30 Nov

What Socialized Health Care Looks Like to Me

I’ve been receiving government run health care for over 15 years now. Before that I belonged to an HMO through my employer, and before that, I was on my parents’ health plan. I know a lot has changed in 15 years, but I remember the HMO as having a decent amount of doctors to choose from, either dental or optical coverage but not both, and reasonable co-payments. I didn’t stay in one place long enough, nor get sick often enough to establish much of a relationship with any one doctor, with the exception of my pediatric dentist — though when I knocked a tooth out, I still had to go to a different emergency dentist.

Since joining the government run system care of my husband joining the army, things have been pretty much the same. In the last five to ten years, we’ve been assigned a Primary Care (Manager) physician who we are supposed to see first, but since we move a lot, and so do Army doctors, we rarely see these PCMs. However, my husband did have one he saw regularly, and since the few pediatricians at any one post hospital or clinic are usually civilians working under DoD contract , and the kids are the reason for the majority of our doctor visits anyway, we tend to see the same one or two pediatricians by default even though they are not our PCMs.

For annual checkups we rarely have to wait more than two weeks for an appointment and for follow-ups we can usually request the same doctor. If we want to see someone right away we can show up for sick call and wait our turn for whoever is on call, or go to the emergency room or acute care clinic and see whoever is on call. I don’t have much experience with acute care in the civilian world, but from what I hear, it’s not too different. Well, except for the fact that all we have to do is show an ID card and fill out a one page form. Done. No money changing hands, no being refused service, no bills later.

It cost about $50 to give birth to my son in a military hospital, and most of that was the meals for me and my husband after the baby was born — I got the room free the first night and the baby got it the second. My daughter was totally free. The entire bill from the participating german hospital where she was born was covered by our government health care program. Now, to be entirely truthful, we DO pay. We pay taxes (except when my hubby is deployed), we have little geographic stability since when the army says we have to move we have to move, and we pay with the consequences of a husband/daddy who is essentially on call 24/7. He could even pay with his life. If “socialized” medicine were to be further implemented for the general public though, I’m quite confident that people would merely be paying with taxes and co-payments, not their lives — so in that sense it’s even better than what we get. Oh, and speaking of co-payments, I go to an approved dentist (plenty to choose from) and on average pay between $10 and $80 depending on what we have done (no braces on the scene yet so that could change).

Yesterday, my daughter hurt her wrist at recess. I opted to take her to the Acute Care clinic at Schofield Barracks, our closest post. I could have called for a same-day appointment, but they tend to fill up before 11:00 so I probably wouldn’t have gotten one anyway. I could have also gone to the Emergency Room at Tripler Army hospital, but it’s not so close and I was really hoping she only had a sprain and it could be treated at the clinic. We waited 30 minutes to be triaged. Then we went straight to Radiology (two buildings away) and got X-rays within 15 minutes. Then we waited almost an hour to see the doctor. He confirmed the bone was fractured and she’d need to have it set and casted at Orthopedics. We drove to Tripler (this is where going to Tripler first may have been advantageous, although, their Emergency room sees more action than Schofield’s, so the wait could have been longer) and waited to see the ┬ádoc there. Unfortunately, we had snacked a little after radiology, and that was messing up the timeline with the sedation they wanted to give her to set the bone, so no one was in a hurry to see us (we still had over four hours before she was “clear”). Then the shift changed and we got a new doc. He chatted with my daughter and proclaimed her very mature and brave and we all decided together that she could handle local numbing and we’d get home much, much sooner. Another wait, fun with finger traps, training on splint building, and a quick trip to Tripler’s radiology department and we were on our way home in time for dinner. Yes, I spent the entire midday and afternoon in hospital waiting rooms for my socialized medicine, and no, I didn’t see any doctor that I had ever seen previously — but I’m pretty sure it would have been the same at any other civilian hospital — maybe longer if you figure in time spent filling out payment and insurance forms. We’ve already got our follow up appointment for next week, with the same doctor, my daughter will be getting a pink cast, information about her healing will go into a study about splints versus casts in the first week post injury, and all is have to worry about now is what outfits we can stretch over the splint.

If this is government oppression, then oppress me more!

13 thoughts on “What Socialized Health Care Looks Like to Me

  1. Tripler wouldn’t have been that bad at that time; generally 11am on a weekday they are not busy, plus they have a new triage system that I really like. I think they also now have acute care across the hall from the actual “ER”. Since I live so close to Tripler, I tend to go there first, and like you, know when I can get an appointment, when I should go in to the “ER/acute care”.

    Being Navy and going to the makalapa clinic, is slightly different, we call for a “first available” appointment, and if there is none, and the appointment line rep feels it is even semi-emergent, tell us to go to the ER.

