Medicare Disadvantage

Medicare Advantage plans, from for profit insurance companies, are being rebranded Medicare Reach.

They seem like a good deal. They are if you are healthy forever! So what is the catch?

In Michigan I go to look at a nursing home with a friend. The administrator shows us around. Small rooms with two beds. We also look at an assisted living. Much larger rooms, the friend can stay overnight in the private room with the parent, at a cost of $4000.00 per month. Her insurance will not cover it.

But back to the nursing home. The administrator tells us that it’s good that her parent does NOT have a medicare advantage or medicare reach plan. “It is nearly impossible to get the insurance companies to approve a rehabilitation stay at a nursing home.”

“Really?” I say.

“Oh, really.” She says. “The insurance companies certainly don’t want you to know that when you buy their “deal”.”

So, the for profit insurance companies want you if you are of medicare age and are well. BUT the catch is that they really don’t want to cover if you are sick. Think carefully before you buy a pig in a poke!

Physicians for a National Healthcare Program is working to stop the insurance companies from skimming profit off the healthier elders and then abandoning them when they are not healthy. I wish that the United States citizens would clue in, get mad, and vote for single payer! Write your congresspeople and put pressure on them! They listen to money but in the end, they live by votes. Make sure you look at the fine print, because the insurance company is there to make a profit off you, not preserve your health.

The picture is Mordechai, our plastic clinic skeleton, distrusting Profit-Over-Health Insurance Companies.

Keyboard supervisor

Elwha supervising me at the keyboard.

In high school I took typing for dummies. I was terrible at it and slow. Many women were avoiding typing classes in the late 1970s because they did not want to be secretaries. I wanted to be a writer and knew that I was a terrible typist. I also could not spell my way out of a paper bag. My mother was quite dyslexic and did not care. Once I had to sound out a word at the store from her grocery list: “LETIS”. Oh. Got it. Her letters are wonderful, not only interesting and creative spelling, but also wandering tenses and subjects.

We got our first electronic medical record in the early 2000s. We went from looking up labs on a computer and using a computer for maybe an hour total per day to full on eight hours a day. My shoulders and the nurses’ shoulders all locked up and we all filed for Workman’s Comp. I had to work with physical therapy to get my shoulders to unlock. My nurse pointed out that all problems were treated as “User Problems”. That is, WE were the problem, not the program. I realized that having the doctors who love computers pick out the program, learn about it for a year, and then teach us in two days and go live was a massive mistake. None of us understood it nor did we understand any of the computer lovers’ terminology. We rapidly quit asking questions because we didn’t like being treated as morons. Every person who was not a computer lover figured out their own work arounds. Two years later, the computer lovers tried to get us to standardize what we were doing. It’s not very surprising that we resisted and hated them. We had had to figure it out on our own with no help and we were very cynical and disbelieving that they would now “Make it easier.” Nope, they didn’t.

If I were to do it over again, the team picking the electronic medical records would include a couple of older doctors who hate computers. One of the selling points to the computer lovers was “you can write your own templates”. Our response was “We would rather be boiled in oil.” Three years after we got the system I asked the head computer lover doctor to write me a template. It was generic. Patient is complaining of (a problem) (more than one problem). The (problem) has been present for (a day, two days, a week, a month, a year, too long). The problem is (getting worse, the same, getting better). And so forth. Because we had all sorts of problems that did not have a template. My computer lover doc rolled his eyes, but set it up for me.

I also asked the clinic CFO WHY they didn’t set up typing lessons for the doctors who couldn’t type. I watched one of our group hunt and peck with two fingers. “You want them faster, right? You’ve said we could do the whole note in the room. How can they if they can’t type?”

“We are not giving them typing lessons.”

“Well, I think that’s misguided.” Ok, what I meant was that I thought it was STUPID.

Another selling point was that we could finish the note in the room. It turned out that I could do the note in the room after I had fought with the program for two years. It consistently took me 25 minutes. Then they ramped up the schedule and set us all at 20 minute visits. I started running late all the time. I told the front desk, “I’ve been told I should get the note done so I am. And if it takes me 25 minutes, that is what it takes.” Once the hospital kicked me out, I started my own clinic and did 30 minute visits. This did not make me rich but it made me a heck of a lot happier.

