bombshell the pain is very likely a pinched nerve, do the exercises I gave you take the pain killers and if it doesn't start to improve I'm sending you to a good physio I use. GOTCHA!!!!!!, I reply "thanks Jeanie that's a weight off my mind, will do all those things, see you in a week ciao -click- "..... and thus the whole conspiratorial cycle starts once again. That's where this all started with exercise and physios ..... I feel like I've cracked the code.

Now here is gets interesting, if I was homeless, unemployed or just plain old poor I could have received the EXACT same treatment without having to pay for anything ... can you believe that ??? the poor get free health care while I am still $13 out of pocket most of my paid leave has been chewed up by continuous diagnostics .... I leave this to you to ponder, was the piece of mind that I didn't have a brain tumor or mini stroke, worth the time, the clear lack of any real choices and the fact that I had to pay for my health care weighed up against those indulgent homeless living the good life out in the fresh air, regular exercise as the police encourage them to move around and generally stay fit by pushing those trolleys and always manage to beg enough money during the day for a some jovial drinking fun with like minded souls in the evenings. IS THAT FAIRNESS????

I hope this true story (and some would say near tragic (me in particular)) lets people out there really understand what is going on with this "Socialized Health-care" ...

God Bless ... Sam.

SamOnHisSoapbox SamOnHisSoapbox
41-45, M
3 Responses Feb 27, 2010

Well, no wonder people are so much up in arms. The horror! The horror!<br />
<br />
Thank you for sharing this.;-)

Enjoyed your story very, very much and having used oxycodone myself have also met the fairies, they are quite wonderful.

Amazing you got through it all. :)