    When we were in Denver, we had remote care before there was a hospital on base and we had to go to a civilian doc and things were the same, but we had to pay a copay for reg doctor visits and nothing for er visits. About a year later, they instituted no copay for active duty in remote locations; it wasn’t our fault we couldn’t get to a base clinic.

    I didn’t have to pay anything for my births either; right before they had instituted private rooms were available for birthing; otherwise you had to pay a copay for the room – while we had a base hospital, they sent everyone to the Medical College of Georgia to give birth because they had much better neonatal facilities than the hospital could get at the time.

    Like you I have had limited experience with “real world healthcare” and probably still won’t after we retire, as we will opt for the “Tricare Prime for Retirees”

  2. Interesting. As a Canadian, I am always interested to hear what Americans think about “socialized medicine”. It is often very far from our experience. But your story sounds quite similar. It cost me $25 to have my daughter, because we paid for television in the room (which we never actually turned on).

  3. Thanks for your terrific post.
    I was born and raised in Canada (first 28 years) and have now been in the U.S. for 22 years. When we arrived I was appalled about people being denied coverage for “pre-existing conditions”, the huge amount of paperwork, etc. etc., and I still am.

    We need to do much, much better in this country, and I for one demand Health Care for ALL!

  4. I hear you! When I married, I was enrolled in a state program through C’s work. We pay premiums now that he is retired, but I can go to pretty much any doctor I choose and anywhere in the U.S.. The co-pays are really inexpensive if you go to an approved physician and there aren’t many that are not. I asked about that and the main stipulation is that the physician must agree to certain payment tables and have malpractice insurance to a certain amount. The later is the sticking point for some physicians as opposed to the payment tables. There is still the paperwork, but what doesn’t have paperwork. When we have had to go to Doc-the-box or ER, I see those who have no insurance and the hoops they must go through to get care. The hospital does not refuse anyone, but that is passed on to the rest of us through higher charges. Do I feel oppressed? Nope! I feel very fortunate that we have care and physicians we love.

  5. Interesting post & interesting replies from the folks from Canada. We are actually covered by Kaiser Hawaii & I will say it sounds pretty similar to what we experience. At our neighborhood clinic, we generally see the same MD, but the hospital is another story-which I have experienced only through my parents. I guess the biggest difference is the monthly premium, however. Since I still officially work, I’m covered by my employer (by law here), but I pay for my husband. He is a senior, also covered by medicare, but the coverage is still pricey, I think, and goes up every year. The co-pay also keeps going up ($15/visit & I remember when it was $1 about 20 yrs ago.) But I guess it is really worth it if one is hospitalized, but we aren’t anxious for for that money-saving activity. My kids are in their 30s, and they each cost $1 total to be born!

  6. Health care in the US has been going downhill at an increasing rate since you have been alive. It used to be possible to buy our own insurance. When you were born it cost us $150, which I thought was reasonable. When you were older, I was an independent contractor and bought my own insurance that covered you, your sister and me. I’m not sure that would be possible today.

  7. I wish more people who are afraid that “socialized medicine” will ruin the world as we know it would read your post. It seems to me we are so afraid that we automatically react without learning the facts, or even trying to. I too wish someone would oppress me that way.

  8. We buy our own insurance because we are retired but not yet eligible for Social Security. We have no dental or prescription coverage and very high deductible for everything else. It is absurdly expensive. I am ready to be oppressed by socialized medicine. Bring it on!

  9. It’s great to read about your positive experiences with military medical. I’m glad the new health care bill is doing something about pre-existing conditions etc, but did they ever miss the ball on going for a single-payer system.

  10. Honestly, I think healthcare is the only area where socialism is acceptable. If I compare our German system to the US and UK (where they honestly have socialist health care), to me, the NHS (UK) always comes up trumps. It is cheap (7% of GDP compared to 17% of GPD in the US, where 50 million people aren’t even covered) and you don’t have any premiums for basic care (unlike Germany where we even pay more income tax than the UK).

    Give me socialist medicine any day but stay out of any other aspect of my private life, please (like schooling, marriage, worship, utilities ….)

    And Gute Besserung to little Miss K!

  11. I am an American citizen who married a Canadien. 2 years ago I was finally given my health care card and gave up my US insurance. The system in the states is currently going down hill fast. Pre-existing conditions are very hard to get coverage on, and if your insurance paid for it once (breast cancer treatment for example) then if you have a recurrence it may NOT be covered the second time. Socialized health care was introduced to the states when Obama was elected, but with horrible advertising, it was awful, the system was shot down. Now you have millions of people not insured as they cannot afford the enormous monthly payments or the deductables. There are issues with all healthcare systems, but it is nice knowing that I will not go bankrupt from an enormous medical bill. I am very thankful for the healthcare I have received while here in Canada.

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