community health

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt #69: community.

The photograph is from 2010, when the mad as hell doctors toured California to talk about single payer health care, medicare for all.

Small communities rolled out the welcome:

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In this community, every table was sponsored by local health groups: clinic, the health department, mental health, addiction treatment. In small communities everyone knows someone who has lost their health, their health insurance and/or their job and home.

Here we are setting up for another program:

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People asked questions:

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And they listened and responded:

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The health care industry has money. The insurance companies are for profit and make enormous profits. But in the end you and I have VOTES. When we stand up as a nation and say that we want medicare for all, Congress will listen. Stand up.

The mandate for health care already is a law: no one can be turned away from an emergency room. But as things stand, we do not take care that the person in the emergency room has care after the emergency room. The hospital may take the person’s house. We already have the government doing no profit care for over 50% of the care in the US: Medicare, Medicaid, active duty military and the Veterans Association. It is time to shut down the for profit insurance companies that refuse medicines, refuse care, refuse to answer their phones, tell me on the phone “we don’t have a fax”, the parent company tells me a medicine is covered and then the part D drug coverage still refuses: it is BEYOND TIME TO SHUT THEM DOWN.

Is the goal of health care profit? Or is it care for our citizens, support for families, works like the police and the fire station: we all support each other. Stand up, shout and VOTE.

 

 

P for prior authorization

The letter P and my theme is happy things. But what comes to mind are these P words: prior authorization,  pharmaceutical, payer.

Prior authorizations are NOT a happy thing. The latest twist from insurance companies, three different ones in the last week, is that they are requiring prior authorization for old inexpensive medicines. I ordered a muscle relaxant for night time only on Thursday last week for a person with a flare of back pain. Friday I was dismayed to see that the insurance company was requiring a prior authorization. I have to prioritize the order of urgency of all the work: I did not have time. I called the patient who had paid cash for it. The insurance company wins. They didn’t have to pay for a covered medicine because they made it difficult to get. They keep the patient’s money.

Prior authorizations are on the rise very rapidly. With over 800 insurance companies, each with a different website, each with multiple insurance “products”, no one can keep up with it. It is a shell game, the ball under the cup, three cups moving, but the ball is the money and it’s already palmed by the insurance companies. I predict that this will continue to get worse. We do need a single payer system for the simple reason that physicians will not be able to hire enough staff to learn and navigate 800 different websites. I do most prior authorizations on the phone in the room with the patient: the other day we spent 35 minutes on the phone only to have the insurance company say that we had called the wrong number. Call another one. Not the one on the insurance card. We could complain to the state insurance commissioner, but my patient is afraid of losing their insurance. Time’s up. The prior authorization is not obtained, and we are five minutes into the next patient’s visit. People are finding that the medicine they have taken for 20 years suddenly requires prior authorization.

And remember: prior authorization is your insurance company making rules and extra paperwork for your physician. It is advertised as a way to save money, but it costs YOU money. Back in 2009, the estimate was that physicians in the US had to spend 90,000$ per year EACH on employees to do prior authorizations by computer or phone. And YOUR insurance dollars go to the employees at the insurance company refusing medicines and dreaming up new medicines to refuse. They change the contract. Every year and during the year. The law is now that 80 cents of each dollar must go to healthcare, not profit, but those computer and phone employees are counted as healthcare. Do we really think that is healthcare?

Take CT scans. Medicare does NOT require prior authorization. But most insurance companies do. Think about that. Is age the difference? CT scans increase cancer risk over time so physicians don’t order them by reflex.

And for pharmaceuticals, insurance companies often have an on line formulary. But it is different for every insurance “product” in individual companies. A patient and I were trying to sort out a less expensive medicine on a website and we were having difficulty figuring out which insurance she had. Multiple abbreviations and color coding and we could spend the entire clinic visit just figuring it out. Is that what medicine is in the United States? You can say that someone else in the office could do it, but the more employees your physician hires, the less time the physician will spend with you, because he or she has to pay all of those people.