_________________

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: keyboard.

Why I hate insurance companies: 1

I had cobra from my job in 2009 and the insurance company refused my bills. Not one bill. Not once. EVERY BILL EVERY TIME: 1. my healthcare 2. my son’s healthcare 3. my daughter’s healthcare 4. my daughter’s orthodontia 5. my dentist 6. my son’s dentist. I had to call EVERY TIME to get them to pay. Calling an insurance company takes 25 or 30 minutes, right? Eventually I asked for customer service who first said it was my fault because “you probably paid the bill late”. I said, “No, I was on time every month.” Then customer service wouldn’t call me back. I finally called their COUNSELING HOTLINE, since it said I would be “paid” $30 to get counseled, and said, “MY LITTLE SISTER IS DYING OF BREAST CANCER AND THE THING THAT IS MOST STRESSING ME OUT IS YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY WON’T PAY THE COBRA BILLS AND I HAVE CALLED CUSTOMER SERVICE OVER AND OVER AND THEY WON’T CALL ME BACK. HOW ABOUT YOU COUNSEL ME HOW TO DEAL WITH THAT!” And I cried. I got a call back from the head of customer service saying “Oh, it’s a computer glitch and we had you misfiled. We have fixed it.” They “misfile” people all the time, or drop patients if they get sick, or say the person didn’t pay on time. I HATE INSURANCE COMPANIES. Anyhow, be warned that insurance companies are there to earn money and will try to avoid paying you in all sorts of ways, including ways that are illegal.

We need single payer healthcare, medicare for all. If we all have healthcare, think of how many small businesses would start up. And why don’t we have single payer healthcare? I think the big corporations don’t want it.

Physicians for a National Healthcare Program: https://pnhp.org/

Medicare for all: https://medicare4all.org/

And my dear friends not on the road any more: http://madashelldoctors.com/

Who is the man in the photograph? I don’t know. This is an old tintype. They came from my Great Aunt, Esther White Parr, married to Russel Parr. Perhaps they are Parrs, because my Uncle Rob did not know any of the people in the four tintypes I have. My sister and I used them for portraits in our china doll houses. I hope he is not the CEO of an insurance corporation, but then, all the white collar white men tried to dress that way then.

abuse, enabler style

I am raised by a family of triangulating enablers and enablees.

The enablers are my mother and two uncles. They are very very smart. Let me qualify that: they are very very smart intellectually. Emotionally, not so much.

The two uncles have PhDs and are professors. They marry wives that are lessor in their view. One tells my mother that he wants a woman who is not as bright as he is. I don’t know if she is less bright, but she is a hella better athlete. I also have the impression that she had a time where she drank too much.

The other uncle marries a woman who tends to be a hypochondriac. He takes her to India, where she gets polio while pregnant. She is then a sick hypochondriac, which is very difficult. The ill can control their families by planning things and then getting sick at the last moment. On the other hand, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia are very real and we are on the edge of figuring them out. That uncle divorces his wife and I instantly like both of them better. They stop being a weird unit and are suddenly individuals.

My mother tells me, when I am in college, “I wondered if your father was an alcoholic when I married him.” I want to hit her. She won’t leave him, she won’t stop enabling him, they scream at each other at 2 am often. Now I wonder about that and conclude that either screaming at someone was something she needed or she was an alchoholic too.

After my mother dies, I ask my uncle, what about his parents? After all, the three of them learned enabling somewhere and it pretty much has to be at home.

My uncle tells me his parents had a PERFECT marriage and that my grandmother LOVED being the wife of a physician and professor.

Um, so, then, why did she pay my tuition to medical school, uncle?

And I think about my mother’s stories. Once, she says, your Uncle Jim bet his friend Dick that Dick was too chicken to shoot a cigarette out of Jim’s mother’s mouth. Ooooo. With a rubber band shooter. Yes, my grandmother. Bob took the bet and succeeded. My grandmother roared with anger and the two boys ran like hell and hid.

And someone in the family tells me: your grandfather helped your grandmother control her temper.

There it is. The enabler/enablee.

