Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hospitals may choose who receives care in swine flu pandemic

An emergency flu plan reported this week, outlined what will happen in Florida -- if there is a flu pandemic.

The Orlando Sentinel's story doesn't hold any punches. Care will be rationed. It will be up to hospitals -- not family members -- to decide who gets treatment and who does not.

I almost missed this story. It never seemed to make the top headline. It wasn't a "most e-mailed" favorite. I had to Google it three different ways to find the original newspaper report. This story isn't really on the radar. I'm surprised, because the health care reform debate still rages.

I am still wondering why. This is pretty dire stuff.

The document, drawn up by a team from across Florida that included Orange
County Health Director Dr. Kevin Sherin, addresses one of the most delicate
issues in medicine: what to do if the number of severely ill people needing
ventilators and other treatment dramatically exceeds what is available.
The goal, the plan says, is to focus care on patients whose lives could be saved and who would be most likely to function better if they were given whatever resources
were available. It says those decisions are not to be made based on patients'
perceived social worth or social role, but the plan calls for different rules
for some populations.

The fact that a state health board is considering such measures, shows how serious the swine flu is. It also points to a weakness in our system -- we may not have enough medical equipment to help those in need.

While I don't hear a lot of chatter on the report right now, I'm sure people will be commenting later. I immediately thought about my late husband Jimmy. His breathing was compromised and he had to use a tracheotomy to help him breathe. If I read the news article right, he probably would have been on the list to be refused treatment. Thankfully, we never were put in that situation.

During this swine flu season, I worry about the families who may face a situation like this "plan" outlined in Florida. I pray it won't come to this rationing of care, but without the proper equipment -- it sounds like it could be a reality.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Healthcare reform equals good economy

As a layman, I know health care reform is good for one's health. If people are able to visit the doctor knowing they are covered financially, they are more likely to seek care.

Now, President Obama said it's good for the economy. He made the statements in his Saturday radio and Internet address. The Washington Times as a report here.

I'm no economist, so I don't understand all he intricacies of this. I do know that health care coverage often is a key factor in how people make decisions. How many people say, "I work for the insurance." How many more people say, "I provide the insurance coverage for our family."

People often take jobs based solely on the insurance coverage. People often avoid going to the doctor, because they know one medical visit without coverage can doom them with a life of pre-existing conditions noted on health insurance applications.

As unemployment skyrockets, people are looking at ways to go into business for themselves. A huge roadblock is health insurance.

I've had to get a personal policy before. You have to fill out tons of paperwork and show the paper trail of coverage. (Note: When you leave a job, those certificates of coverage are very important). The cost isn't the best. The coverage is adequate. My personal experience is fairly benign, because I'm in good health. A person with on-going medical conditions are in a pickle.

The president says that health care reform could stimulate the economy, because people would be able to begin small business ventures. These businesses would create jobs and pay salaries and taxes. (Well, the recent report that a large percentage of Americans don't pay taxes is a separate story).

I understand the naysayers clearly. We have a huge unemployment rate. Millions of real people are out of work and can't seem to find work. How will health care reform help the economy?

I say it's a non-traditional route, needs to be done anyway and why not give it a try.

I know probably not the most sound reasoning, but you know I'm tired of hearing terrible stories. You know the ones where someone has insurance and they can't get service, because the company figures out a way to not pay for the service or change the copay. When people express outrage (or the media gets involved), suddenly the patient's treatment is covered or at minimum affordable. It all sounds fishy - like that scary R-word politicians are throwing around - rationing.

I want to see reform in my lifetime. There are millions of people who need access to medical care. So, for just a brief spell, I will dream of a world where health care reform equals a good economy.

Book rattles and settles me

I recently searched for the book The Girl in the Orange Dress by Margot Starbuck at a bookstore. I couldn't find it. Disappointed, but knowing there are alternative methods I searched online. It arrived in my mailbox along with my city tax bill.

After a day and a half (there were a few interruptions like work and sleep), I finished the book. Starbuck shared her story of adoption, relationship, faith and her unwavering smile. The smile was sort of the pasted on kind. She tried to give the appearance that everything was OK. She really did a marvelous job of holding things together by her own account. The reality is that she had a lot of issues about her relationships with her growing number of parents - those who chose her and those who didn't.

Starbuck's search for faith and "a father who does not fail" challenged me as a reader, because throughout her search she is surrounded by a Christian community - college, friends, churches, seminary and faith-based programs.

To be immersed in faith (and church) and to still have these issues, rattled me. Her honesty about how she struggled and dealt with the issues, settled me.

(Initially, I thought the information about my purchase of the book seemed silly here. After doing a search of today's news about the new FTC rules about reviews (it's up to you whether you deem this one or not) -- it's good to point out that I bought the book from my personal piggy bank.)

Now, off to something completely different ... The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. (Dear FTC - I borrowed this one from a friend).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Where did customer service go?

My husband and I recently purchased a remodeled house. It was built around 1930. So it's reaching eight decades of service. Cosmetically it's a great house, but there are a few "bone" issues we want to fix.

Enter into my life contractors, bidders and workers. And, a few headaches.

I lamented Wednesday about an 8 a.m. appointment that was late. It turns out the company schedules workers for a two-hour window. When I inquired about the delay, the clerk immediately put me in my place. "Oh, we schedule from 8 to 10 a.m. And, then they call you before they arrive."

"I didn't know that. We discussed they would be here at 8 a.m."

"It doesn't work that way," she said and rattled off their policy again explaining that I clearly had no room to complain, because that is their policy.

Some people get angry in traffic. I do not. Some people get angry in the grocery store. I do not. Some people get angry about customer service. Bingo! That's me.

I complained again to the clerk. I didn't care how many times she explained the policy to me in this moment, because she had not explained the policy to me when the appointment was made. I understood her point clearly. She didn't get my point.

"OK, so we just didn't communicate very well," I snapped.

"Do you need me to cancel the appointment?" the clerk asked.

Ah, the reality check. She had all the power. I could either wait or cancel. I waited.

When the gentleman arrived to give me an estimate, I explained my agitated state after the phone call. You know what he did? He explained their policy about the two-hour appointment system, too. He said the calls are recorded, so he could listen to it to verify his company's statements to me.

I laughed to myself. Will they call me back to tell me I'm wrong? This company schooled me twice Wednesday in their policy. A policy that I still don't recall being told about during my initial call.

Instead of lecturing me, you know what I wanted to hear as a customer? "Sorry for the confusion."