I have been grumping about this for a few weeks now and now am ready to rant.
Sometime in the past decade the medical ‘profession’ changed from being a profession into an industry. I had had the same doctor in NY for 10 years so I didn’t notice it until I came to TX. Now, I am aware that TX is a ‘business state’. It is a state in which businesses are considered persons and the corporate fervor that has invaded the economic system of the USA is writ large. But the whole issue of health care is problematic here.
First of all, it is almost impossible to find an established doctor who will take Medicare as primary insurance. And since Medicare doesn’t allow the retired to use it as secondary from the get-go, seniors find it difficult to follow their grandchildren to the great state. Secondly, when you call a doctor for an appointment, you must provide information about your insurance first. There is no question about your ailment, your disability, not even your name. You are asked for your birth date before anything else so that they can tell you that they don’t take Medicare.
Doctors and dentists now want to be paid BEFORE they examine you. Dentists, especially. Then before even seeing you they take x-rays, or do blood work before they even know what is wrong. They evidently think that the tests will tell them what is wrong. What’s wrong with just LISTENING TO the patient? But doctors are no longer professionals. They are employees or extensions of Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies. Today, your doctor does not even know your name unless it comes up on the computer in front of them.
Many years ago when I started teaching, the teaching endeavor was considered a profession. Teachers were respected as people who cared for the children of a society. But somewhere in the early 70’s teaching was organized, first by the NEA and then unionized. They began collective bargaining and the profession was denigrated to that of Labor. What once was a noble profession became a mechanical job of baby sitting with lots of papers to fill out. It was no longer the work of the teacher to challenge young minds. It became a job that taught to tests and teach by rote.
The medical profession used to be filled by noble men and women who cared about the people that came to them. They were a respected part of the wider social community and people you could turn to when there was someone in need. Here in TX I have encountered doctors who take great delight that they only work 3 days a week for a corporation that says that you can only meet with your patient for 10 minutes. They like driving their Benz or Jag or their Escalade, and visit their summer homes in Jackson Hole or the Bahamas. They spend more time on the golf course than visiting their patients in the hospitals. Most primary physicians here do not even have hospital privileges; they turn all hospital issues over to ‘hospitalists’.
I know that the medical profession has changed over the years and the cost of healing has skyrocketed, but why? England and Canada do not have this problem. We hear stories from pundits that they have horrible systems, but why then would the UK express the health care system in the opening of the London Olympics? Everyone I have ever talked to who has experienced their systems, except doctors, appreciate the care they have been given.
I don’t know why I must pay for lavishly decorated doctor’s offices? I don’t know why I must pay for the plastic giveaways that accompany every hospital visit? Everything that touches a patient nowadays is plastic and goes into landfills. And there is no more prevention from infection now that before the plastic era.
All I want is to talk face to face with my doctor about whatever is ailing me and for them to find a way to fix whatever I have. Some illnesses (like growing older) you can’t cure, but you can learn to live with. I have asked for ways to deal with some of the things I have and been told to look it up on line.
What is happening to medicine is what happened to teaching. The teachers became employees—became staff no longer professionals. They lost their ability to meet with the parents of children. I remember my principal in the early 70’s castigating me because I went to the home of one of my Hispanic children and talked with the parents. The principal did not what to have to deal with ‘those’ Spanish-speaking parents so that they could get free lunches. When teachers became robots of the school system or doctors become minions of insurance companies there is a loss of the whole of the profession. No longer are the teachers considered part of the fabric of the community. No longer are doctors considered the wise souls of the town. They are formed by the almighty dollar and healing goes out the window.
As a priest who has known both the experience of being a professional in the community and now experiencing the whole destruction of the Church, it is hard to know where to turn. I am quite sure that the Texas medical environment will eventually lead to socialized medicine because it is too hard for the poor to access any care whatsoever. Somewhere, somehow, a conscience will rise up to show us the Lazarus at the gates of our hospitals and dental schools. Maybe a squadron of Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Charity will have to come to TX and they did in Calcutta. The government will be the only thing big enough to quell the avarice of the AMA. If they continue this line of thinking, the US will have no choice because the sick will line our streets, rather than be healed in our hospitals. When the relationship between patient and doctor, teacher or priest is lost, the glue that holds our communities together falls apart. There is nothing that demands that we know one another, have concern for each other or even respect each other. Something is rotten in the medical industry.