Saturday, January 31, 2009

Medical Hell, Part II: I Wish I Were a Dog

Our medical system is so badly broken, we would all be better off if we were all dogs or cats. I do not say that sarcastically; I believe my pets have received far superior medical care to what I have received, and at a far lower cost. We would do better to simply scrap our entire system, and replace it with what we give our pets.

My dog can get an appointment for a check-up within a day or two. I have to wait several months. My dog can see a specialist within a few days. Again, I wait for months. His wait at the emergency room is a fraction of mine. Moreover, his vet spends time with him and with me, explaining the situation, offering various options and even sympathizing when times are hard. Our vet returns phone calls. He even gave us his cell phone number, without me asking. Our vet also hands me all the medications my dog needs, without having to go to a pharmacy. Most importantly, our vet seems at least as knowledgable as any doctor I have met. The nurses I encountered while in the hospital were so bad I would have been better off without them. Doctors often seem to know their stuff, but spend so little time with each patient that it hardly matters. In every respect, our pets get far better medical care than we do.

The cost of this service is far lower than what we pay. My dog was hospitalized for five days, and the total cost was $1,900. I was in the hospital for 12 hours, and the co-pay to the hospital was over $3,000. The doctor charged me separately. Moreover, those are the amounts that I paid personally, with insurance. The insurance company paid more, and I paid the insurance company premiums every month for the privilege of paying those prices.

I am not sure why our medical system is so badly broken. Some might point to the high cost of medical malpractice insurance. While the cost is indeed high, it is not nearly high enough to play a material role in causing the problems we face. Perhaps different kinds of people become veterinarians rather than doctors. Maybe it is the absurd bureaucracy created by the insurance companies that has broken our medical system. It could be that the massive amount we spend on the last six months of life bogs the system down, whereas our pets euthenized when that is the merciful thing to do. I certainly am not qualified so say what is causing the problem, but I can say this: nex time I need medical care, I will be wishing I were a dog.

No comments: