Saturday, January 21, 2006

Hippocratic hypocrisy

I have learned that a relative I’ve never met, suffering a cerebral aneurism, was refused treatment in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California, and therefore was forced to pay (more than $13,000) for air transport to Oregon, in order to be treated by a neurosurgeon.

Was this man an indigent, or illegal immigrant, a criminal, or dying of other causes? No. In short, the man was a Medicare patient.

Admittedly, I have received this story third-hand, but from reliable sources (my aunt, via my mother; the patient is my aunt’s brother). The man was taken by ambulance to an Emergency Room in Yuma, Arizona, where his family was told that there were “no” neurosurgeons (in any of the states listed above) available to treat him, unless he could get to Portland, Oregon.

Once in Portland, many hours later, he was treated—two surgeries so far—and the family was told that both the delay and the air transport had worsened his condition, and probably caused the damage to his brainstem that also necessitated a tracheotomy, because he now lacks a gag reflex.

I later learned that not only does this man have Medicare coverage, but he also has a Medicare Supplement policy in force, but apparently the way that works is only to fill in for some of the patient deductible costs after Medicare approves and pays for treatment; it doesn’t increase a doctor’s reimbursement. It seems that since Medicare’s reimbursements are so low, all of the neurosurgeons in the Southwest United States have banded together to deny treatment to a man with a treatable condition, a man who played by the rules and, no doubt, believed that he possessed medical coverage, particularly for any catastrophic conditions.

What has happened to my country? Average folks work their entire lives, paying into the system for all their working years, only to receive less medical care than a dying whale in the River Thames.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find the story hard to believe, but not _that_ far from the truth. I live near the border with Canada. In my medium sized city, the only hospital has a cardiac surgury center, made possible by the fact that in Canada, no-one over age 65 is eligible for heart bypass surgury. No. One. The Canadian government's budget for medical care simply is too limited and there aren't enough doctors, anyway. So those over 65 that need heart bypasses come to the U.S. and pay cash.

Cancer patients often have to wait three to nine months before treatment is available. Many, many Canadian cancer victims come to the U.S. for treatment.

When the U.S. starts paying for all health care so that everyone has some, our government will have to make the same budgetary decisions. Where will we go to get health care that's not in the budget?

6:54 PM  

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