The enablers die first. My grandfather of cancer at 79, my mother of cancer at 62. The cousins are all angry at me because I won’t follow the family rules and triangulate in a satisfactory manner, and I don’t care any more. I am ignoring them. I got my father’s banjo back and I am done. The two cousins I own land with jointly are not the worst triangulators.

I have to remind myself: for them, this is love. For some people, controlling or being controlled is what functions as love and intimacy. Fighting and tears when person A talks to person C about person B and person C then lets person B know, that is how they feel close. It is not only families, but communities. Clay Shirky’s description of a group being it’s own worst enemy describes the same patterns: identify an enemy inside or outside the group and then everyone comes together against the enemy. The enemy says the wrong thing, doesn’t worship the right god/desses, wears different clothes, looks different. And the group feels safer once the scapegoat has been killed, the guy has been burned. It would be nice if we could burn a ritual guy instead of torching each other.

The real anger is in the enabler. They control it by having the enablee express it. Then it is not “theirs”. They can feel superior to the enablee who is out of control. Sadly, the problem is only fixed temporarily and they will need their anger expressed again and again and again.

The cycle can be broken. It is a lot of work.

Blessings.

______________________________________________

Email quack spam: try CBD oil for free!

Lovely email QUACK spam. TRY CBD OIL FOR FREE!

The Miracle Molecule! Everything You Need To Know About the Health Benefits of CBD Oil“. The link implies that the article was in Reuters. I ain’t pressing no spam link. Internet search on Reuters Everything You Need to Know About the Health Benefits of CBD Oil does not bring up a Reuters article.

“All natural formula. All CBD products use proven, organic all natural ingredients that are toxin-free.”

Ok, now WAIT a minute. Proven? By what the hell method? We dropped some and got high so it’s good? And don’t get me started on toxin-free. Sure, and they’ll sell you a bridge too.

Let’s discuss all natural.

Is CBD oil “all natural”? Um. Well, it could be organically grown, I will give them that. There have been pesticide poisonings from illegal pot and the laws for growers vary state by state. Check your state laws re whether they have specified what the growers can use on the marijuana plants. Paraquat is very strongly implicated in Parkinson’s (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20094060/) and you don’t want that, do you?

How do you define “all natural”? Innocent virgin farmer girls and boys, skipping through the pot plans and milking the oil out gently? Oh, ye innocent and foolish peoples. Here is a nice article about fires in CBD processing plants: https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/dsdfire-38-1.pdf. They burn real good, it turns out.

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) has guidelines: https://www.firefighternation.com/prevention/nfpa-approves-420-standard-on-fire-protection-of-cannabis-growing-and-processing-facilities/. You do keep up with the NFPA, don’t you?

An older article illustrating the problem: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/02/18/marijuana-factories-explosions-safety-issues-1155850.

And the title of this seems pretty self explanatory: https://extraxx.com/the-top-five-safety-concerns-in-a-cannabis-extraction-facility/. “Let’s begin with the obvious. When dealing with flammable gasses or liquids in extract production, there is a risk of fire or explosion during the handling process. The easiest way to understand the risk of fire or explosion is to consider the fire triangle. Essentially, a fire needs three things to start: a fuel source, oxygen, and an ignition source. The basic philosophy here is that by removing legs from the fire triangle, we can make the process safer; by removing two legs, an operator can make their extraction process significantly less incident-prone.” Later in the article: “there are two tools that should be kept on site to make known the presence of unnoticed flammable vapors: a permanent LEL, or Lower Explosive Limit, monitor should be installed in the extraction room; and a handheld two or four gas portable monitor should be on site as well.”

I don’t have much experience with LFL monitors. Now I want to buy some of the gummies and try lighting them on fire. Does the smoke make one high? Well, I think it depends what it is suspended in. I thought vaping was insane when I read that some of the nicotine vapes suspended the product in antifreeze. Um, your dog may die if they drink it. Absorption in the lungs just does not seem wise. Also, some of the vapes get so hot that heavy metals get in the lungs. You know, lead and stuff. When I researched it last, China was turning out 500 different kinds of vape machines. Uh, ick, don’t do that. Sugar burns so the gummies might. I have some “Annie’s organic fruit gummies” so I can check whether they burn. Though they shouldn’t contain CBD oil. Now you know what I am doing while disabled. Home chemistry and on line research.

