Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Who Pays?

When my husband has to undergo three root canals on the same tooth because the endodontist missed getting all the root during the first TWO root canals, who pays? Knowing we don't have dental insurance, he did not charge us for the second two procedures, but my poor husband still had to go through two extra ordeals. This doctor showed integrity toward us, but I wonder: How often across America, when patients have insurance, does a triple play due to doctor error generate triple insurance claims?

Last Friday my dad got prepped for surgery, then waited at the hospital for three hours before the cardiac surgeon came in to announce postponement of the surgery due to a urinary infection. Funny, his nurse had told my mom on the phone two days earlier that Dad might not have to go to the hospital Friday since the presurgery urinalysis showed infection. Too bad no one told us not to show up. My sister took off work to be there. I took off work to be there. Mom got Dad up and ready and to the hospital at the crack of dawn Friday. A dear, patient O.R. nurse got Dad all duded out in front and back hospital gowns, inserted an IV, shuttled him to the washroom any number of times, and made smalltalk with the four of us as we waited ... and waited ... and waited. After the doctor made his two-minute appearance to tell us what he had known two DAYS before, the nurse took out the IV, shuttled Dad to the washroom some more, got him back into his street clothes, and sent us off.

So who pays for this fiasco? The American taxpayer through Medicare? With all the current talk of health care reform, and the complex roles of insurance carriers, I don't even know who might bill whom for what in this scenario. But I do know who I could bill for our time and my sister's and my lost income ~ but only AFTER he eventually successfully performs my precious dad's surgery. (Perhaps this surgeon will act with integrity too; but since he didn't apologize to us, I doubt he understands the problem was a communication gap in his own office.)

But then I wonder if it's fair to expect doctors to be perfect. For decades, we bristled under the societal expectation to bow down to doctors as gods. Now they are human, and many take time to explain things to us, including the thinking behind their care strategies. We do seem to still operate in a culture that says a doctor's time is more important than a patient's time; hopefully, that can change too. But I love this "new humanity" and don't want to suggest we expect doctors to be superhuman again. Yet ~ who pays when a doctor does make a mistake?

In my personal scenarios above, the consequences to the patients were not grave. For that, we are all grateful. My husband's endodontist did the right thing; he ate the costs of the second and third root canals. We'll see what bills come for my dad's fiasco. Situations like this make me wish for a time when insurance companies do not stand between providers and customers. This would give doctors and patients opportunities to act honestly and rightly with each other ~ a free market. Sure would be simpler to figure out who pays.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Late Bloomers

A single scalloped yellow pansy amid a sea of spiky, spent, brown coneflower heads cheers me on this chilly autumn day. So does the lone cherry-red sweet pea that has somehow sprung from dry, tan vines to climb the trellis in summer's last hurrah. Feisty red geraniums raise victorious fists above the garden's browning greens. After weeks of winding down, one more rose has decided this is the year. Late bloomers are bright, wonder-filled surprises of life.

Yesterday I made perfect creme brulee quickly and easily. Ten years ago, at a sidewalk table on the Ile de Re when Robert and I tasted our first creme brulee, we couldn't even imagine how it was made. My path to yesterday's victory included passive times of anticipated failure and active times of real failure~rich, sweet scrambled eggs~a class, and just-okay results. Yesterday's triumph was a lovely surprise.

Fifteen years ago I wrote strictly nonfiction and could not imagine writing a story. Truly, I couldn't imagine myself imagining anything. To bring nonfiction concepts home to readers, I needed to learn how to tell true stories though, so I decided to practice by making up a story. One thing led to another, and last year I published my first women's fiction novel, with the sequel in progress. Never would I have predicted that blossom in October's breeze.

Last weekend I gave a workshop at our church's women's retreat. I don't do public speaking. It scares me. I'm most comfortable talking to my dog and have mixed success talking with my husband and everyone else. My topic was to be: If Only They Would Change. What do we do when another person's sinful at-worst, uncooperative at-best, behaviors hold us hostage? How do we step into the promise of Jesus to set us free? I didn't think I had answers or a delivery dynamic enough to impact anyone. But I sensed the Lord wanted me to say yes, even though I couldn't imagine talking for a whole hour. From the moment I agreed to speak, God changed my heart and sweetly brought me material and helped me put words together on paper. Paper I do. Podiums I don't. So I thought this would be a peace-to-panic process. I worship an amazing God.

Whipping up creme brulee? Playfully crafting fiction? Feeling peace at the podium? in my repertoire? Ephesians 3:20 gives glory to "... him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us ..." In these three examples, I love that God didn't wait for me to imagine the flowers; He grew seeds I didn't even know were there and now here they are, blooming in the autumn of my life.

I've often said I can't draw, and I can't paint. And I can't. But I just had my first drawing lesson a few weeks ago. Standing on the stepping-stone path through the garden ... tipping the watering can forward ...