This diary is crossposted from They Gave Us a Republic where it is the third post in a three-part series. Links to the first two posts are in the very first sentence.  –BG


I have been something of a broken record over the last month or so, insisting that the rest of the country should be so lucky as to have the government take over their health care, and I speak from experience.

Yesterday I had surgery on your dime. One week after being seen by the specialist and surgeon in one appointment that I had to wait a mere three days for, and I didn’t have to get a referal to the specialty clinic from my PCP. Nor did I have to get any pre-authorizations from an insurance company to see a specialist and have a procedure.

There were no middlemen anywhere standing between me and my care team.

I have already told you about the recurring problem that took me to the OR yesterday, so today I will just tell you about the experience.

Same-day surgery starts about 0500, and the elderly and diabetics go first. Younger and healthier people who can tolerate a longer fast go later in the morning. I was scheduled to arrive at 0700 with an 0830 procedure. Of course that didn’t happen and I did not expect it to. I know that a doctor doesn’t leave one patient before he or she is finished to go on to the next. So I dropped my netbook in my backpack and headed out the door about 6:30 to catch an express bus at the end of my block that would take me to Union Station where I caught the bus that serves Hospital Hill, and walked in to the outpatient surgery waiting room and registered at 7:05. I answered the series of questrions that would be repeated five more times before going to the OR and after identifying myself (DoB, MR#) they put a patient ID wristband on my left wrist and a drug allergy wristband on my right. Then I took a seat, popped the little guy open, logged on to the hospital’s wifi and smacked David Broder around a little bit while I waited my turn.  About the time I was finishing that, my husband caught up with me – he had stayed home to get Zoe off to school. (That is our job – by the time she wakes up for school, her mom has been at work for two hours already.)

About twenty minutes later, they called me back and I was prepped. The nurse who was prepping me took my vitals, asked the series of questions again, gave me a gown and booties to change into, took my clothes and put them in a locker and did a pregnancy test to make sure that I could safely be anesthetized and disn’t have a stroke on the spot. Then the anesthesiologist came to talk to me and ask the same list of questions. Another nurse came in and set my IV – and when I told her where I have a nice big fat vein on my forearm that runs between two muscles and never infiltrates, she was more than happy to listen and set it there.  As soon as the IV was set, they brought my husband back to the room where I was waiting and he stayed with me until they took me to the OR about twenty or thirty minutes later.

About two and a half hours later, I woke up and a nurse greeted me with the news that it was all over, it went great, and if I didn’t have any nausea or vomiting, they would discharge me in about an hour. I drank ice water, didn’t feel nauseous and about an hour later they moved me back to the pre-op area where my husband was waiting. He called our daughter to come pick us up and we started signing page after page after page of discharge paperwork.  About the time we were done, patient transport showed up with a wheelchair and I was wheeled out to my daughter’s car. We stopped at Costco to fill my prescription for pain meds, and I was home by 1:15.

It cost us a grand total of $10.51 out of pocket.

Today, before noon, I had received a courtesy call from the hospital, as well as a call from the physician who did the surgery. When he asked if there was anything he could do for me I asked him if he could dial my pain med back to Vicodin from Percocet because that was more pain med than needed. He agreed and asked for the number to my pharmacy.

So here I am, a day post-op, I feel great, I have no pain because my doctor prescribed appropriate palliatives, but most importantly, I am not worried about a flurry of bills from various provider’s bookkeeping departments filling my mailbox in a month after the insurance either pays or refuses to.

In a traditional fee-for-service setting, the hospital would bill the insurance company and I would be liable for 20%.

The Anesthesia group would bill the insurance company and I would get a bill for 20%.

The lab would bill the insurance company and I would get a bill for 20%.

The surgeon would bill the insurance company and I would get a bill for 20%.  

So instead of laying in bed worrying about coming up with a couple grand to pay my share in a timely fashion and keep it from going to collections and trashing my credit, I have a peace of mind that lets me concentrate on thinking good thoughts and healing. (Once I’m healed it will no longer be uncomfortable to type, and I can get back to work. I’m shooting for Monday, although my stitches don’t come out until next Wednesday.)

And damnit, it isn’t fair, and it infuriates me to no end that everyone in the country doesn’t have the peace of mind and feeling of security about their healthcare that we have. My husband and I have, on more than one occasion, talked about that oath to protect this country and her citizens from all enemies, foreign and domestic. And as far as we are concerned, the biggest enemy the people of this country face is not terrorism or al Qaeda or Iranian nukes. The greatest enemy we face is a broken and failing healthcare system that eats up one-sixth of our economy and threatens our stability as a nation.

I believe that access to quality, affordable healthcare is a basic human right, that no one should have to choose between food or medicine, rent or a needed procedure – and I will never budge off that position. That is why I will say it again…and keep saying it until it catches on: THIS SH*T NEEDS TO BE UNIVERSAL.