Friday, March 30, 2007

Where Do You Want To Be If You Get Sick?

I read an excellent article in my paper this morning that simplified this bumbling, short-sighted behemoth known as Universal Health Care down to its lowest denominator. The author, Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute, was discussing John Edwards (known as The Breck Girl in our household) and how he used his wife’s press conference to espouse his platform that universal health care is the One Way. While my heart goes out to Mrs. Edwards and anyone who suffers from this cruel disease, I, like Mr. Tanner, believe that her condition would worsen far faster under her husband’s myopic system.

Sure, universal health care sounds really cool. The connotation is that virtually everyone (including illegal aliens- but that’s another post all together) will have complete and total health care for free – the ol’ no one gets left behind idea. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who has insurance – regardless of whether it’s a PPO or an HMO (referred to as Commie Care in our household) – knows that we’re subjected to the whims of the insurance companies. They decide arbitrarily whether to accept or deny certain drug and treatments, regardless of their doctor’s recommendations. They’ve taken much of the decision making away from doctor’s (always a dangerous idea) and put it in their bank accounts – but, again, that’s for another post. In short, the insurance companies are partaking in rationing on a very direct level. Our level.

It gets much more frightening when it’s put on an indirect level. Rationing also affects what Mr. Tanner calls global budgets. Instituting a global budget means that high-tech medical equipment isn’t no longer available, and this imposes longer waits for patients seeking treatment. In short, people die waiting.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the countries where universal health care is the new Messiah. In the U.S., most women survive breast cancer with fewer than *25% succumbing to the disease. In comparison, 46% British women die, 35% French women die, 31% German women die, 28% Australian and Canadian women die, and 46% New Zealand women die.

30% of Americans die from colon cancer while a staggering 74% British die. 62% New Zealanders die, 58% in France, 57% in Germany, 53% in Australia and 36% in Canada.

Look, the free market has always been the progeny of freedom and innovation, and it’s no different with medical care. Being free of price controls, the free market provides their own incentives that lead to new drugs and other medical technologies. *The U.S. is responsible for developing half the world’s major new medicines over the past twenty years and have played a major roll in 80% of the top medical advances of the past thirty years.

I’m not saying our system is perfect. Those who can’t afford health insurance are socked with huge medical bills, and too many people don’t have insurance. But ask yourself, where do you want to be if your personal shit hits the fan? Do you want a free market where you have the best treatment possible or are you one of those benevolent creatures who are willing to die for your beliefs?

*Figures taken from Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I Feel Another Boston Tea Party Coming On

I just heard from my niece, who is very upset about her professional future – the future she’s spent years to obtain. Her official title with the group of oncologists she works for is Nurse, but they refer to her Goddess In White because she’s so wonderful with their patients. They wouldn’t dream of hospitalizing one of their patients without her. Unfortunately, that is exactly what might happen.

The docs called a meeting of the entire staff to tell them they’re not sure if they’ll be able to stay in business. This, in spite of a thriving and well-respected practice. How is this possible? The insurance companies have once again LOWERED the amount of money they’ll receive, and it’s driving them out of business. Am I the only one who finds this incredible?

In a world where our medical health is dependent upon the bright minds of those dedicated to healing, does it make sense to drive them out of business? Insurance companies have grown with their power and arrogance and their philosophy seems to be, “If it weren’t for the damned doctors, we’d be even richer.” I guess they’d like to outlaw being sick as well.

With all the talk about insurance reform, has anyone brought up the fact that the docs are being financially hit below the belt? Does anyone give enough of a shit to stop this madness? Yes, I’m upset because it’s not just my medical ass on the line, but my mother, my dad, my aunt, some very dear friends, my husband.

It’s a world gone mad whereby we allow a group of non-medical people to band together and dictate how much a doctor is allowed to make. Remember good old Hillary saying how she felt doctors made too much money during her insurance takeover bid? Who is she to say who makes too much money? Is this freedom? Is this America?

In typical fashion, insurance companies and politicians are creating an irreversible situation, and I can see the day where there will be a hand-scrawled note on an empty hospital door that says, “Will the last doc left please turn out the lights?”

Friday, March 23, 2007


I understand the idea of overworked and underpaid.

I understand cranky.

I understand being bombarded with ceaseless questions.

I understand having questions and wishing someone would answer them.

I understand bad hair days.

I understand the desire to be outside playing in warm weather over being inside working.

I understand hoping someone will sit down and truly listen to my fears.

But what I will never, never, ever understand is a doctor yelling at my sweet 80-year-old mother who is sick with a bad chest cold and telling her that her time is up before abruptly walking out of the exam room.

Why does God create these people?

I hope this callous, indifferent doctor never has to experience the insulting shock of hearing, “I don’t care.”

I hope there's a special place in hell for doctors like this.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Quick Signing Update

While those are two hours I’ll never get back, I did sell a number of books and talked to some nice people. I also know where they stack the Reference books (it’s on the southwest corner) and the location of the bathroom (back of the store, near the kids’ books).

