July 21, 2009


I've been seeing Steven Crowder on TV a lot, and I thought I'd expand on this post from the other day. If you haven't seen his exposé on Canadian health care, you can watch it here.

I just thought I'd recap some of my experiences, which aren't that far off from what Crowder went through in Canada.  A "greatest hits," if you will, of the past two years of my life.

I've already done my listing of terrible bedside manner I've encountered over the years, but let's see if we can dig up some more gems.

I wish my husband wasn't unreachable in Afghanistan, because he has some good stories too.  I seem to remember him needing a physical a while back and thinking he had a 7 AM appointment.  It turns out that 7 AM was just the cattle call: every soldier who needed a physical that day turned up at 7 AM to sit and wait his turn.  I remember him saying there was a sign in the room that said something to the effect of "Have a seat; this WILL take all day."  Heh.

Sean Hannity expressed surprise that Crowder had to take a number like it was a butcher shop or something.  We take a number so often in the military life that I didn't even bat an eye at that.  In fact, I take a number every week when I go in to get my bloodwork done.

In my experience, I have had trouble getting actual human beings to answer my questions and give me the help I need.  Last year when I had Miscarriage #2:

I went home.  And the next day, which was Friday, I was supposed to get a phone consultation with the doctor and a prescription filled.  I called at 10 AM and left a message.  I called at noon and left another message on a different machine.  An hour later, I got a call back from one nurse, saying she'd follow up and make sure my prescription got filled.  At 2 PM, I called the advice nurse and asked if she knew what was going on.  At 3:30, the advice nurse goes home.  At 4:20, no one is answering the phones in reception any more.  At 4:30, you can no longer leave messages on voicemail.  I called the pharmacy: no prescription had been called in.  And now it was the weekend.  My mother said, "You mean NO ONE is available to help you on the weekend?"

My mother was freaking out.  "This is how things work for you?  You haven't talked to a human being all day long, just answering machines!"  But for me, this was totally normal.  I never talk to human beings when I call the hospital.  I don't even know how to call a human being, save the advice nurse.  In fact, that's why I called her in the afternoon, just because she's the only human being I know how to reach!  My mom was shocked that someone, anyone!, didn't call me during the day to let me know what was going on.

My husband called from Iraq at 5:15 PM to see how things were going.  Five minutes later, the doctor beeped in.  I had to hang up with my husband from Iraq to talk to the doctor!  If that doesn't suck, I don't know what does.

Sometimes I've had trouble getting an actual human being to remember I'm being cared for.  During Miscarriage #1, they wheeled my hospital bed back to the ultrasound room, and when they were done, they left me in the hallway and said somebody would take me back to the ER.  Well, somebody forgot.  They left me lying there alone in a hallway after just telling me my baby was dead for an hour.  I begged anyone who walked by me to call someone to come get me, but still no one came.

Waiting...yep, I'm familiar with it.

A few months ago I went to the weekend clinic because I thought I might have strep throat.  I had an appointment but still had to wait an hour past my appointment time to be seen.  He looked at my throat, said he would test for strep, and sent me home.  I was to call in 48 hours for the results, and if it was strep, they would then give me antibiotics.  I called two days later and got an answering machine that said to leave a message and someone would call me back with my results within 48 hours.  Two more days later, they called and said I didn't have strep.  By that time, my symptoms had pretty much gone away, but thank heavens I didn't have strep, because then I would've had to go back in to get the meds.  Four days to let me know if I had strep.  The reason I went in on the weekend is because I deal with children in my job and didn't want to pass strep to them.

And we have the Canadian-style waiting that Crowder experienced.  I had to go to the ER on a Friday night back in January:

Since it was a Friday night and I wouldn't be able to reach my doctor or nurse until Monday, we decided we'd better head to the ER. Luckily we ate dinner first, because we had no idea what we were in for.

I expected to be there until midnight. I didn't expect to be there until 4:30 AM. During that time, I had less than ten minutes of actual medical care -- take blood pressure, ask about my symptoms, quick pelvic exam -- and was eventually told...drumroll..."Geez, I don't know anything about fertility stuff, so just call your doctor Monday morning."