If there was one set of rules, one website, I would learn it. Medicare for all, single payer, when will the United States people wake up and tell congress: if you want our vote, make it so.

P

But wait, where are the happy things? I am so happy that I still am in business in my small clinic, p for patients and patience and prayer and single payer, we will have medicare for all in my lifetime. Whether I am still a practicing physician in the US at that time is uncertain. If I can’t afford my own health insurance, my clinic will close. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

 

March for people

My daughter and I marched yesterday.

She decided to come home from college for the weekend, planning to leave Saturday night. I decided not to go to the Seattle Womxn’s march, but do the Port Townsend one and asked her to join me.

We went out to breakfast and then to our small downtown. I no longer have television and look at news sites daily though a bit erratically, so neither of us had a pink hat. I wore my Mad As Hell Doctors t-shirt, my lab coat from working at the National Institutes of Health with the National Cancer Institute Patch, my Rotary name badge and pins gathered from going across the country trying to get medicare for all, single payer health care, from 2009 until now.

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Four bus loads went from our county to the Seattle march. We heard that the Bainbridge ferry was FULL. That is, they couldn’t not take any more walk on people. Another thirty people or more flew to the Washington DC march. And in Port Townsend, my guess is that we still had 200-300 people, women, men and children, people in wheelchairs, babies, gay, lesbian, straight, bi, trans, that marched from a small park downtown to the Haller Fountain. Galetea, naked statue at the fountain, sported a pussy hat.

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Our local organizer spoke and our House Representative, Derek Kilmer.

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Older women spoke about demonstrating over and over in their lives. A friend of mine called me up to help her sing Holly Near’s Singing for Our Lives, making up new verses on the fly. They invited people to speak.

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I spoke: “I am one of your local doctors. I want to be able to treat anyone who comes to my clinic. We are one nation: health care for all. No discrimination: medicare for all.”

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Home then, and tired. My daughter has decided she wants to learn guitar, to play while people sing. I taught her basic chords and basic strumming. We sang Jamaica Farewell. She picks it up immediately, after all of those years of viola. And she will take one of my father’s guitars back to college.

And this is amazing: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/21/world/womens-march-pictures.html?smid=fb-share

Blessings all around.

Physicians for a National Health Care Program: http://www.pnhp.org/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/successful/

Bruise, muscle and bone

I asked an older patient recently, “What is a bruise?”

She thought about it and said, “I don’t know.”

A bruise is blood, bleeding. Old blood changes color and is reabsorbed by the body as it heals. But where does that blood come from?

Any tissue in the body can bleed. Even a tooth, if broken into the center.

So what is bleeding for MOST bruises?

Muscle. Muscle, muscle, muscle, tendon, ligament, fascia, occasionally bone if broken and internal organs can bleed as well.

Somehow we entirely fail to teach this, at least in the US.

If you fall, or like my mountain biking daughter, hit something, your body will bleed. I tried to train the mountain bike team to carry an ace wrap and use it any time they hit something hard with an extremity. I pretty much failed. Why do I want an ace wrap and why use it immediately?

Trauma or hitting something hard causes bleeding. The more the muscle and tissue bleeds, the more swollen it gets. Usually the peak of bleeding and swelling is at about 48 hours after the injury. By then the body is sending immune system cells and repair cells to fix the trauma. It is swollen, red, hot, inflamed and painful! If we ace wrap our ankle or foot or elbow immediately, the bleeding stops faster. Wrap it, ice and elevate to keep the bleeding down. The torn muscles are held in their normal position, the bleeding stops more quickly, there is less swelling, less redness, inflammation and pain!

Our acronym is RICE:
Rest
Ice
Compression
Elevation

There are things that you can’t ace wrap: don’t ace wrap your neck or ribs and if it’s bad trauma to the head, neck, chest or abdomon, go to the emergency room! But even then, ice and compression help. First check airway, breathing and circulation, that the heart is beating if you happen on a trauma. But then try to use pressure on bleeding.

