Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Fear and Loathing in the Doctor's Office

"Don't touch a single thing."

Words from my mouth upon entering the doctor's office for my children's annual check ups.

The whole "state of fear" that our media and government has got us in has jaded me, altered my way of thinking, changed me forever. I no longer leave the house without a hefty supply of hand sanitizer in my purse. I check the kids' backpacks to make sure they have plenty of it too and, after reminding them not to lick their hands after using it (you'll get drunk!), I remind them to use it liberally. As in, every time you touch anything.

Since our pediatrician shares a space with the walk-in clinic, I was especially freaked out. I scanned the room for the most germ-free looking place to wait and sent the kids there, instructing them not to even breathe until I'd checked them in. I was happy to see that the staff had removed the gigantic toy (aka hot germy mess) that used to take up most of the floor space in the waiting area due to "that bad flu that's going around." At least that's what I overheard the receptionist telling a coughing and jumping young girl while we were waiting. I just prayed she didn't cough in our direction.

I looked people over ten times as they came through the door.

Is that person feverish?

Does that one have a cough?

Is that one wearing a mask and if so, why?

Are we all going to die?

Since when did bringing my kids to their check ups become such a terrifying experience?

Besides the whole H1N1 buzz in the air, this doctor's visit was much difference than previous ones. And I'm beginning to worry about the state of health care in this country, even though if you'd asked me before I would have told you that I had nothing to worry about. I've been shielded thus far from a generous health plan with low co-pays and prescription costs. We've had virtually everything paid for, every procedure, every test, everything. Our kids get seen as soon as needed and it's never been a problem making sure that they receive the best care available...until now.

"Welcome to the public option." Our doctor said to me when he told us they had no seasonal flu vaccine.

I could tell this bothered him. He explained that since the government took doses of the regular seasonal flu vaccine out to make the H1N1, that there were less doses available than prior years, with a visible concern I'd never before seen on his face - and he's been our pediatrician for as long as I've been a mother, almost 13 years. He assured us that his office was told they'd have it in late November, and to just call and we'd be able to get it then. But you could tell that this year, unlike any of the years before, was taking a toll on him, and not just because he was another year older - but because things are changing.

It's unavoidable.

And for the first time, I'm a little scared.

I'm scared that even though we currently have great, super, awesome and fantastic coverage, that's all going to change. It's hard to keep up on the specifics of each new health plan congress is proposing and now, hearing that they want to keep themselves "exempt" from the current one on the table, I'm a little concerned. Okay, I'm a lot concerned.

If it's not good enough for congress, how can it be good enough for my children? And your children? The their children?

And this isn't just about not being able to get a seasonal flu vaccine, it's about so much more. What happens when they can't see my kids when it's really needed? What happens when I need to go to the doctor and can't get an appointment? What happens if my grandmother can't get the protection she needs or my parents can't get coverage after they retire?

What then?

22 comments:

Every Day Goddess said...

I am with you. I am highly concerned, even more so when our paid politicians are going to keep their own plan and we can get what ever they vote in. I think we all should be very nervous right now.

Scout's Honor said...

I am so with you on both points my friend.

Had to take Eldest in to get xray and shrieked every time he touched a surface. There was a phlegmy kid touching everything and coughing on everything at front desk and I insisted he sit in corner and not touch a magazine. He literally was forced to wash his hands 20 times while we there. I probably washed 30 times. Now we were there for 2 hours. Didn't get seen until 45 minutes after we went to the exam room. Sigh. And it didn't help Eldest knew he was pushing buttons so would poke the toys in the exam room and gladly wash his hands just to see me freak out. FML.

Gah!

Also, right there with you on public option. It scares me. Terrifies me. I know people on the other side say their special med needs child isn't covered by private, but public, when our own elected officials want to opt out, does not seem good for the majority of Americans already covered? Not a good choice either. I cannot imagine the wait then...

~Scout

Mom Taxi Julie said...

You know they are saying that the flu isn't as bad as they are making it out to be right? It's a media circus.

SugarBritches said...

I don't know what then. My kids have insurance thru the State because we are below poverty level with me staying home. Don't ask me how we do this I don't know. We own a home, outright own two vehicles, and have no problem paying our bills, but still in poverty. So therefore the husband and I don't have insurance. I don't have a clue what would happen if we were forced to purchase it or risk fines. That seems ridiculous to me, but I guess we'll all see a new level in healthcare and coverage before long.

Momisodes said...

I hear you.

Even though we have health insurance, we're already running into many of those struggles.

Even though we have health insurance, we're draining our savings due to medical bills.

Things are getting downright frightening.

Liz said...

I'm sooo with you. The whole healthplan thing is terrifying!