Covid-19: caring for yourself

audio version, covid-19: Caring for yourself

A friend took his father to the ER in the next bigger town, sent there for admission to the hospital from the clinic. His father is in his 90s, has heart failure, and his legs were puffed up like balloons with weeping blisters.

They were in the ER for 13 hours, never given food though it was promised, the staff couldn’t even find time to bring a urinal and his father was not admitted. He was sent home. No beds. On divert.

Ok, so when should you go to the hospital right now? Only if you really really can’t breathe….

First, the emergencies. An ER nurse friend talks about “happy hypoxia” where people do not feel bad but have an oxygen saturation of 50%. I suspect that this is when their lungs really are swelling shut very fast. They will turn blue quickly. Call an ambulance. In the 1918-1919 influenza, soldiers “turned blue and fell over dead”. In Ralph Netter’s book on pulmonary diseases, he has a drawing of the lungs of a person who died from influenza pneumonia. The lungs are basically one big red purple bruise with no air spaces. So if a friend is goofy and their lips are turning blue: AMBULANCE.

The one in five hospitals that are 95% full or more in the US are now cancelling all of the elective surgeries: knee replacements, hip replacements, non emergent heart surgeries, all of it.

If you are not dying, do not go to the emergency room if you are in one of the totally swamped areas.

So how to care for yourself with covid-19? Like influenza, it is pretty clear that it either causes lung swelling or the lungs fill with fluid or both. With lung swelling you may be able to stay home. First take your pulse. If you have a pulse oximeter, great, but no worries if you don’t. .What is your resting heart rate? Count the number of heart beats in 60 seconds

If it’s 60-100, that is good. It’s normal. If it is 120 at rest, that is getting worrisome. If you are short of breath at rest and your pulse is over 100, call your doctor. If they can get you oxygen, you still may be able to stay home. If not, emergency room.

Now get up and walk. Do you get short of breath? Sit back down and again, count the number of heartbeats when you are sitting. If your resting pulse was 90 and you jump to 130 walking, you have lung swelling. Functionally you have half the normal air space and so your heart is making up the difference. How to cope? Well, walk slowly. Walk during the day, do get up because otherwise you may get a leg blood clot, but really minimize your activity. Now is not the time to rearrange the furniture. Also, you may not go to work until your walking or loaded pulse is under 100.

If your pulse does not jump up when you walk, next try walking loaded. That is, carry something. Two bags of groceries, a toddler, a pile of books. Go up the stairs. Sit down and take your pulse when you are short of breath or it feels like your heart has speeded up. I am in this category. My pulse is 70, oxygen at 99 sitting. Walking my pulse jumps to 99. Walking loaded my pulse goes to 125 and my oxygen level starts dropping, need oxygen once it gets to 87. I tried a beach walk without oxygen 3 weeks ago. I photographed the pulse ox when it was at 125 with O2 sat at 87. I still need oxygen.

The treatment for lung swelling is rest. This is my fourth time, so I am used to it. Some people will have so much swelling they will need oxygen at rest. If the lungs swell shut, they need to be intubated or they die. Suffocation is not fun. The other treatment is not to catch another virus or a bacteria on top of the present lung swelling. Wear mask, get vaccinated, put out the cigarrette, no vaping, pot is terrible for the lungs too and increases the risk of a heart attack.

With my four pneumonias, the first two made me tachycardic and it took two months for the lung swelling to subside. It sucked. Inhalers don’t work, because they work by bronchodilating. You can’t bronchodilate swollen lung tissue. The steroid inhalers might help a little but they didn’t help me. The third pneumonia took 6 months to get back to work and then I was half time for 6 months. This time I am five months out today and I still need oxygen. Darn. Don’t know if my lungs will fully recover. They may not.

So: rest. Good food. Avoid substance abuse. Mask all visitors and don’t go to parties/raves/concerts/anything. Oxygen if needed and if you can get it.

Take care.

The photograph is me wired up for a sleep study a week ago. The technician took it at my request. I won’t have results until next week.

pigs and fishes

is it ok

if I don’t make sense for a little while?

this is hard

it’s really hard
sometimes
to communicate

I never did
join the mainstream
of medicine

I went to class
to medical school
and wondered
and noticed
that the classes resembled
descriptions of cults
how they train people

and I thought
I am not joining any cult

and I kept my mouth shut

in the elevator
when another student says
“The other day
I threw out all of my husband’s plaid shirts.
I hate them.
They are too low class.”
If he loves them, you’ve hurt him, right?
and I think
I could say
“Yes, I hate it
when my husband
wears my plaid skirt
he stretches them all out
and ruins them.”
I would be outed
even more than I already am
as weird.

I don’t say a word
I just think
words

Medical school is four years
Residency is three
I am quiet there too
impression that I am shy
which is a lie
even so, the faculty fear me

I hear, 25 years later

and I am surprised

5 foot four
130 pounds

what the hell is there to fear?

though a boyfriend says
“You turn into an ogre
when you are angry.”

but I am quiet
in medical school
in residency
except when a patient
needs me
to speak

morph to ogre
morph to werewolf
if needed

as I get older
slowly
slowly
I learn
more subtelty

mostly from my children
who are subtle
and very very smart

at any rate

I never bought in to
the give opioids to everyone

and eventually
it turns out
that my intuition
or instinct
or whatever the hell you want to call it
study of addiction from the experience
and reading in college
matches
the studies
that come out

now I have another one
an intuition

the data is catching up with me

it’s funny
in my small community

I feel so lonely
after 21 years
mother’s death, sister’s death, father’s death
divorce
single mother 2 children
niece don’t go there
I am labeled by the medical community
I hear that the senior doctor
in the community
tells a woman midlevel
at a party
that I am crazy

maybe so

but I was right about opioids

pigs and fishes

is it ok

if I don’t make sense for a little while?

maybe
just maybe

they could listen to me this time

but I don’t think

they
will

that would be ok
but it is hurting people
and I can’t bear that

so I put myself
back in the traces

once in a massage
I thought
I can’t bear this
I am not strong enough
and suddenly I was in a dream world
where my back was enormous
huge
unending
and I thought, oh, I can bear this
thank you
I think

I put myself back in the traces
I am an ox
I plant my hooves

I begin
to pull
hard

pigs and fishes

even as I cry

The photograph is from 2014. Two pairs of glasses frames ago….

Yard Art

There is a fabulous garden in Portland, Oregon decorated with bowling balls.

i have decided to decorate with oxygen tanks.

if anyone has any oxygen paraphernalia, I want it, please.

This art installation is titled “Tethered”. Or possibly “Chained.”

Game ball

Warning: this post contains some time out words.

How do I process the game you played?

I am the subject of the game.

Or the victim.

Or no, I refuse. It is your game. I was not playing. I am the honey badger, metabolism so fast that I have to run from one meal to the next or else I will starve. I eat whatever I can find: cobras, bees, anything. I eat or I die.

You have tethered a honey badger to oxygen by playing a game.

I am the football and you have been kicking me, throwing me, catching me, slamming me to the ground as hard as you can in the end zone.

And now that I am worn and damaged and torn, you’ll toss me away, not even notice me, and find a new ball.

You will need a new football. To play with.

I don’t envy that person.

The truth is, it will be one of you. The group will rest on their laurels, oh, we nearly killed her, wasn’t it great? We showed her. She is so stupid, took her what, 21 years to fucking figure it out? And she thinks she’s so smart.

I was looking for food because I am always hungry. The food insecurity goes back to infancy. Maybe to the womb: my mother says she was not to gain weight and spent the entire pregnancy longing for a gigantic ice cream Sunday. Think of being in a womb, attacked by antibodies to tuberculosis, and starving all the time. Might be a little bit worried when birth happens. Fuck, I am going through a tunnel, what horrors await me here? But maybe there will be more food.

Maybe someone will love me. Maybe there will be someone for me to love. And feed. We can give each other food.

My advice to you is don’t be the ball. I was the ball for 21 years. I was so hungry the whole time, for food and for love, that I kind of noticed but dismissed it as unimportant. Food and love were more important. Work and my patients were more important. You don’t matter and your games are trivial.

It will be the weakest one who will be the ball. You worry that you are the one. You should worry. You had better look strong right away. Post some horror. Write something really tough. Don’t show anyone any niggling doubts. Um, the ball is wearing oxygen. I am feeling a little bad about this. Are you feeling bad about this? The ball isn’t just crazy, it’s hurt. Actually crazy is an illness too: I know that you discriminate and think that cancer is a legitimate illness and that mania isn’t, but you are assholes. No, you’re too small and pathetic to be an asshole. You are a one celled animal that is clinging to a hair on an asshole and you get shat on daily. And you know, deep deep in your tiny shrunken heart, that you deserve it.

I am so glad I am not you.

I am tethered to oxygen. But I am healing. I don’t think you can. You are locked in your small sick pathetic triangulation competition and pretending that it’s a game that it’s ok that you are just playing.

Ick.

Meanwhile, the oxygen is portable.

I have food and I have love and I have work to do that lifts me on wings. I will go too near the sun and light on fire and fall burning, but that’s ok. I’ve done it before. The ocean heals me, always. It is so much fun to fly!

This is in memory of my mother, my father and my sister. I miss all three and I love them and they love me. Today is the day my mother died. The longer we live, the more days are days when someone that we love died. But they are still here. They are in the rocks and the sky and the trees and the coffee cup. They are not in sugary donuts or foods that cause heart attacks. But they are all around us, cradle us, still love us. Joy to you and the memories of your loved ones who have gone on. Blessings.

you know you are hypoxic when

…singing. Singing on oxygen is a challenge. Why? Well, because I am TRAINED. I am trained to breathe through my mouth, slowly filling my lungs, for the next phrase. I don’t breathe through my nose because that is noisier, might make a sound during a rest.

No, really. Singers and conductors think that way. PERFECTION is not achieved but we sure have fun trying.

So if I breathe through my mouth as trained and ingrained, and the oxygen is coming by nasal cannula….

….I am goofy and hypoxic by the end of the song. WHY do I feel like I might fall over, I think? WHAT the hell is the matter with me? OH. I HAS NOT BIN BREATHING THE GOOD OXYGEN STUFF. Facepalm. Nosebreathe.

But it’s pretty ingrained. I keep forgetting.

The good news is I feel WAAAAY better. My lungs don’t feel like someone stuck a burning torch in them any more. It hurt for six weeks, every time I sat up or stood up, the muscles of heart and lung HURT. I knew it was my heart but I also was pretty damn sure it was not coronary artery disease and it wasn’t congestive heart failure. That day I went to the ER, normal labs and echocardiogram even though it hurt like shit. I do wish the ER doctor had thought to walk me. He would have put me on oxygen then and I would have gotten better faster. And then I think of 2014 and 2012 and 2005. I didn’t think of it and neither did ANY of my doctors. I did USE oxygen in 2014. I had my father’s tanks because Evil Lincare had kept delivering them even when my father had a concentrator and so there were 16 or 18 full size oxygen tanks in his small house which is a huge fungking fire hazard, those asshats.

Now Lincare is delivering to me and under much improved management. I think the man who delivered it WAS management. He said yes, they had some shady and inappropriate behaviors in the past but he has been KICKING BUTT AND TAKING NAMES and they aren’t going to do that shit any more, not with him in charge. I liked him. Thank goodness Lincare is being run ethically.

I have pulmonary function testing today. I think that will be abnormal. However, I am enough better that I may no longer qualify for oxygen. In which case my insurance may try to refuse to pay for it. Oh, goody, a totally legitimate fight and they will be darn sorry if they try to refuse the oxygen. Mr. or Ms. State Insurance Comissioner! CEO of Insurance! Board of the Insurance Company! Poor sorry little rural family practice doctor, now disabled from her clinic for her fourth pneumonia and ya’ll refusing her oxygen when she has no income because her disability doesn’t kick in until she’s been sick for three months.

Heh. Bring it on. Got my tai kwan do, kinda rusty, my katana, a yard long rusty pipe wrench… bet I get coverage for the oxygen.

Meanwhile I either gotta stick the nasal cannula in my mouth when I am singing or bloody well breathe through my nose…..