Do not put heat on a bruise for that first 48 hours. Why? It bleeds more and swells more. The exception may be if you do much more exercise than usual without a localized injury: hydrate, stay away from alcohol and a hot tub or hot bath may help. The hydration and hot water help the muscles relax and wash out the CK, creatine kinase, the protein from tiny muscle traumas that make us “stiff”.

The I in RICE used to mean ibuprofen as well. However, ibuprofen and aspirin and naprosyn are all blood thinners, so they may help with pain and inflammation, but may make the bruising worse. Acetominophen is not a blood thinner and also doesn’t do as much for inflammation, but it may be a better choice. It does help with pain.

In her third year of mountain bike racing, the Introverted Thinker had a quarter size bruise on her knee after a race.

“Are you going to do anything about that bruise?” I asked.

“No, it’s small.” she said.

“Ok.”

Two hours later: “Mom? Would you look at my knee?” Now the bruise is the size of an orange.

“Hmmm. What are you going to do about that?”

“I think I might ace wrap it and ice it and put it up for a while. Where is the ace wrap?”

Good plan. It didn’t get any bigger.

I see the handouts from the emergency room given for back pain and they are terribly misleading. It shows the spine and talks about the discs. 99% of the back pain I see is NOT a disc: it is the six layers of back muscles, and complex web of tendons, muscles and ligaments that hold the spine together and let us move in very complex ways. I pull my Netter Anatomy out daily in clinic and show people the six layers of back muscles.

What happens after a muscle is torn and bruised and bleeding? The muscle cramps up to stop the bleeding and attempt to keep from being torn more. No, I don’t like muscle relaxers much as medicines and they are useless long term. For sleep only right after injury. I am not talking about major trauma, but back pain and injuries.

If the muscle heals in the cramped position, it won’t work right any more. It can form scar tissue. It takes about six weeks for a muscle or ligament or tendon tear to heal and during that time we need to gently stretch the muscles without tearing them, so that they heal in the right position. Once they are healed in a scarred position, it’s more work to rehabilitate them, but it can be done. Physical therapy, massage therapy, chiropractor, acupuncture, but the most important work is done BY the patient, not TO them. I can’t fix it with pills. Yes, it is work.

You can bruise bone too. Ow. The surface of the bone is living cells and the bones are continually torn down by osteoclasts and rebuilt by osteoblasts. The bone can be bruised without breaking. Again, 6 weeks to heal, little kids faster and 90 year olds kind of slow.

Take care of your muscles, ligaments and tendons, and they will take care of you.

 

I took the photograph on the first Mad as Hell Doctors tour for health care for all in 2009. I will be marching again today:  WE ARE ONE NATION! HEALTH CARE FOR ALL! NO DISCRIMINATION!  MEDICARE FOR ALL!

 

Coming soon: The Unaffordable Health Care Act!

Coming soon in the United States!

Aren’t you sick of the Affordable Care Act? aka Obamacare? Time for a new administration and time to get rid of Affordable Care. We don’t want that! Competition, Corporations and Profit First!

Call Mr. Future President Trump, call you congress persons, call your senator, call your representative, call your state ones. Stand up and be heard, US Citizens! Tell them you are all for the Unaffordable Health Care Act! We can kill more small businesses faster! We can make doctors and nurses quit by age 50! We can have more people turn to addictive drugs for numbing and comfort!

Come on, US Citizens! You voted! Now call! The Unaffordable Health Care Act! brought to you by an all conservative all corporate all discriminatory group of unbelievably rich congresspeople and your stinking rich and suing everyone future president.

Or you could say you want Medicare For All! Hey, one system, one set of rules, all US citizens have care, we could start small businesses, business might return to the US since they don’t have to pay more and MORE and MORE for health insurance, wages would go up instead of yearly decreases in health care coverage….nah, US Citizens, you wouldn’t want that, would you?

Your health care dollar

I have been writing posts about fraud in medicine: but I think I am using the wrong title. Instead it should be your health care dollar: how the US medical corporate system wastes your health care dollar.

Think about it. What do you want to spend that dollar on?

