My dad, as previously mentioned, is a physician. He is a retired physician. He started practicing medicine in 1968. We moved from Ohio after his residency, I in utero, to Massachusetts. He became a doctor to help people. He would have practiced for nothing. He was a doctor in the golden age of medicine. Doctors were viewed as god’s. We saw our pediatrician without charge, as a professional courtesy, back in the day. He went to the hospital every morning to round on his patients, before seeing patients at his office. He took every Wednesday off and was on call every 5th weekend or something like that. He took me and my younger sister with him when he did rounds on Saturdays. We had green jello and ham in the cafeteria. It seemed that everyone knew him. It seemed that everyone thought he was a wonderful, caring, physician.
I thought of him nothing more than my father. Just a regular guy, who took us with him when he went to the dump, took us camping and pulled the car into the garage on a night he had promised to take us to the drive in and it rained. When I was in high school and working at a local grocery store a woman, a substitute teacher at my high school, said this to me, “Your father saves lives. You should be very proud of him.” I never ever thought of him that way.
My dad retired when he was 62, not because he wanted to but because the landscape of medicine had changed so drastically from when he began that he could no longer practice the way he had been trained. He had to justify the ordering of tests to medical case managers at insurance companies. Um, who has the M.D. after his name? Managed care has removed the role of a physician to the non-decision making seat. It has become a labyrinth of referrals and lawsuits. The insurance companies get richer, the health insurance companies as well as the malpractice insurance companies.
When did it all become about money? When did the care of humans, of moms and dads, babies, and grandmothers, become about money? When? It may have happened sometime in the ‘80s but I am not sure. I distinctly remember NOT having an insurance card. I distinctly remember going to the doctor and being billed for the services. It wasn’t until I had a job that I had my own insurance, after years of hiding in college/graduate school. I don't think I have been without insurance since that time.
But many people are without health insurance. More people than I care to think about. I have never been an advocate or politically minded person. However, as a mother that has changed. As a mother I have to be an advocate and I must remain vigilant about social issues. One issue that I take for granted and never even think twice about is health insurance. We have health insurance. I can see any doctor I want for nominal fee. My son can have a Mag 3 test and I will never see a bill. Oldest hadn’t been to the doctor since her last well visit in 2007. We can see the dermatologist for her spot once a year and never see a bill. We are lucky and I know we are lucky. We are healthy and insured. We are an insurer’s best customer.
When did it all become about money? When malpractice insurance went up 200%? Or was it when the student loans the doctors left medical school with became too burdensome? Or was it when pharmaceutical companies began to send the representatives into the physician offices to woo them with dinners and fancy trips for writing prescriptions for their drugs? Or was it when the business world took over the medical industry? Or was it when the politicians got involved? I don’t know when it was; all I know is there are people without health insurance. There are families without health insurance. There are people with jobs that don’t have health insurance. There are people with jobs who make too much money to qualify for state aid. There are people with jobs who make too much money to qualify for state aid who don’t have healthy kids. There are people with jobs whose insurance is sub-par and ridiculously expensive. There are people with kids who need medical attention. Weekly. Who aren't getting what they need.
We live in a country that does not value family, health or the pursuit of happiness. We birth or adopt babies and get a whopping 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave. That promotes family. No health insurance? The door is slammed in your face. Pursuit of what? Oh happiness.