Thursday, June 18, 2009

It shouldn't be this hard

I woke up fine. I read late into the night and slept well until nearly 10:00. From the blinding light that seared my brain when I removed my eyeshades, I could see that it is another beautiful day in paradise. Two canary yellow - well, maybe canaries – dove past my window playing a game of chase through the mango branches. I lingered a moment longer in bed considering the paucity of things on my to-do list. They included: check e-mail, return movie rental, buy some yogurt. I smiled a huge Cheshire cat grin in apt recognition that having nothing to do is infinitely superior to real life. With that I was up and at em.

The cool air of mid-morning fluttered through the tangled canopy that surrounds Casa Bentley, appearing as a dense green cloud in all directions. For a moment I tried to let my eyes adjust, wiping the night’s sleep from them but it was no use. I found if I focused on the yellow mangoes or bright green coconuts affixed tightly in place and too weighty to sway with the leaves, the trees started to take shape.

I ventured out in my pajamas to make a cup of tea and was greeted by Bob’s pooch, Samyra, and the new innkeeper, Alvaro, along the way. Oh happy day!

Just as a I sat down at my little secretary to fire up the laptop, I felt an indulgently insolent voice say – screw it, go out and enjoy the morning! Vaguely recognizing the voice as my own, I relocated with my tea cup and my camera to the patio. After snapping a few photos and finishing my tea I grew restless and annoyed with the flies providing the perfect transition back to work mode.

It was no surprise that I logged on to 47 new messages. In fact, that’s about a third of the usual morning haul. My clients know I am out of the country and will not likely start appearing in the morning queue for another week with “quick questions” followed by well wishing signoffs. By the third week they are projecting the many things I will need to do for them when I return. The fourth week they feign to forget my return date and ask when they can expect to receive this and that. But week one – this week - is pure bliss.

My only work commitment on vacation is to review the happenings in the world of healthcare information technology. I steeled myself for the inevitable onslaught of bad news that has been a daily staple in my life for nearly 10 years. Here’s a sampling of the day’s highlights:

  • Avoidable Childbirth Injuries Remain an Issue at Hospitals
  • Report finds 70 children died after lapses in medical care
  • Doctors: Our hospital is health risk
  • Alleged hospital negligence kills child
  • Three thousand veterans exposed to HIV and Hepatitis B and C during endoscopy
  • Private records of almost 200 patients lost; Move led to blunder
  • Common CT drug triggers fatal allergic reactions
  • Device-maker accused of fraudulent testing
  • NRC Report: Medical Event involving an underdose due to technician error
  • Three elderly patients died after being given inappropriate drugs, inquest jury finds
  • Illness, Medical Bills Linked to Nearly Two-Thirds of Bankruptcies

I felt the familiar tingle of agitation on the back of my neck and the swelling wave of nausea in my stomach that signals I am nearly done with this abhorrent task. I wish I didn’t know that last week a couple in England had their last viable fertilized embryo accidently implanted in another woman’s uterus due to a lab mix-up. Or that 1 in 5 medication doses given in a hospital are given in error. Or that patients wake up during surgery, strangle against bedrails, and die of slow, agonizing deaths from infections they can only get inside a healthcare facility. Not knowing any of this would be fine and dandy with me. But, if knowing results in some improvement, I’ll take the morning punch to the gut.

And then a particular headline caught my eye: Health insurers refuse to limit rescission of coverage. Apparently executives of three of the nation's largest health insurers testified before congress this week. Investigators demonstrated that health insurers WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group and Assurant Inc. canceled the coverage of more than 20,000 people, allowing the companies to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims over a five-year period. The companies targeted individuals with conditions such as breast cancer, lymphoma, pregnancy and high blood pressure. The companies staunchly defended their right to rescission tactics. Shocked congressmen asked the insurance executives whether they would at least commit to immediately stopping rescissions except where they could show "intentional fraud." The answer from all three executives: "No."

WTF, my friends! Ed and I have been trying to purchase independent health insurance for nearly 6 months. We feel strongly that we do not need the Cadillac of health coverage offered by his employer nor the price tag that comes along with it. We had hoped to establish a high-deductable plan that protected us in the event of something awful but that funneled our low healthcare costs through a responsible tax-free health savings plan. Only there’s a problem – neither Celia nor I have been deemed insurable by the jackass-led “insurance”companies characterized above. Celia was denied coverage based on a childhood history of ear infections! Now I learn that even if I “win” coverage then fall gravely ill with cancer or (gulp) pregnancy, the bastards will likely drop my coverage anyway!

I sat in front of my computer feeling my pulse race. I decided to share the article with Ed hoping that he’d add some levity to the situation so I fired it off only to immediately receive a message from my omnipotent System Administrator stating, “Your message did not reach some or all of the intended recipients. Relaying denied. IP name possibly forged.” Meaning, it seemed, that I have been identified by my ISP as a possible Mexican fraud and they enacted their own rescission tactic.

I held my head in my hands and chanted my all too routine mantra, “It shouldn’t be this hard. It shouldn’t be this hard…” But with no one to rant to and little possible recourse for the time being, I just stood up and crossed the room. I slid into my long cotton halter dress, smoothed my hair into a ponytail noting that I should add a shower to the day's to-do list, and headed out for yogurt. The outing was a great success. I returned to a freshly cleaned suite, my ISP has taken me off their Most Wanted list, and, although I am still uninsurable, that is a worry easily assuaged by tequila.

No comments: