This is Chris Mazur’s experience of the American Health Care System
I was rear-ended by another driver in August 1999 on my way home from work. After visiting my general practitioner who referred me to an orthopedic surgeon, I was sent to physical therapy for treatments. I went to four or five treatments and the pain became so severe I stopped and contacted the surgeon. After an MRI, I was told I had several disks in my spine that were injured and/or “slipped” and that surgery was recommended. This would be the second surgery on my back but this time at L3/L4. The first surgery had been at L5/S1, just below the current area. My first back surgery in 1991 was wonderful. After the surgery, I had no pain what so ever. However, the 1999 surgery resolved approximately 60% of the pain. The remaining pain left me permanently disabled.
Since 1999, I have seen many pain specialists, some good, others not. The worst was one who had a very large practice and only saw patients on day each week. It was normal for pain patients to be forced to wait one or two hours for the doctor. One time I decided to arrive an hour late and I was told I missed me appointment and the doctor could not see me for another month. When I asked the next patient to enter the office what time her appointment was, it turned out her appointment was the same time as mine and after waiting 90 minutes, she was finally seeing the doctor. It turns out, the doctor could force patients to wait hours, but if patients arrived even 5 minutes late, they lost their appointment. Talk about unfair!
My wife took a job at Walmart in 2001. She worked the evening shift. It was a full time job. We moved to the Georgia Mountain area in March 2002, more than 80 miles from the Walmart at which she worked. She attempted to transfer to a store close to our new home but without success. She was forced to resign. She signed up for COBRA insurance benefits at a cost more than 500% above her employee cost.
The summer of 2002 saw me enter the hospital for a 3-week stay and intestinal surgery. The total cost exceeded $65,000. Several weeks after I left the hospital, I started receiving bills from the hospital, ambulance, and doctors. I experienced shock because the COBRA benefit from Walmart had a $25,000 cap for employees working less than a full year. I was left with outstanding balances totaling over $40,000. For a year, I attempted to pay the bills but with only Social Security Disability Insurance income, I was forced into Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Thank you Walmart!
Currently, I am under the care of a pain management specialist in John Creek, GA, which is approximately 90 miles from my mountain home. Everyone at the clinic is wonderful and the office is about 30 minutes from my daughter and her family, which includes my two GRANDS – Granddaughters, Sydney (5), and Clara (2). Often, before or after the doctor appointment, I stop to visit my GRANDS.
Several years ago, President Obama convinced the U.S. Congress to approve a form of health care that will eventually cover almost everyone in the USA. Because it was recommended by Obama, whom many people feel should not be President; many people are fighting to have this requirement overturned, by either the US court system or Congress. The health care system proposed by President Obama does not address many of the problems associated with the health care matter in our nation. For instance, there is no provision to force health care providers, especially the pharmaceutical industry, to lower their prices for all. Rather, the large insurance companies contract with providers for significantly lower costs that the uninsured would pay. Like the insurance companies need to save money? It should be the other way around. Individuals should receive the lower prices while insurance companies pay higher prices. Of course, with all the PACs supported by the insurers, this will never happen.
As an adult, I see things very differently, than when I was a child, even a teenager. Then, I saw how my parents “worked” the medical profession and I thought it was great. You see, it appeared too many as if my parents were stealing from insurance companies. Allow me to explain.
When I was a child, we lived in Chicago, IL where I attended school and my parents both worked my Dad for the federal government, and my Mom for various trucking firms. Mom was a member of the Teamsters Union (made famous by Jimmy Hoffa, the Mafia, and Las Vegas). The way this occurred, Mom would become ill shortly after the Christmas holidays and end up in a hospital. She would have surgery for some serious illness – which were always real – such as Gall Bladder, back, etc. In those days, patients were kept in the hospital for days and possibly weeks after surgery, not like today when they are outpatients more often than not. The surgery would occur in March or April and Mom would be released to recuperate at home – in Chicago. This would last until school ended immediately after Memorial Day (in those days, May 30th). She would then pack us up (my brothers and myself) and “recuperate” over the summer at our Michigan summer home. During this period of “recuperation,” we would visit many places within driving distances of our Michigan home, such as the Kellogg’s cereal plant in Battle Creek, or Windmill Island in Holland, or other such places.
Before the summer ended, Mom would take us for school cloths, supplies, etc. needed for school. We would return to school just before it resumed, which was after Labor Day – the first Monday in September. This is how I spent every summer until I was a Junior in high school (11th grade).
While Mom was in Michigan with the kids, checks from insurance companies were sent to the hospitals and doctors. Both Mom and Dad had insurance coverage for each other and at the time, coordinating of benefits did not exist. The doctors and hospitals, rather than return excess monies to the insurance companies, sent the overages to Mom and Dad. This is how they afforded two homes, a new car for each of them bi-annually, cars for me, and my brothers when we graduated high school, and many other things that would normally not be afforded on the incomes made by my parents, who were considered lower middle class. The excess insurance monies increased their incomes to upper-middle-class, and of course, it was never reported as income to the government.
This all occurred many years ago, and both Mom and Dad have passed away. Their actions, and those of many others who did similar acts, are part of the reason the medical industry is destroying individuals. As I say, “I am paying for the acts of my parents.”
By Chris Mazur
Hiawassee, GA, USA