DON’T MESS WITH HEALTH CARE OR IT WILL MESS WITH YOU
By Christopher Cudworth
The local hospital system in our area just brought another health care system into the fold with a merger. Big medicine just keeps getting bigger. They tell us they have to merge to survive. Big fish eat little fish. But can you tell who’s eating who anymore?
The little guy can feel lost in the process. You check in, let them work on you and hope you can pay for it somehow. And don’t complain.
You should never complain about hospital mergers and health care insurance coverage. Not if you want to keep all your limbs and organs when you go to the Emergency Room.
Because imagine, if you sprain your ankle running or bust a collarbone on the weekend group ride, you’re at the mercy of the very system you dared to criticize. Then anything can happen.
You show up at the hospital and the EMTs are all sitting there with digital reading tablets listening as you check in. To hell with HIPPA laws. There’s no such thing as privacy anymore. That’s all a joke.
As the Emergency department checks you in, the EMTs all run a Google check on your name and up pops that Letter to the Editor written a year ago complaining that the cost of health care has gone up and the local hospital is partly to blame.
“Hmmm,” look at this, the EMTs quietly note, pointing to the story as their faces are illuminated by the glow of the tablets. “This guy thinks he knows more about health care than we do.”
Surgery and thensome
And before you know it, you’re getting rushed into surgery. Only things are different somehow. Instead of heading into the main hospital, they take you to a back room where the lamps are hung from the steel beams. The room looks suspiciously more like a converted parking deck than an operating room. Then they slosh a little orange medicine on your body and slap a soggy mask coated with ether over your face. The last words you hear are, “Nighty night, buddy.” You dream of chocolate chip ice cream.
Losing a little weight
When you awaken in a recovery room there are smiling nurses waiting for you to rouse. “Oh, you’re back, are you? Let’s get you on the scale.”
Woozy and a little disoriented, you are led by the arm from the cold hospital bed to a scale that looks like it should be on a cattle farm. You wonder if this is medical protocol. They prop you up on the scale and the long needle skinny needle flutters and wobbles over numbers that are so small you can barely read them. Somehow your eyes focus and you notice that you’ve lost 12 lbs from what you weighed the day before.
“Hey, that’s great!” you think. “Now I’ll be an even better climber in cycling than before. And I’ll probably set a PR in the half marathon!”
See, our the priorities of most of us who run and ride are pretty screwed up. But if you let them know you’re fine with the kind of treatment you’re getting, things get really weird.
Checking in. Again.
“How are you feeling?” the nurse asks.
“Fine,” you tell her. And suddenly another guy clamps an ether mask over your face and you drop like a piece of hot wax from a candle.
Sew ‘er up
2 hours later you wake up again with a pulsing feeling in your midsection. You look down to see a big white bandage across your bare belly and notice it has a big red cross on it. The bandage looks like something from World War II medicine, and the nurse is holding it down with some pressure.
“Sorry. You woke up a little soon. We’ll have you right in a minute.”
Someone pulls out duct tape and you hear that familiar ripping sound as they stretch and strap it around your middle, winding it round and round your midsection until the big white bandage is held firmly in place. You vaguely resemble the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. You feel about that weird, too.
“There you go buddy. You’re ready for discharge,” the nurse chirps. “But let’s weigh you one more time.”
They stand you on the scale and your eyes nearly roll back in your head. But somehow you feel kind of euphoric. Light in the head, you might say. You feel the top of your noggin’ and notice there’s a bandage there too.
“Perfect!” the nurse intones. “You’re down another 8 lbs.!”
“8 lbs.!” you think. “Now I could do Alpe du Huez in half the time it took me on that trip to France last year! At this rate of weight loss I could be a Tour rider with a little more training.”
They EMTs arrive and shove you into a wheelchair. Then they wheel you back out to the car in which you arrived and hand you the keys.
You ask if your collarbone or ankle or whatever it was that you came to get fixed is repaired.
“Sure,” the EMT says. “Whatever you want. Quit complaining. You’re lighter now and that’s all that matters, right?”
“True,” you mutter, thinking about all the potential PRs you can set now that you’re about 20 lbs lighter. “I guess it was all worth it.”
The meat wagon of health care
“Of course it was worth it,” the EMT says. “You don’t really need what we took out of you anyway. An organ or two, and a little brain matter. Science will really appreciate it. So will the organ donor community. You’ll be a little sore tomorrow, but don’t forget, you’re back to your college weight. Or something like that!”
You really can’t blame the health care world for looking at us like we’re all a pile of meat. If you saw people traipsing through your pretty hospital every day, tracking in dirt and sloughing their fat selves into your shining elevators, how would you feel? It’s hard for physicians too, especially the gyne and prostate docs. How many years of meat inspection can one person take before you get a little cynical and start to look at the entire populace like it was one long Meat Parade?
It’s all about the green
But now that’ you’re checking out of the Meat Processing Plant known as the local hospital, it’s time to pay the bill. Again, this is no criticism of the hospital or the health care system as a whole. We human beings really are little more than walking mounds of meat when you get right down to it.
And meat is expensive these days. The only thing more expensive per pound than meat is nuts. But we won’t go there. We’re all nuts, you see.
“Hey, thanks!” you mutter as they hand you a long piece of paper with all your medical reports on it.
“How much will all this cost me?” you ask.
“Not too much,” the administrator says with a smile. “The aftermarket on what we took out of your body should just about cover most of your costs,” the EMT says. “But we’ll have to see what your Scottish organs are worth on the world exchange. We’ll price you in the Distance Running and Cycling markets, but the Kenyans are kind of skewing the prices right now on Endurance Athlete Organs. We leave that to our marketing department, for the most part. And speaking of which, did you have a good experience with us today? Lose all the weight you’d like? Here’s a survey to fill out. Just drop it in the box over there when you’re through. We really don’t like this stuff going through the US Mail.”
So you see, the health care system is really about the free market and perceptions, in a way.
And you can complain about Obamacare and the cost of insurance, or the rising price of health care in America, but the System really is looking out for our welfare overall. Where else could you lose 20 lbs. in an afternoon and hardly get billed for the effort?
Those of us who run and ride appreciate service like that. You just need to learn to go with the flow and not mess with health care, or it will mess with you. Trust us on that. Will you?