Becky said...

i called my doc's office today about that vaccine. they said they'd have them in this month and to call back every week to check. so HOPEFULLY we can get them soon.

Anonymous said...

arghhh,

I have mediocre health care that my employer provides for me & then I pay for my husband and son, I am terrified of what this legislation can do to health care costs. It's not that I don't think everyone needs helath care- I think they do- I just don't think the government is the solution.

kl crab

Kendra said...

Health care is scary, isn't it? I'm suddenly facing some low-grade scary stuff of my own (though fortunately the kids are healthy) and plus the flu, plus the mounting copays. It's hard to know when to worry, when to take action (or what to do), and when to just accept the reality you're handed.

I hope, at the very least, that we have access to the H1N1 vaccine soon. I haven't even had the regular flu vaccine yet, and my husband is the only one in the family to have received the H1N1 vaccine (he's a health care worker). But we'll see.

wyliekat said...

FWIW, I live in the "public option", and there is plenty of the regular flu vaccine around. The H1N1 is a little harder, requiring a wait in a line, but if I really wanted it, I could get it for my family very easily, and for free.

Isabel said...

Isn't that what Purell is for?

(yeah, things are a little scary right now. Here's hoping it gets figured out soon. And that it's something that I can understand!)

Anonymous said...

We have been without coverage of any kind for about 4 years. Aside from true emergencies, it is amazing how little we really need to go to the doctor. Most all of us moms know how to take a temperature, how to give acetamenophin for a fever and catch congestion with decongestant and fluids before it causes infections in ears, nose and chests, etc.

Be one step ahead of a cold sending you to the doctor.

I've been forced due to circumstances to not use a doctor unless it is truly a life or death emergency and I have learned in it all how little we need doctors. There are so many natural ways to stay healthy and also to get healthy if we get sick. Much too often through doctors and prescriptions, we treat the symptom rather than solve the problem - so they keep us coming back for more.

Our health care expenses for the last 4 years for 5 people is about $200.00 in total, we do not get any type of health care aid, we are healthy even with a family member with a compromised immune system, we stay healthy naturally and are far from granola.

And just a heads up, the flu is airborne - hand sanitizers won't stop you from breathing it in.

Lisa said...

I do think that whatever politicians approve they should have to have the same thing.

I've been interested in how this public health option stuff will unfold. Hubbys insurance is SO shitty, I call it "why do we even bother" health insurance. (A few months ago I got a bill for $540. My insurance paid $40 of it and basically said, "The rest is all you. When I have a blood test I know I'm going to pay at least $150-200 out of pocket.) I sort of feel like the public option couldn't really be any worse for us. At least then there's an option. Because right now for what we're paying in, Cigna is screwing us royally. (Cigna is EVIL!)

Beth said...

Does it occur to anyone here they totally don't understand the difference between health INSURANCE and healthcare? Maybe if people didn't use their health INSURANCE like a medical care plan, we wouldn't be in this situation. Or, maybe if people who "can't afford doctor's visits" but can afford tatoo's, cigarettes and alcohol were caused to pay, those of us that pay for our medical could be left alone. PS- quit using hand sanitizer and have your alcohol in a fun-shaped glass, with a lime twist. You do realize that stuff is more dangerous than the germs you come in contact with, right?

carrie said...

So what you're saying, if I'm reading your comment right Beth, is that it's all the fault of people abusing the system and none of the blame should be placed on the inflated practices and greed of the insurance companies?

I just want to clarify.

Whatever the reason, the change in our experience was obvious. And I know we aren't the only ones. We pay a lot for good insurance and we're lucky, I know. But that doesn't mean that others aren't entitled to the same treatment. The system is broken and has been for a long time...all it's finally catching up with ALL of us.

I don't have the answers - wouldn't even begin to know where to begin. I'm just worried. :(

And the hand sanitizer is perfectly safe if you don't ingest it - which my kids know not to do.

carrie said...

Thank you, anonymous, for sharing your experience in keeping your family healthy.

I agree, people go to the doctor for a lot of trivial reasons and even if for peace of mind, sometimes it's best to just use good ol common sense.

And thank you, I know the flu is airborne - but killing the germs that we touch on doorknobs and shopping carts in public places is still on my radar. ;)

carrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hi there -
I don't know how I came across this blog, but I just have to say that I'm really disappointed to read so many comments about people just concerned about themselves. This is going to sound preachy, but I'm going to say it anyway, given the tenor of the discussion here: your fear about getting adequate care for your family, Carrie, is already a terrible reality for far too many people in this country (many of whom take at least as good care of themselves as those of you who have excellent insurance options).

