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08 September 2014

She couldn't Medicare less

(Courtesy: freedesignfile.com)

My doctor broke up with me today.

She wants to see other people.  Younger people.  And she wants me to see other people as well.

She doesn't care who I see, just as long as it isn't her.

"Did you see the sign out front?  As of January 1, I'm not treating Medicare patients anymore," she said, shortly before getting physical with me for the last time.

"The doctor won't see you now."  How did I misread those signs?

On my last few visits, my doctor, whom I'm convinced is a caring soul but is also someone who's had it way past "up to here" with government red tape associated with Medicare patients, has complained about having to lug around her laptop computer to deal with patients like me.  You know, those who have committed the mortal sin of letting the clock tick too many times to suit those younger.

I've been grandfathered in before, but this is the first time I've ever been grandfathered out.

In as gentle voice and nicest tone I could muster during my physical -- after all, she was reaching for the rubber gloves -- I said, "I can certainly understand your frustration, but it sort of leaves guys (and women) like me out in the cold.  We have a doctor we really like and trust, and now we can't go to them anymore."

I don't remember exactly what my doctor said to that.  I was too concerned about her opening up the examination room door and calling for the nurse.  Any guy who's ever had his prostate checked knows what that means.  (That reminds me, the car needs an oil change.)

I do remember that she didn't say, "Oh, excuse me.  I forgot for a second that you are one of my original patients.  You came with me to start this practice when I was struggling and you've been a loyal patient for years.  And you have referred several people to me, who, by the way, are not on Medicare and pay retail.  So, of course, I'll treat you and be here for you as long as you need me, even if I do have to use this laptop computer and deal with a little red tape and, yes, reduced revenue.  Have you seen what I'm driving.  I think I can stand the slight financial inconvenience to care for loyal, longtime patients like you."

Nope, she didn't say anything like that.  I still can't believe I misread those earlier signs of approaching detachment.  Since that rather abrupt, "See 'ya" visit, I have noticed some other signs, though.  Like the physicians' Hippocratic oath:

"I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick."

A couple of my friends have mentioned something like, "It's nothing personal.  It's just business."

Really?  Does "care for a patient" merely mean reading medical charts and graphs, taking X-rays and prescribing pills?  Just business refers to my banker, or the cashier at the grocery store who barely even looks up at customers these days.

I think not.  Our personal care physician takes our blood, asks us what's going on and treats us, dammit, physically and sometimes a little mentally as well.  "You've gained a little weight since your last visit.  Is something bothering you?  Is everything all right?"

And, excuse me, doctor, but I'd like to point out one more paragraph from the Hippocratic oath, which, by the way, is not the Hypocritic oath:

"I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug."

It has never ceased to amaze me that even those a decade or so younger than people of Medicare age seem to have no notion that they, too, will soon be considered too old to be taken seriously in many areas or even given equal medical consideration.  

It's coming, doctor, quicker than you realize.  May you be treated more respectfully and with more caring consideration when your time comes.

Yes, my doctor broke up with me today.  Sadly, she left me for a younger patient.

I'm not litigious, generally.  But I am thinking about demanding illimony.


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