Do you want it to go to 1300 different insurance companies and their web sites, their advertising, their competition and their profit? Do you want your healthcare dollar to go to complex coverage rules and contracts, to forms for prior authorization, for the weekly postcards and emails that they send me telling me that they have changed your coverage? Is it any surprise that I have no idea if your insurance company covers a test? They may have last week and not this week. The overhead for medicare is 2-3% administrative costs. Now why would we privatize that when the overhead for the health insurance companies is 20-30%?

How much of your health care dollar do you want to go to corporate competition?

I don’t want ANY of my health care dollar going to corporate competition and profit. I want my health care dollar going to my HEALTH. We spend the most per person in the world, almost twice as much per person per year as the next most expensive: and we don’t guarantee care. Hello, the next most expensive and all of the other nearly 40 countries, first and second world, have universal care for all their citizens. So is our care twice as good?

No, no, no, and no.

Hello, new administration. Let’s put the health care dollar where it is paying for health…. in medicare for all and in a single payer system. We have guideline after guideline on how we should treat illnesses, here:

US Preventative Task Force

The guidelines are regularly updated. If we have medicare for ALL then I will KNOW whether a test is covered or not. I have memorized the entire list of medicare covered screening tests and all the details: screen for abdominal aortic aneurysm is covered in male patients age 65-75 who have smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their life and any patient who has a family history. I have the whole list in my brain.

You CAN make a difference. Write to your congresspeople, state and national. Call them. Email them. They all have websites. Tell them YOUR health care story or the story of a friend or family member.

Join Health Care Now and Physicians for a National Health Program.

I want my health care dollar to go to HEALTH CARE.

For the Daily Post Prompts: gone and interior. Interior because I am so angry at the poor spotty costly health care for my fellow people in the US. And gone: your health care dollars is GONE: let’s use the next one wisely.

Cloudy with a chance of hope

This is for the Daily Prompts: hopeful and year.

I took this from the beach with my zoom lens: fog, clouds, lowering, indistinct. My daughter left for college in September and is home now…. well, sort of, except she is off with friends all over the place, including right now.

It’s been a cloudy and hopeful period, since September. It is the first time in 24 years that I have not had children or teens at home, and the first time in 28 years that I have lived nearly alone…just the cat. The cat is not happy with then young adults leaving. She blames me.

I am worried about the US Medical system, the corporate takeover where more and more physicians are employed and then have no connection to how their patients are billed. They also take no responsibility for people going bankrupt over medical bills. We physicians are as responsible for the mess of US Health Care as the patients are, as Congress is, for letting 1300 insurance companies use 500 billion dollars on administrative costs….And people say I don’t trust government healthcare….but don’t take away my mother’s medicare, the VA benefits, medicaid for the disabled and very poor or the healthcare for our active duty. And yet I see for profit companies like triwest: the government contracts my local VA care to them and I fought Triwest for a year to get them to pay me for my Veterans Choice patients. And they won’t pay me for the time we spent fighting to get paid, nor the interest for waiting on a payment for an entire year. Guess who got that money? The For Profit Contractor Corporation: Triwest. And Noridian, the local medicare contractor, held my payments for 6 months. They said my paperwork was wrong….turned out it had been wrong for six years but they frankly didn’t care until they were getting audited. So who paid the price? I did and you did. In rising costs and confusion and physicians quitting. Again, I did not see a penny for the time on the phone, for the time spent trying to ask Noridian why, after 6 years of payments, they were refusing my renewal…..and meanwhile I saw my patients and went further into debt. And do you think the bank corporation wrote off their profits? No, you laugh at that…..

But, you say, where is the hope? The hope is that I think we are at the point where enough physicians are quitting outright, enough Veterans Choice patients are calling their Congress People, the patients refuse to be patient any longer….and I am seeing more people fight for a single payer system, for a system where the money does not go to profit and administration while people die waiting for prior authorization and insurance corporations change the rules every week and refuse and refuse and refuse care…..I think people: patients and physicians: will wake up and change the system.

And that, Mr. Trump, is what I would do to make the US great again….