How do I know these pearls of wisdom? It was easier to find out rather than repeating over and over that I don’t freaking work there – I’m here for a book signing already! Don’t you see the stacks books sitting right in front of me? Yes, yes, right next to my picture and poster that says “Author Lynn Price Signing Today.” See the pen in my hand? It’s to autograph your copy should you be so inspired to lay down a few shekels.

Bah, nevermind. You’ll find books about oceanography across from the cash register.

Book Signings and Tiddlywinks

I have a signing today at our local Borders. I hate signings. It’s a personal angst with me. Stick me in front of a guaranteed audience, and I can talk the horns off a rhino. I give seminars on a regular basis and love playing the part of pathetic ham. However, the notion of “If You Write It, They Will Come” only plays well in Field of Dreams.

There are too many “What Ifs” in a book signing.

What if it’s too gorgeous a day (which it is today, dammit), and everyone would rather flood to the beach than go inside a bookstore?

What if no one is interested in my genre?

What if they simply aren’t interested?

What if they find my face so repugnant that they walk away in fear? Okay, I’m getting silly now.

I’ve seen well-known authors suffer dismal signings, so I know that it’s not just the unknowns who can suffer from Avoid Eye Contact-itis. Conversely, I’ve seen complete unknowns have incredible signings and sell out of every book. Oh, how I’d love to be those people. It all depends on the genre, the subject matter, and the ultimate whims of the public on any given day. I sell out at seminars. I sit on my ass at signings and play Tiddlywinks with the bookmarks and fling empty candy wrappers at patrons’ children when they’re not looking.

Sure, I meet some very interesting people who share an interest in the topic of my book. I’ve also met some gruff codgers who tell me they’re retired surgeons, and I’m full of beans. God, I love those guys. I tell them that mine isn’t an agenda book (I really hate those), but one of inviting perspective. “If I want perspective, I’ll go to church.” Best to just back away from those types and let them buy their guides to better interpersonal communication skills.

Okay, what this invariably comes down to is, “Am I Good Enough?” Of course, a crap signing isn’t really the proper litmus test in which to answer this question. The real test comes from sustainability. Are you reaching your audience? Local signings are good exposure, regardless of whether people show up or not. It’s about planting seeds. Just because someone didn’t buy the book when I was there doesn’t mean they won’t come back later and buy it. Or maybe the very relevant topic will come up in conversation, and someone will remember my face. Who knows?

But, if you happen to walk into your local bookstore and see some poor author sitting alone at a table playing Tiddlywinks with bookmarks and spitting empty candy wrappers at unsuspecting children, go up to them and give them a hug. Buy their book. Make their day.

Medical Care And The Buck-Who's In Charge of This Insane Asylum?

My daughter had jaw surgery last week to correct a congenital malformation. Her oral surgeon is the Chief of Surgery and has revolutionized jaw surgery by wrapping the jaw with an ice pack machine to cut way down on swelling. Our surgeon is pathological about insuring that machine is working at all times. Surgically speaking, she was in great hands. I know this surgeon well. I’m a vet with this particular surgery having watched my husband and son go through the same exact surgery a few years ago. They had excellent care back then.

However, things have changed, and not for the better.

After being stuck in Recovery for over five hours because another patient – one patient – suffered some minor post-surgical complications, my daughter was finally wheeled into ICU. I wondered if there was only one Recovery nurse back there.

The crack ICU nursing staff of years ago had given way to casual interest. They failed to plug in the ice machine. The portable battery pack had long since died and my daughter wasn’t receiving any ice. Thankfully the surgeon caught it during evening rounds, and I thought he was going to rip the nurse a new orifice for failing to insure the most important factor of her post-op care was working.

They also allowed the machine to run dry of water hours later. My daughter told me her face felt warm. I said something to the nurse, and she finally added more water. By this time, I wasn’t feeling confident about my daughter’s care and was grateful I was spending the night so I could make sure she was taken care of.

I was told that there was no way they’d allow me to stay. I told them that I was a vet at this and had stayed with hubby and son a few years ago. How nice, but not this time. Rules and all. I left my daughter with a huge knot in my stomach.

I just knew something was going to happen during the night. It did. They failed to give her the timely anti-nausea meds and she proceeded to get sick – a potentially dangerous situation for a jaw case. They let her sit in her own vomit for a while before finally cleaning her up. They didn’t cut her rubber bands to clean out her mouth and stitches, they didn’t change the bandages. Words can’t describe my anger. I did vent my spleen when the surgeon came in for morning rounds, and he was furious. I couldn’t get her home fast enough.

I mentioned ICU’s cavalier attitude to the office manager at the surgeon’s office, knowing she had just had hand surgery. I wondered if her care had been just as shoddy. It had. This hospital used to be so fabulous, what happened, I asked. A single sentence brought it all home. They were bought out by Tenet Corp. First thing they did was to fire all the experienced nurses because they made too much money and bring in less experienced nurses for far cheaper. Gee, great business decision. Wonder if anyone cares about quality anymore. Is this the way America’s medical care is headed? I feel my daughter’s care was compromised and had I not been vigilant, she may have spent 24 hours in ICU without ice on her jaw.

I’m bitter.