Friday, November 30, 2012

In which I discern what is wrong with health care in America

So, once again winter is upon us, and we are bombarded with dire warnings about the threat to civilization which is influenza.  Granted that this year's strain is not considered to be quite the existential threat as some in recent memory, one still cannot turn around without seeing a pharmacy, clinic, doc-in-a-box, or grocery store advising that it is one's civic duty to get a flu shot, and advertising the convenience of getting shot up at whichever venue is doing the advertising.

Now, the Army tends to have quite the institutional memory--albeit not necessarily for the relevant facts at the moment--and still, after losing more troops to the Spanish Influenza of 1918 than to the Kaiser's (or Commissar's) rifles, demands that everyone get a flu shot every year.  So, based on 20 years of experience, I usually ignore the blandishments to get a flu shot, because I know that I have a better chance of becoming mildly ill if I do, than of becoming very ill if I don't.

Howsomever, She Who Must Be Obeyed informed me in no uncertain terms that I must get a show, because her doctor had informed her that, if I didn't, the possibilities of my ruining her vacation next month approach certainty.  So, on the way home from work today I decided to stop at the national chain pharmacy on the way and pay them the advertised $30 cash for a shot, reasoning that it would be more convenient than to make an appointment with my HMO, and visit them.

You can see this coming, right?

Pharmacy girl:  Have you filled with us before?
Me:  {To self:  She must mean "have you filled a prescription with us before?"}  No.
Pg:  {Deer in headlights look}  Okay, I'll be back in a second.
{Five minutes go by.}
{Note:  Elapsed time may be slightly exaggerated.}
Pg: {Sets a ream of paper on counter.}{Note:  Amount of paperwork may be slightly exaggerated.}
Fill out this part of this form, all of this form front and back, and all of this form, then take them to Drop-Off with your insurance, and they'll call you when they're ready.
Me: Um, I don't have my insurance card with me...
Pg:  {Deer in headlights, followed by deer being chased by wolf.} Um.  Er.  Uh.  {Looks away}
Me: Nevermind.

So I went home and called my HMO, which had openings all afternoon after 2 PM, so I showered and changed and went and got the shot and was on my way home in half an hour or so.

Now, some will no doubt argue that the ease with which I got the shot at my health care provider gives the lie to my claim that the earlier goat rope was indicative of anything wrong with Health Care In America, but I disagree. 

If influenza was really the public health hazard that public health officials and the media want us to believe, then there would have been no walking out of the pharmacy and going elsewhere.  Influenza inoculation would be handled like the polio inoculations of my childhood, with everyone lining up at their local school gym; all military recruits would be tested for allergies to eggs, and those who are allergic would be medically discharged, and subject to quarantine.

The fact that all that paperwork is necessary to get a simple vaccination that some would suggest is vital to continuing Life As We Know It suggests to me that, in fact, this particular train is being driven by paper shufflers and hucksters, no doubt with heavy kibitzing by lawyers and politicians.  (Note that the paperwork was not necessary with my HMO because it was already done, not because my HMO gives out shots to whoever walks in the door;  I did, however, have to update the emergency notification and HIPPA "what ethnicity am I?" paperwork, it having been a few years since I had need for a sawbones...)

Now, I'm hardly the first person to suggest that the Problem with  Health Care in America is not that it's expensive--it is, after all, not just unethical but illegal to deny critical health care to someone who can't afford to pay for it--but that Health Care in America is in the hands of lawyers and bureaucrats, who have ensured that it is expensive.

Makes me wonder how many people recognize the signs of the looters and moochers among us.

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