Conversation with Healthcare Workers Who Care

YesterdayI needed an echo cardiogram and while it was being done I had an interesting conversation with the echo technician who has been working with echo readers for 40 years. The conversation was about healthcare costs over the years and how it has upset her. She was very much concerned that Obamacare will make the situation a lot more expensive and less productive than it already is, I asked her when the healthcare industry shifted from concerning about the welfare of the patients to a money grabbing business and she pinpointed the time as when most of the healthcare insurance companies shifted from mutual companies to stock companies. Since then there has been huge increases in healthcare costs that do not seem to want to end.

The Tech told me that there are many patients out there that are poor and needed medical assistance “We always would provide it. We often did not get paid but that was our professional responsibility. We were proud to be able to help. Everyone got the help they needed. But this dedication to our profession has been slowly taken away from us and it is more a more about money and less and less about service. Those of us who see your jobs as professionals who care about meeting the needs of the public are more and more disillusioned. We see people turned away. People being over charged for services that we did in the doctors office that are now being done in the hospital for prices we cannot even afford. At this point she took a deep breath and thought for a moment.

“Now Obamacare comes along and requires everyone to get health insurance and they have to do that because the profession no longer cares about the public. It is all money and they want more and more of it. Now that the poor will have health insurance through medicaid or through a subsidized policy that they get from the exchange the hospitals and the other expensive parts of they system will make more money than ever before. They will no longer write off the fees for services for poor people and they will get paid a lot of money and in the end it will be the middle class who will pay for it with higher taxes. The damn system is nothing more than a government guaranteed collocation program for the rich doctors and the hospitals.

I found the conversation enlightening because she presented an unique analysis to the Affordable Healthcare Act. Historically the US had a strange type of socialized medicine. One way or another everyone got the healthcare they needed. It was done by a number of dedicated healthcare officials who cared for their patients and strived to do the best they could for the public and the country. But slowly over the last 15 years this attitude has disappeared . Today more and more doctors and health facilities are doing less and less charity work. You can see this trend by calling your doctor’s office and when the voice answering machine picks up the phone it will say “If this is a life threatening emergency call 911” which is a polite term for do not call us if you are real sick and do not have health insurance.

The first thing they ask you when you go to a doctor’s office is to see your healthcare cards. The first thing they ask you at a outpatient treatment center is to see your healthcare cards. They ask for it even if you were there the day before.

About six months ago I had an appointment with a doctor at the Martha Jefferson hospital in Charlottesville. After the exam I had to go to the out patient center for a blood test. Before I met with the doctor I had to show my insurance cards. It takes more time and money to check and process the healthcare insurance information than for the doctor examination. I then went across the street for the blood test and when I got to the out patient lab the first thing they asked to see was the insurance cards. I noticed there were a lot of people in the waiting room and I soon realized that they were waiting tnot for the nurse to do the blood test bu to clear the health insurance inspection. The wait time was estimated at about 30 to 40 minuets. Here I am in the same facility as where the doctor is located. He is part of the hospital system and it was only 20 minuets ago that they checked the healthcare cards.

But the hospital is so hung up with making sure that every patient has health insurance that they have to recheck and recheck and waste a lot of my time. I walked out, went home and called the doctor. I left a message on the phone that they are to send the order for the test to my primary care doctor and I will do it there. They know who I am, they have the insurance information in the computer and all I had to do is to walk the three blocks to the doctor’s office and wait about ten minuets for the nurse. The doctor told me he was glad to do the test but questioned whether it was really necessary because he had already done it when I last went to him. All they had to do was call his office for the lab results. The other interesting thing is that medicare paid him a lot less for the test that the fee the hospital would get.

In the end, I guess my disgust with the outpatient facility worked for the best because the next time I had to go there for a routine blood test they promptly got to me and I was out of there is about ten minuets. I guess in the end they realized that they were not going to get my business and then over charge medicare without being attentive to me needs.

There is another story I can tell about the insanity to our healthcare system. In the mid 1990′s my law office had a health insurance policy with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Virginia. At the time the company was a mutual company that was owned by the policy holders. The company decided to change from the mutual company to a stock company and did it by issuing stock to all the policy holders. The firm ended up with a few shares that had a market value that approached zero. I put the stock certificates that they sent to me away someplace and because they were valued at close to zero I forgot about them. Fifteen years later I got a strange letter asking how the firm wanted to vote our shares of stock in Wellpoint. I never heard of the company and was about to throw the letter into the trash thinking it was a crazy form of advertisement when my curiosity got the best of me. I then checked out the company, found it was a health insurance company and felt that it may be related to the common stock I got from Blue Cross and Blue Shield years before.

It took some time but I put it all together. It turned out that the original company merged with another company and that was followed by a number of other mergers. It turned out the partnership owned a lot of stock in Wellpoint and that there were some cash payments to the stockholders with some of the mergers. It turned out that there was cash and Wellpoint stock amounting to about $80,000 was owned by the partnership. I call John Linarelli, my old partner who was in California teaching at a law school that we had to reopen the old partnership and make a claim for the money and the stock. Everyone patted me on the back for holding on to the stock and told me that the change from a mutual company to a stock company really made sense. I doubted this and I then pulling out old files on the health care costs of the business since the company changed to a stock company and noticed a huge increase in healthcare costs.

Overall the increase in costs was significantly higher than the $80,000 bonus. Which meant that in the long run I ended up paying a lot more than $80,000 for health insurance for the office staff which came out of my profits. Also during that period there was a huge unconscionable increase in the salaries of the CEO’s and upper management which leads me to believe the reason for the change in corporate structure was to make it easier for the CEO’s to rip off the policy holders.

The system smell like a dead fish. It is time to change it. Join the Revolution and your voice will be heard.