In the meantime, while we were sitting around all night, I also wrote about the family next to us:

The gist is that the daughter had a chronic problem that had been happening for months. The parents were separated and the mother was "too lazy" to make the kid an appointment. The dad said that he works here in the hospital and had asked colleagues about his daughter's problem, but since it persisted, they wanted to have it checked out.

On a Friday night. In the ER.

There was no emergency, no sudden change in her condition that made them feel that treatment was necessary, nothing like that. This dad just brought his three kids in to spend the night in the ER. My husband and I were there for eight hours, until 5 AM, and this family had arrived before us and was still there when we left.

That is not an emergency.

This family was clogging up the ER and making me and, more importantly, other people with more pressing problems wait longer. They were sapping resources. If you work in the hospital, can't you find the time to make an appointment for your daughter? Why are you taking care of a child's chronic health problem in the middle of the night on a Friday?

Because you don't have to pay anything either way, that's why.

Why make a regular doctor's appointment during the week, and have to ask for time off work and take the kid out of school, when you could just bring everyone to camp out in the ER all night. There is no cost difference, so it's just easier to do it off hours.

No wonder it took me so long to be seen. And I feel even worse for the guy with the gall stones; he really would've liked to have been treated faster.

I am sure that this family isn't the only one of its kind. They bog down the system for all of us. A problem that's been going on for three months is not something that requires ER care on a weekend. Make a normal appointment and free up that ER doctor for someone who really needs him.

And that, I think, is the crux of the problem.  We don't pay for any of our care, so for most people, it's easier to take care of things on nights and weekends than it is to do it during the week.  What's the difference, we don't pay either way.  And I'm guilty of abusing the system as well: if I had had to pay $100 to go in and find out if I had strep or not, I probably wouldn't have.  I would've taken a cough drop and dealt with it.  But I used resources because they were free.

Or at least, free to me.  Somebody paid.

After Miscarriage #2, the doctor was telling me my options.  These words actually came out of his mouth: "Well, we could do another D&C surgery, but that costs the taxpayers an awful lot of money, so maybe you could consider miscarrying naturally?"

Don't let anyone tell you that medical decisions won't be made based on cost once the government is in charge.  I have already experienced it firsthand in the military system.

Posted by: Sarah at 07:32 AM | Comments (15) | Add Comment
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1 Mr Blackfive is on Glenn Beck tonight to discuss VA, TRi-Care etc...I forwarded him this post....

I hope he reads it..

Posted by: awtm at July 21, 2009 10:39 AM (z1/lR)

2 AWTM, can you imagine if Sarah were mentioned on Glenn Beck? "Here's a story by a military wife who's experienced socialized medicine firsthand ..." Then he reads part of her post. And what if that clip were immortalized on YouTube?

Posted by: Amritas at July 21, 2009 01:02 PM (+nV09)

3 When I worked in a MN clinic we had numerous Canadian patients that paid out-of-pocket for cardiac surgery because they had been put on several year waiting lists in Canada. 2-3 years to wait for open-heart surgery? I can't even begin to say how ridiculous that is. AWTM, I hope he reads it too!

Posted by: Susan at July 21, 2009 01:10 PM (Y8ZGj)


I called my insurance company to ask which ER I should go to because I was having chest pain (from indigestion) they told me to dial 911. Which I was not going to do in the city. I took a cab instead. People had been waiting for so long they were ordering Chinese food and having it delivered to the ER waiting room.

But on the other hand when I was pregant and they thought it might be ectopic I got an emergency appt that day with the head of the practice (my friend who is a doc at that hospital was shocked they didn't give me to an intern), plus a trans vaginal and a regular ultrasound that day. No waiting.

I bitch about how expensive my insurance is but I will gladly pay for it.

And for the record I wanna punch that doctor.

Posted by: Mare at July 21, 2009 01:40 PM (HUa8I)

5 Don't let anyone tell you that medical decisions won't be made based on cost once the government is in charge.

Shhhh, Sarah, don't give away our game!

