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September 08, 2008

How Much Is Our Health Worth?

2 I'm only 41, but I bet I've had more experience with our healthcare system than your than your average woman.  I've worked as a medical malpractice defense lawyer and seen the decisions physicians are faced with every day as they juggle practicing medicine with increasing administrative duties.  Additionally, I've undergone plenty of medical treatments myself.  I have had two spine surgeries for scoliosis, one in 1980 and another in 2004

I've received treatment for hepatitis C, which I contracted from blood transfusions I received during my initial scoliosis surgery.  The hepatitis C treatment cured me-- I just celebrated my eighth year of remission-- but left me with pesky migraines to deal with.  And after my mother passed away from ovarian cancer, I began a twice yearly screening regime to make sure that if I'm going to deal with it as well, I'll catch it early.

Obviously, I see a number of physicians for these various conditions, and I've relied on an internist to keep everything straight.  Last spring I saw a new internist I liked very much, and I figured I'd be seeing him for the next couple of decades.  So I was surprised when I received a shiny pamphlet and letter announcing that he's changing the way he runs his practice.  He's joining a national group called MDVIP which has been described as a "concierge healthcare" company."

It's an idea that's becoming increasingly popular with both patients and physicians.  Patients pay an annual fee, and in return they're guaranteed that their doctor will be available twenty-four hours a day and that they can get same or next day appointments.  Physicians cut their daily patient load, and are able to spend quality time with each patient, rather than hustling twenty or thirty patients in and out in a day. In a nutshell, it's an organization the market has created in an attempt to return medical care to the way it was years ago, when patients felt like their doctor was family, and doctors felt free to spend more time on people's problems without worrying about what the HMO would think.

During the past years, I've learned a lot about the way practicing medicine has changed over the years.  I've educated myself about the way the system works, and I take lots of responsibility for my own healthcare, from taking care of myself to double checking that the labels that are put on the tubes of blood drawn from my arm have my name on them, and not that of the man next to me, or that the prescription the doctor said she was going to write is the same one I'm leaving the office with.

So I weighed the $1500 annual cost of MDVIP and reluctantly decided that I can manage my many conditions myself, without the internist acting as the captain of my ship.  But there are many patients, especially the elderly, who aren't so lucky, and who are both fed up with and perplexed by today's increasingly complicated  system.  Those of us in the sandwich generation, who are caring for children and parents beginning to experience health problems, are now making medical decisions for three generations of patients.

I hope it gets easier.

This is an original Deep South Moms Blog post by Anne Glamore.  She writes an "Erma Bombeck for the new generation" column at Tales From My Tiny Kingdom.  In the last week one son has broken a hand, another has produced enough phlegm to overtop the levees in New Orleans, and her husband nearly sliced off his finger, so take her seriously when she writes about medical issues.

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