All the middle-class hysteria over the possibility of a public option has ignored a simple fact: the insurance lobby is way too powerful for any *truly* socialized healthcare to come to pass (at least for now). Those of you who have "great, super, awesome, fantastic" coverage -- bully for you, by the way! you must be *better* people overall than the majority of the country, to "deserve" such great coverage -- are not going to see that change. For the foreseeable future, those who can pay a little more for it (or whose employers can pay a little more for it) will still have better access to their doctors and to meds than those who are enrolled in some kind of public option. As Obama keeps saying like a broken record, to soothe all the middle-class, reasonably healthy folks who are scared they're going to be forced out of their comfort zone, you can *keep* the insurance you currently have, and I'd bet you a million that whatever fantastic plan you're on is not going to be an affordable option for droves of new enrollees who'll be taking up your doctor's time.

Off the soapbox now...I'm assuming that you're a perfectly nice person who wants what's best for your family. So are the rest of us. I'm a white middle-class Midwesterner too and I live as cleanly as possible - no caffeine, no smoking, organic food whenever I can, maybe one glass of wine per week - and start popping zinc whenever my daughter comes home with the sniffles. The difference between you and me (on this point, at least) is that I had a stem-cell transplant for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma when I was 22 -- there's no way *anybody* can call that my fault -- and ever since then, I've been slightly more likely than the average person to get sick despite all my precautions, and I have serious fatigue/attention-deficit that prevents me from working full-time (and now I'm not finding even part-time work in this economy).

Until recently, therefore, I had to be on one of the state high-risk pools, and that was very poor, very expensive coverage indeed. I don't know exactly what the answer to the healthcare crisis is either -- but the crisis is very real, and even your "fantastic" coverage is going to be unsustainable if the Powers That Be don't come up with some kind of workable solution soon (what with more and more people like me being such an unfortunate drag on the otherwise "awesome" system). The fact that insurance is exclusively tied to employment is Mistake Number One.

I understand where you're coming from. I just think less fearmongering should be the order of the day, esp. among us moms, who are already scared about enough everyday things as it is.

carrie said...

Seriously Anonymous????

Seriously?

If you'd taken the time to read my post more carefully and not jump to your own conclusions based on who knows what, you'd read that I was not overreacting to the whole insurance thing as much as entering a germy doctor's office with my kids (there for regular check ups like perfectly normal, insurance or no insurance people do) which is RIGHT NEXT to the walk-in office in the beginning of flu season.

Just because I have "awesome fantastic" insurance (which we work VERY hard for and pay for as well) does not mean that I'm "immune" to what the rest of the country/world has to go through if they aren't covered under a plan.

If you knew ANYTHING about me, or read this w/out freaking out, you'd know that.

But then you didn't...did you?

Be well. And it might help if you used your name so that I could have a "conversation" with a REAL person and not someone hiding behind "anonymous."

Anonymous said...

Good responses, Carrie.

This person does seem to have seized upon your blog & the ensuing discussion to vent. Perhaps a well placed letter to the EDITOR or the person's elected representative would be in order.. instead of the anonymous comments.

The debate goes on.

I am waiting to see the GOP plan.. where is it?

No cheap shots, please.

xxxooomom, NOT anonymous

katz said...

Carrie:

You haven't answered the anonymous blogger's initial objection.

Why are you only worried about yourself and your family? Why don't you worry about the other families in America, the ones who don't have good health coverage, the ones for whom "What happens when they can't see my kids when it's really needed? What happens when I need to go to the doctor and can't get an appointment? What happens if my grandmother can't get the protection she needs or my parents can't get coverage after they retire?" are not hypothetical questions, but daily realities they already face?

carrie said...

Katz,

Thanks for asking - but this post was not about the state of America's ENTIRE health situation and the fact that it's ALREADY broken for many, many people (of which I am well aware). It was about how things may and are changing for ME and MY family.

Now, that said -

Just because I describe MY experience, does not mean that I am unsympathetic to the plights that other people are experiencing. I write very tongue-in-cheek here and have for as many years as I've been blogging. I suggest that before anyone decide they are going to ASSUME they understand my thoughts and feelings on something so important as health care, that they first understand what they are reading - one blogger's thoughts on a tiny, tiny snippet of this whole mess we are all facing.

So, to answer your question, I do care about other people. And I do think about how hard it is. And I do understand that my family has it relatively easy compared to a lot of people (but like I already said, we work and pay for our insurance). But that doesn't mean that I can't talk about how things are changing for us. Everything is relative to your own experience and it really bothers me when people make assumptions on a person's character without any reason to.

I do not have to defend myself to this person. I'm sorry if I sound unfeeling towards other people in this post, it wasn't my intention. I'd really like to understand why this ticked you off?