We think of all the money wasted on caring for Omegas, even Gammas and Betas. There are millions and millions of you and so few of us Alphas. If our freeee healthcare harms or even kills some lesser Omericans, we don't care. We can always import millions more from Mexico. And we are sure millions of Afghans and Iraqis would love to join our forces when they flee the Middle East. Imagine your tax dollars paying for Taliban freedom fighter healthcare in your town! Only we elites deserve the best treatments - funded by you. The rest are expendable.

"Half of China may well have to die" - Mao

To keep costs down, we could license 'doctors' from fly-by-night medical 'schools'. Maybe even a few witch doctors. Literally. Anyone who objects must be anti-diversity and arrested by the civilian security fOrce. Omerica will only be following in the footsteps of South Africa:

A sangoma is a practitioner of herbal medicine, divination and counselling in traditional Nguni (Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swazi) societies of Southern Africa (effectively an African shaman) ...

Public health specialists are now enlisting sangomas in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS ...

Sangomas far outnumber western-style doctors in Southern Africa, and are consulted first (or exclusively) by approximately 80% of the indigenous population.

Just imagine ... socialist sangomas! You'll pay for them, and yet they'll be 'free'!

Posted by: kevin at July 21, 2009 01:54 PM (+nV09)

6 Sarah, each of your stories shocked me when I read them in isolation, but

... when they're compiled into one post ...

... when I realize that you're not an exception, that there are many others who've gone through the same things ... or worse ...

I don't know what to say other than "no" to socialized medicine.

There are things I admire about the military, but this is definitely not one of them!

Posted by: Amritas at July 21, 2009 02:39 PM (+nV09)


A comment on the ER situation:

At our hospital, folks would go to the ER because for non-emergent, but still urgent care that they needed to be seen for they couldn't get an appointment within two weeks to be seen.  I'd call and say I need an appointment for my 1 year old who has a 104 degree fever.  They'd say, "Hmmm...  let's look at Peds.  We have an appointment for a month from tomorrow.  Will that work?"  Well of course that wouldn't work.  When I finally, 6 months in, came to terms with the fact that I had PPD, it was a month before I could get in to see my doctor.  That was a LONG month. 

So on base here, people would go to the ER for non-emergent care because the clinics couldn't or wouldn't see us in a timely manner.  It was the only way we could be seen sometimes!  And so yeah--you gotta believe the works were junked up. 

And then don't get me started on the restrictions they impose on making appointments.  You have to call at the right time--beause after the doctor releases their schedule, it's filled up for a month within two days, but if you call for a regular care appointment that you know you're going to need a month or even 2 weeks early to be sure you'll get in they'll say, "I'm sorry.  We can't make appointments out that far." 

So that's my experience.  And, like you, because of my experience with military medicine, though God knows the 'price' has been a Godsend for us, I am firmly AGAINST universalized medicine--and that's even considering my lefty leanings.

Posted by: Val at July 22, 2009 11:31 AM (5btL/)

8 I tell people all the time that yeah it'd be nice if everyone had healthcare but they DO.NOT.WANT. what we get.  My doctor in bootcamp held an x-ray of my leg up to the ceiling light while he was seated at his desk and told me my leg wasn't broken (it was, in two places).  Then he scheduled my next appointment for while he was on leave, which I only found out after I walked a mile and a half on the still broken leg to the clinic the day of my appointment.  When I stood there in tears from the pain and asked the receptionist if I could see a different doctor, I was told no because he WAS my doctor.  And what was I supposed to do?  It's not like I could take my business elsewhere or complain to anybody who actually cared.  It didn't even get casted for another five months when it was still broken and I failed my sea duty screening--which is the ONLY reason they allowed it to be casted.  All told, three separate breaks and ten months to heal.  Yeah, I want that for everybody!

Posted by: Ann M. at July 22, 2009 09:59 PM (+GQ3g)

9 I've spent almost my entire life going to the Naval hospital here in town . . .  I have a LOT of stories!  I was safe and happy in the OB department, which seems to have its act together.  I wanted to stay as far away from Family Practice (or whatever they call it now) as I could.

So far, my favorite doctors are the civilians who work there.

Posted by: Deltasierra at July 23, 2009 01:55 AM (unCAk)


I remember when developed a sinus infection right out of basic training and had that infection for eight months.  Doctor after doctor refused to give me antibiotics.  Most insisted that I would go into septic shock, even though I had antibiotics for various diseases my whole life.  Some claimed that prescribing me antibiotics would cause my body to mutate into an antibiotic-resistant blob, consuming millions of innocent victims before a new strain could be found.

The prescription was constantly "just take some over the counter antihistamines."  When I would begin to tolerate them, they would tell me to increase the dosages.  I took OTC antihistamines for so long I started having terrible nightmares and sleep problems, psychological problems, tremors, sweats.

Finally after eight months, one single military doctor prescribed antibiotics.  Within a week my nose had cleared up.  Depending on who you talk to the psychological and sleep issues took several months to improve, some of my friends and family claim I am different to this day.

Posted by: Phang at July 23, 2009 06:37 PM (5YBfn)

11 It's probably worth noting that the a significant portion of TriCare's customer base--the active duty military--is noticeably healthier on average than most of the citizenry.  They had to be pretty healthy to get in, they have to stay pretty healthy (and pretty active) (and relatively thin) to stay in.  And yet the stories I read (and have lived) demonstrate a level of care that many civilians would find absolutely unacceptable.

What happens when the same universal coverage is applied to the general civilian populace?  Does anyone really think that their satisfaction with their health care is going to improve?


Posted by: Sig at July 23, 2009 08:56 PM (unCAk)

12 My spouse was an Air Force doc until recently.  It is really easy to view the military MD as an evil villian and civilian docs working for Tri-
Care as heroes.   But the civ docs are like any civ working on base...it is a pretty sweet gig .... you get the benefits of working for a system without having the lawyers breathing down your neck and often a lot of benefits usually reserved to military members with the added benefit of treating a patient population that MUST comply or at least will be pressured to.....WITHOUT having to answer to administrative command who hold your entire career and lives in their hand and without having to live with deployments, recalls and constant SNAFU politically based policy shifting.  They punch in and punch out....something most docs working in the private sector can't even do.
The worst thing for medical care is to make it totally free.....medicaid patients are horribly (and accurately) notorious for abusing and clogging up the medical system.  Example:  The guy who walked into my husband's ER with a rash at 2AM (!).  When asked how long he had had it........A COUPLE OF MONTHS! nice...

Posted by: hillbilly mama at July 25, 2009 12:07 AM (REtDW)

13 Sig,

What happens when the same universal coverage is applied to the general civilian populace?  Does anyone really think that their satisfaction with their health care is going to improve?

Civilians can pretty much get away with being ignorant about the military but this is one instance where a lack of knowledge could lead to a lot of hurt. None of the arguments I've heard for socialized health care ever bring up the military, probably because those who make those arguments know nothing about the military.

hillbilly mama,

Thanks for writing,

It is really easy to view the military MD as an evil villain

My mother is a civilian who has worked with military medical personnel for years. Most are good, while some are ... not as good. However, that describes people in general. The problem is not "evil" MDs - military or civilian - but the pitfalls inherent in a 'free' government-run health care system.

Posted by: Amritas at July 25, 2009 01:56 AM (h9KHg)

14 I will add that my military dentist in Germany was the best dentist I've ever had.  The optometrist, not so much.  I don't generally worry whether the doctor wears a uniform or not.

Posted by: Sarah at July 25, 2009 09:20 AM (TWet1)


I've been told by military Dr.s before that they don't care about their patients. They get paid the same amount whether or not they come in to work and even if they do their job right. They're not making the same money as civilian Dr.s, so why should they care.

They butchered my son in a surgery. They've told me for yrs that I'm depressed, etc so they don't have to waste time on me. Turns out that I'm not depressed, but have some major intestinal bacterial infection. They still after a yr. can't find what's causing it to continue. No one cares.

However, until the libs have their way with the health care, we're getting more civilian Dr.s in the military hospitals. They are paid more to care and you can clearly see the difference if you're lucky enough to see one.

Posted by: Lisa Keyser at July 25, 2009 12:29 PM (uvsIW)

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